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Special session needed now to deal with ignored child abuse cases

Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson

Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson

Last week we learned the shocking news that over the past four years, CPS ignored 6,000 reports of child abuse! Apparently, CPS put a policy in place that allowed these reports to go uninvestigated without even a follow-up call. This practice violates state law, which requires all child abuse reports be investigated. Additionally, the agency still has another 10,000 cases backlogged, pending investigation.

In light of this shocking news, Gov. Jan Brewer has ordered CPS to work overtime until all 6,000 cases have been investigated. But CPS is a badly broken agency struggling with a crushing workload. Reports of neglect and abuse have increased dramatically in recent years, and case managers have caseloads that have skyrocketed above the state standard. Demanding overworked investigators to work harder and longer hours is not the answer and could make a horrible situation even worse.

The governor’s spokesman said it is “premature” to call a special legislative session to appropriate the money necessary to hire the caseworkers needed to address this crisis. But for every child who is scared and suffering the unspeakable horrors of physical or sexual abuse, I say, it is not premature — it is an emergency requiring immediate action.

The Legislature has the authority, and indeed the responsibility, to protect our children. How can we enjoy the holidays knowing that the system that is supposed to be protecting children from abuse has actually allowed it to take place unchecked?

We cannot wait for another investigation to be completed before we act. We must do it now. I implore the governor to call the Legislature into special session immediately so, together, we can protect these children who desperately need us.

— Rep. Victoria Steele is a Democrat who represents Legislative District 9 in Tucson.

3 comments

  1. What are the Child Protective Services trying to cover-up?

  2. What is not being discussed at all are the collateral consequences of ignoring/refusing to investigate child abuse allegations. Abused persons sometimes become abusers — especially without appropriate intervention and help. Abusers end up committing crimes — sometimes tragic, horrible crimes — and end up in prison. So, how many of these ignored 6,000 cases have resulted in an abused child becoming an abuser and ending up in prison? The problem is much larger than the obvious fix, which is all anyone is talking about. Our prison system in Arizona is already full of adults — men and women — who were abused as children and never received any professional intervention or assistance. I hope Governor Brewer’s C.A.R.E. committee will examine the larger picture in this debacle.

  3. eLatinaVoices has been raising the issue regarding the lack of investigations on child abuse, neglect and crimes for over three years. Counties, municipalities and the state of Arizona are negligent in providing protection for vulnerable children throughout the state. This is not a surprise for the legislature, the sheriff’s office, the county attorney or the City of Phoenix. All clearly see the writing on the wall regarding the safety of children. All have neglected to address the issue by improving the system and the tracking of cases. There is no more oversight committees that can resolve this issue. We recommend that an audit by the State of AZ Auditors Office be conducted immediately, change in leadership of CPS is imminent and that resources to resolve this unlawful act against children be resolved immediately. CPS workers already overloaded cannot be expected to solve this problem. Community expects change and demands reform.

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