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.