By Sophia Solis
Cronkite News Service
PHOENIX – Gov. Jan Brewer has created an independent panel to oversee Child Protective Services staff reviewing 6,000 reports of child abuse and neglect that weren’t investigated.
“The goal is to ensure a thorough, transparent and independent oversight in the investigation to each of these neglected cases,” Brewer said at a news conference Monday.
Dubbed the Child Advocate Response Examination team, the eight-member group also will review CPS operations and policies and identify areas for improvement, Brewer said.
Charles Flanagan, director of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, is chairman of the panel, which includes two lawmakers: Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix, and Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix.
The action stems from an announcement last month by Clarence Carter, director of the state Department of Economic Security, that 6,000 child abuse reports weren’t investigated between 2009 and 2013.
Brophy McGee said the team will help reverse a process that appears corrupt.
“It is absolutely critical that we have independent oversight,” McGee said.
Pressed by reporters about problems with CPS during her tenure, Brewer noted that her administration exposed the uninvestigated cases.
“This was discovered by our team and brought to light, and that’s what we call transparency,” she said.
Brewer said blame shouldn’t be placed entirely on CPS staff.
“The situation was not created by the failure of CPS case workers,” she said. “These cases never even made it to their desks.”
Kathy Rau, executive director of the Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center, said in a telephone interview that Brewer should instead focus on improving CPS from within.
“Oversight will not fix the problem; CPS needs to be fixed,” Rau said.
• Charles Flanagan (Chairman): Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections
• Deb Gullett: Child advocate
• Jan Strauss: Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police
• Leah Landrum Taylor: State senator
• Rob Bell: ChildHelp
• Greg McKay: Office of Child Welfare Investigations
• Kate Brophy McGee: State representative
• Cindi Nannetti: Maricopa County Attorney’s Office