A crisis of epic scale has unfolded among the governor and state legislators who are scrambling to find scapegoats to blame for the problem that they themselves created.
Ten years ago, both the governor and the attorney general brought attention to the fact that Child Protective Services (CPS) was overwhelmed and crumbling internally. Then-governor Napolitano said, “we have a true crisis in CPS in this state ... we have had it for a long time.” For decades everyone had known about the inadequate staffing and insufficient resources at CPS.
Three years ago a new state director was hired to protect children subjected to abuse or neglect. It was clear then that he was not to ask for increases in staff or additional funding.
He went along with the ruse. But his department continued to notify the governor and the Legislature in monthly and semi-annual reports that reported cases of child abuse and neglect were not being investigated.
For years the legislators ignored the growing crisis ... until last month when the dike finally broke and the public was infuriated at the news that 6,550 reported incidents of possible child abuse and neglect had been ignored over the previous two years.
Panic set in among elected officials and the hunt for scapegoats was on.
The governor and Republican legislators had for years refused to provide adequate resources for child welfare.
Now they want to know whom to blame. As if they were not aware of the huge turnover problems at CPS arising from the fact that caseloads exceed the state’s standards by 77 percent. Or as if no one had told them that 10,000 cases had not been investigated or that in just a few years the number of children in foster care had increased by 50 percent to 15,000.
They do not want to admit that, abandoning their constitutional responsibility, they simply looked the other way and refused to address the problem.
Internally, CPS officials had no choice. Handcuffed by some of the highest staff turnover rates in the nation and the lack of adequately trained professionals, program managers had only one option — triage: treat top priorities first and let the rest go. In the heat of such a crisis it is no wonder that serious mistakes occurred.
There just were not enough “lifeboats” to go around. Some would have to fend for themselves, even if they were defenseless children possibly subjected to horrendous cruelty.
The legislators’ ploy to scapegoating the managers and staff of CPS is truly shameful. It only serves as a distraction from their own failure as legislators to provide the resources needed to care for these children. Don’t let them get away with this cowardice.
It was their constitutional responsibility. And they failed to act. More investigation won’t help. Everybody knows what the problem is — the failure of the Legislature to provide adequate resources.
Legislators will say “Bah! Humbug! Throwing money at a problem is not the solution!” Neither is depriving a mission of the financial and staffing resources needed to accomplish its goal!
For decades the problem was well known yet our legislators did nothing to solve it. They are the ones to blame for this horrendous situation.
We should be telling Governor Brewer, and our Payson representatives Bob Thorpe, Brenda Barton and Chester Crandell to stand up and admit their failure to do their job. They are the ones who caused this unnecessary disaster by being complicit in the abuse and neglect of thousands of Arizona children.
It would be fitting to subject them to citizens’ arrest for dereliction of duty in abandoning their constitutional responsibility to protect vulnerable children.
If that doesn’t work, next November we can indict them for their horrendous neglect and demand final accountability. We can fire them for being such miserly Scrooges and irresponsible legislators.