(KFYI News) – A report from a team named by Gov. Jan Brewer to look into improving Arizona's child welfare system recommends major changes in order to protect the state's vulnerable children.
The report from the CARE team says the fact that more than 6,600 calls to the state's child abuse hotline – most of them over the last couple of years – was a result of "systemic failure, lack of accountability and transparency, and bad decision making.
"The root cause," the report says, "is that demand exceeds capacity, which leads to policies not being followed."
As a result of not having the capacity to handle the cases that come before the agency, the report says, Child Protective Services experienced high employee turnover, a backlog of cases, a high rate of problems reoccurring for families with prior reports, long wait times and a high abandoned call rate for callers to the child abuse hotline, and "a daily struggle to keep up."
The report recommends:
• a separate agency that reports directly to the governor, something Brewer announced in her "State of the State" speech that she had already done by executive order;
• working with more outside agencies including human resource providers and the foster care community;
• removing civil service protections from child welfare agency workers;
• creating a "rigorous" inspection bureau to make sure procedures are followed; and
• creating an efficient call center and hotline process, and staffing it with people "trained and skilled in gathering essential facts, assessing the correct referral process... and being responsive to those who call."
Legislators have already approved an emergency appropriation giving the new child welfare agency more money to hire and train new staff.