State officials from the governor on down professed themselves shocked several months ago when several Child Protective Services officials called attention to the 6,500 cases of reported abuse and neglect classified as simply “not investigated” in the past few years.
Now, we’re shocked at the blatant hypocrisy of the effort by both Gov. Brewer and legislative leaders to pretend they didn’t know that CPS has for years ignored reports abuse and neglect. Turns out, CPS regularly tallied the ignored cases in its annual reports to the Legislature and the governor. They also reported caseloads 77 percent greater than the national standard and a 31 percent turnover rate among caseworkers.
Of course, even that comes as no surprise. Turns out, Arizona ranks fifth worst in the nation when it comes to overall conditions for children and families, based on 16 indicators of child and family well-being, according to the 2012 Kids County Data Book compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. That includes economic well-being, education, and family and community. In health, the state ranks 36th out of 50. Only Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi do worse.
Consider two stories on our front page if you want to start to weigh the costs of such systematic neglect.
One story involves the death of Calandra Balas, who remained in her father’s custody a year after police arrested him for domestic violence. CPS had removed her from his care at least twice previously, according to relatives. Unaccountably, Balas still had custody when he assaulted a Payson woman and fled from police with Calandra in the back seat. She died in the resulting crash.
You might also make note of the sad story of Douglas Henneman, an incorrigible, one-man crime wave. The court records show he suffered childhood physical, sexual and emotional abuse. His first stint in juvenile detention came at the age of 11. He spent the next 27 years staggering in an out of trouble, with serious mental health and drug problems. He finally earned an 18-year prison sentence after an armed robbery and a series of thefts and burglaries. Locking him up for the next 20 years will cost taxpayers about $720,000. The bill has come due for our failure to respond to the abuse that played its tragic role in his wasted and dangerous life.
So do not believe the protestations of the politicians, when they say they didn’t know. And do not underestimate the price we will all pay for their shocking neglect.