Systematic Failure Found at Child Protective Services

Jan 31, 2014

A special team named to find out what led to 6,500 cases of child abuse going uninvestigated concluded Friday there was a systematic failure requiring a total revamp of how the state handles child welfare. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports.

Charles Flanagan, director of Child Safety and Family Services

The report by the Child Advocate Response Evaluation team to Gov. Jan Brewer found there was nothing in law or policy that would allow anyone to mark cases as not for investigation. But, Charles Flanagan, who heads the team, said what happened might have been inevitable given how Child Protective Services was set up, suggesting it was an accident waiting to happen.

“The basic problem here is you don’t really have a system. What you have is something that is set up to look like a system but it is operated based on personality, individual decision making, either because there are no policies and procedures or they’re not followed,” Flanagan said.

And Flanagan, who is heading up the new Division of Child Safety and Family Services, said the reason those uninvestigated cases went undiscovered for years is because there was no real system of checks and balances.

“What they called ‘quality assurance,’ is the same people who ordered it and directed it were quality assurancing it, which is nonsensical,” he said.

The CARE team concluded that the decision to shelve those complaints was far from harmless. Investigations that have since been conducted have resulted in 407 children now being removed from their homes.