In Arizona, 60 Kids Removed from Homes under New Agency

January 16, 2014

Sixty children have been removed from their homes under the direction of Gov. Jan Brewer’s child-welfare team charged with examining thousands of uninvestigated reports of neglect and abuse. Yet the team’s leader said he doesn’t know the nature of the allegations that required the children to be separated from their parents.

An additional 325 children whose cases were among the 6,554 files marked “not investigated” have also been removed since the fiasco at Child Protective Services became public in late November. However, most of those removals happened after a second or third complaint came in to the agency's hotline, raising the question of whether the children might have been safer if the agency had responded to earlier reports.

“It tells us these cases should have been investigated initially and should not have been (marked) NI,” said Charles Flanagan, head of Brewer’s Child Advocate Response Examination Team. “It tells us the child is not safe in that (home) environment.”

Brewer assembled the team of child-welfare workers, lawmakers and law enforcement after the “NI” files were discovered.

Flanagan said it is difficult to report the reasons the children were removed from their homes — and whether they’re still under state care — while the team is still plowing through the 6,554 cases. That would take time away from Brewer’s mandate that the team put “eyes” on every child mentioned in the files. The process also is complicated by what Flanagan called an “antiquated” database that is difficult to work with.

However, when the team has completed its work, there will be a report categorizing the reasons for removal, he said. The team has a Jan. 31 deadline to finish reviewing all the cases and give Brewer a report on how the child-welfare system can best move forward.

However, it will take longer than that to investigate all the cases the team decides need a deeper look.

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