With the scandal of over 6000 uninvestigated child abuse cases hanging over her head, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer dissolved Child Protective Services (CPS) by executive order. She made the unexpected announcement on Monday during her State of the State address to the legislature. Child advocacy groups and politically progressive groups have been calling on her to take action over the scandal. They especially wanted her to dismiss the Department of Economic Security director, Clarence Carter. Carter, who was appointed to his position by Brewer, was responsible for the oversight of CPS. He still has not been fired but, if Brewer has her way, CPS itself will disappear right out from under him.
The 6,000 abuse cases were ‘mis-classified.’
The cases came to light last November. A local police department was investigating allegations that had already been reported to CPS. A CPS worker found that, while the report came through the state’s child-abuse hotline, it was ‘mis-classified’ as ‘not investigated’. That classification meant that someone decided that it, along with 6,000 other reports, should not be investigated. At the time, CPS’s caseloads were climbing. They are currently at 177 percent of the national standard. Brewer’s solution to the problem is to create a cabinet-level, free-standing agency. The head of it will report directly to her. The man she chose in her executive order is Charles Flanagan, her appointed director of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections. Flanagan has already been dealing with the abuse cases since December, as head of a special team. Brewer charged them with finding out why the cases were ignored in the first place.
Legislators of both parties question Brewer’s methods regarding CPS.
While some see the governor’s announcement as progress, others are skeptical. House minority leader, Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, disputed the idea that Brewer could dissolve CPS. Plus, he was wary of her choices. In response to her announcement, he said:
Quite frankly, her appointee that was heading up CPS is what got us in this mess in the first place. And now she just did another appointee for what seems like a new entity without any input from us [the legislature] again.
Other lawmakers expressed similar discomfort with the governor’s heavy-handedness, particularly in not consulting them. Sen. Chester Crandall, R-Heber, pointed out that changing the name of the responsible agency means nothing without laws to govern it and money to run it. Those missing ingredients can only come from the legislature. This isn’t the first time Brewer has tried to strong-arm the body into doing her bidding.
Apparently, she has a campaign underway to burnish her tarnished image before she leaves office at the end of the year. Last spring, she bullied her own party into accepting Medicaid expansion in the state, which meant a windfall of additional federal dollars for the state. Both that and reforming the handling of child abuse cases are commendable goals, whatever the governor’s motivation. But putting the change at risk of failure due to the tactics she uses could prove to be very unfortunate.
There are children who are suffering, and they have already suffered enough.