Mike McClellan asks why we are so shocked that 6,500 reports of child abuse were not investigated (“Why won’t our government think of the children?” AFN, Dec. 6). I am not surprised. I came to Arizona over 20 years ago as a Child Protective Services (CPS) worker. I had been a part of a unit in California in which all of the workers had master’s degrees in social work or family therapy. Most of our cases were families who had come to the attention of the agency but were not severe enough to involve the Juvenile Court. Families voluntarily accepted prevention services. Not surprisingly, we had the lowest per capita foster care placement in the country. Even when our cases were in court, the system — from the judge to the attorneys representing the parents — held as a central principle the best interests of the children.
My experience in Arizona was quite different. There were no prevention services and case loads were impossibly high. Research from the National Resource Center on Child Mistreatment recommends a case load of 2.44 cases per worker per month. Recognizing economic realities, the Child Welfare League of America recommends 12 cases per worker per month. At the time I left CPS because the environment was simply too toxic to manage, I had 40 children on my case load.
Investing in prevention has been proven to be effective and cost efficient, but for some reason we continue to prefer a model that is punitive rather than preventive.