A Broken Agency In Dire Need To Reform

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As the father of 13 children, I am horrified by the seemingly endless reports detailing the neglect, abuse, and even murder of innocent young children. There is no excuse for these heinous criminal acts.

Even more horrifying is the fact that many of these tragedies occurred following ineffective intervention efforts by the state agency whose sole purpose is the protection of our youth -- Child Protective Services (CPS). Clearly, this is a failed agency, crippled by a well intentioned, but ineffective emphasis on social welfare. The time has come to not only reform CPS, but rework it into the agency it was always intended to be.

In the latest of a series of legislative and executive efforts to fix CPS, Governor Janet Napolitano recently issued a special session call for the Arizona Legislature, proposing a massive increase in CPS funding and various procedural reforms. Although I appreciate the governor's efforts, her call has raised a number of significant concerns.

First, special sessions are typically called after a consensus proposal has been reached by the executive and legislative branches, not before. While both branches have been actively researching ways to improve CPS, we are far from consensus within the legislative branch, let alone with the governor.

Rather than build on work currently being done by a legislative committee, the governor instead introduced her own proposal without making any attempt to build consensus among lawmakers -- hardly a recipe for effective reform.

My second concern is that the governor's recommendations do not go far enough to reform the system. For example, rather than enroll parents suspected of child abuse into ineffective social programs, CPS efforts should be focused on the prevention of abuse, including the early involvement of law enforcement agencies if necessary.

The heart of the governor's plan is not real reform, it's dramatically more spending -- $100 million over the next 18 months, a 75 percent increase in state funding for CPS.

Sadly, the governor irresponsibly fails to identify how the state can pay for this spending beyond the current fiscal year, leaving the Legislature with a future choice between cutting other programs like education, or raising taxes.

While more money may in fact be needed for CPS, new spending without serious reform will not serve the children of Arizona. Effective reform will require building consensus, involving law enforcement and spending responsibly -- something I am committed to working toward.

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