Firm finds CPS had more work than state budget allowed workers for

PHOENIX - Thousands of Arizona's children ignored, abused and neglected.

In December, the state promised to make changes. Now the state's child welfare agency, Child Protective Services, is expected to get immediate help.

Lawmakers approved a nearly $7 million budget to hire 192 caseworkers and staff for the 2014 fiscal budget.

In addition, Gov. Jan Brewer wants to add 400 more workers in 2015.

But bodies aren't the only thing needed -- CPS needs a complete overhaul, according to one expert.

It's a problem facing every government agency.

"We have more work than the budget allows staffing for," said Bill Bott, Change & Innovation Agency .

And that was no exception when it comes to the caseload at Child Protective Services.

"Ninety-five percent of the time the investigators were putting eyes on every child. It was getting to the documentation that caused the backlog," Bott said.

As recently as 2010, documentation procedures required 110 hours of paperwork every week, overwhelming the caseworkers who were supposed to be protecting children, and dragging out cases for 250 days.

That's four times the amount it should have taken to ensure a child was safe.

The Department of Economic Security paid consulting firm Change & Innovation Agency $600,000 to reduce case time and find the most efficient system to investigate cases.

Around this same period calls made to the state hotline about at-risk children began to be ignored, labeled not investigated.

But it was hidden from the consultants.

"Everyone on the team of state people stated ‘we don't use not investigated, we don't like not investigated, because we don't get to put eyes on every child,'" Bott said.

Bott says the practice of labeling cases as N.I. was not part of his company's recommendations.

So it was surprising to hear that just a few years later that thousands of cases were slipping through the cracks.

"It was shocking to hear that because the culture of the organization that I witnessed was opposite. They wanted to put eyes on kids and they wanted to do the investigation," Bott said.

The Department of Public Safety is still conducting their investigation into how cases were labeled "not investigated."

The CARE team is expected to release their own recommendations on how to fix CPS to the governor on Friday.

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