Arizona CPS update: Brewer announces group to oversee investigation on Monday deadline

PHOENIX - On the day of the deadline to make sure every one of the more than 6,000 child abuse reports ignored in Arizona get a second look, Gov. Jan Brewer announced that a group will oversee the investigation.

In a Monday morning news conference, Brewer said the group, to be made up of nine people, will make sure each case is properly investigated and look at the Child Protective Services system as a whole, effective immediately.

"Failure to investigate even one, or even thousands of potential cases of child abuse is absolutely inexcusable," said Brewer.

"This independent team will also be working to identify areas of concern. Including personnel, operation, process and policies."

For the Monday deadline, the goal was to figure out which reports should be labeled as "criminal conduct" and which need to be turned over to a case worker. The deadline to then investigate those cases is Jan. 31.

Revelations that her administration ignored thousands of child abuse and neglect reports has led to calls for Brewer to replace her hand-picked leader of the state's social services agency.

While Brewer has made reforming CPS one of her top priorities in the past several years, critics of the governor say the failures show her administration continues to shortchange kids.

Brewer is so far rejecting calls to replace the agency's leader Clarence Carter, and supporters say the governor ensured the botched cases were made public and has called for accountability.

"Let me make something very clear, this situation was not created by the failure of CPS caseworkers. These cases never even made it to their desk," said Brewer.

"The bottom time is, he (Carter) is the director at DES. CPS reports to them. I think there has been a break in the command. And somebody or people will be held accountable. But we need a complete full investigation. We need to know where all the bodies are buried, no pun intended."

When asked if she had confidence in Carter, Brewer responded, "I do."

Carter, director of the Department of Economic Security, which oversees CPS, revealed last week that more than 6,000 reports generated by the state's child abuse hotline hadn't been investigated since 2009, most in the past 20 months.

The recently-released CPS plan to clear those reports has been widely panned as inadequate and short on specifics.

Carter promises every case meriting a full investigation will be handled by the end of January. He's assigned more than 200 CPS supervisors and program managers to the job, employees who don't currently handle a caseload.

A CPS community forum will be held Tuesday, December 3  from 5:30- 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall at Steele Indian School Park. Members of the public are invited to attend and share suggestions and ideas for protecting children from abuse and neglect. Legislators who serve on the CPS Oversight Committee will be there to listen.

ABC15 will be at the forum, look for live updates throughout the night.

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