Gov. Jan Brewer is weighing whether the troubled Child Protective Services needs to be split into a separate agency headed by someone who reports directly to her.
Press aide Andrew Wilder said Wednesday the disclosures of more than 6,500 abuse complaints closed without investigation clearly shows that changes are needed in how CPS is structured. Wilder said that, at the very least, it may mean more emphasis on restructuring the agency to view and handle complaints of abuse from a criminal perspective rather than a social service one.
Wilder said his boss has not yet made any decisions about whether CPS needs to be separated from the much larger Department of Economic Security.
The discussion of what CPS should look like comes as DES finally released the original Nov. 12 memo that an investigator inside the agency sent to Brewer detailing the scope of the problem of cases marked “NI”' as in "not investigated.'' Most of the data in the memo already has been disclosed.
It reveals that Greg McKay, on loan to CPS from the Phoenix Police Department, warned the governor that the process of marking cases NI would lead — when finally disclosed — to a perception of “mismanagement of then pubic trust and the public's money.”
McKay pointed out to her that lawmakers, at her behest, gave CPS more than $70 million earlier this year to hire additional caseworkers and support staff. He said that was designed to “prevent egregious cases of child abuse” through better training and accountability.
“Instead, SWAT teams and units like the new Hotline QA (quality assurance) unit took on large amounts of manpower to 'not investigate' reports requiring investigations,” he wrote.
That public disclosure came more than a week after McKay's memo, resulting in the complaints of mismanagement he predicted and even calls for Brewer to fire DES Director Clarence Carter.
Brewer has expressed confidence in Carter, and Wilder said there will be no actions against anyone until two investigations are completed.
One is by the Department of Public Safety into how the informal — and illegal — process of marking cases not for investigation came about. The other is a special team Brewer appointed to review the entire operation of CPS.
“There will be plenty of time to understand what reforms and discuss accountability once it is known what happened and who's responsible,” said Wilder. “Accountability will occur. Reforms will happen.”
Whether that includes making CPS its own Cabinet-level agency, however, is yet to be decided.
Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, co-chair of a special legislative oversight panel, said the agency clearly needs more focused attention than can be provided by someone whose agency also includes everything from food stamp eligibility to unemployment insurance.
But the idea is not new: Rick Romley made the same proposal more than a decade ago when, as Maricopa County Attorney, he blasted the agency in the wake of the deaths of some children who were supposed to be being monitored by CPS.
“There might be momentum to do something like that now because of uncovering problems like this within CPS,” Wilder said.
“It underscores what we've known, that there has to be serious fundamental changes at the agency,” he continued. “Separating it may be one.”