Who's Minding Child Protective Services?

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After the death of yet another child due to the inaction of Child Protective Services, Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley is leading the charge to change the way the agency is handling its cases. Romley has been more overtly vocal than Governor Janet Napolitano, who made a pledge during her campaign to overhaul CPS.

While various task forces are investigating the agency, and the head of the Department of Economic Security resigned under duress, it appears there's still much to be done. This includes our local CPS office, which seems immune from accountability.

This week, a 5-month-old infant was admitted to the hospital weighing 9 pounds. The incident began when a relative of the infant continually called CPS, fearing for the child's welfare. When CPS arrived at the home, the mother was asleep on the couch with nothing but a shirt on, the infant lying next to her and her two other children, ages 1 and 5, fending for themselves. The children's father was out of town.

The CPS investigator requested that the mother clean the house and he would return a few hours later. With a drastically underweight infant, children fending for themselves because their mother is mentally elsewhere, and no food in the home, a clean house seemed an odd priority for the investigator.

When the investigator returned, the mother and children had left and were hiding out in a nearby motel. The mother had called a relative and her caller ID indicated where they were. After she was found, the mother voluntarily admitted her infant to the hospital. The baby has since gained two pounds in two days.

CPS has determined that since the children's father was not home at the time, and therefore had nothing to do with the circumstances, the children will be returned to the home.

Romley wants to make CPS records and hearings public so that negligent acts such as this no longer occur, and those who are in charge of child welfare are held accountable for their actions. The agency is trying hard to operate in the shadows, hidden under a veil of secrecy, under a guise of "confidentiality," but there are those on the inside who truly care and want change -- people who will risk a lot to correct a broken system.

These courageous citizens assist us in illuminating what's going on in our CPS office so that we can say, with confidence, that this community is watching. Our hope is that the local office will continue to come under greater scrutiny by not just our community and the press, but by public officials.

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