PHOENIX: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer could be politically damaged by revelations that her administration ignored thousands of child abuse and neglect reports that prompted calls for her to replace her hand-picked leader of the state’s social services agency.
While Brewer has made reforming Child Protective Services one of her top priorities in the past several years, critics of the Republican governor say the failures show her administration continues to shortchange kids.
Brewer is so far rejecting calls to replace the agency’s leader, and supporters say the governor ensured the botched cases were made public and has called for accountability.
Clarence Carter, director of the Department of Economic Security, which oversees CPS, revealed last week that more than 6,000 reports generated by the state’s child abuse hotline hadn’t been investigated since 2009, most in the past 20 months. The CPS plan to clear those reports was released early this week and has been widely panned as inadequate and short on specifics.
Carter promises every case meriting a full investigation will be handled by the end of January. He’s assigned more than 200 CPS supervisors and program managers to the job, employees who don’t currently handle a caseload.
Carter has declined to comment through a spokeswoman since Monday.
Last January, Brewer personally took credit in her State of the State address for “overhauling” the hotline system so urgent calls received priority. But that overhaul apparently included simply closing thousands of abuse reports.
Now, criticism is coming from both Democrats and members of Brewer’s own party, who appeared blindsided by the news.
“I have to ask the question, what else might not be working?” said Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, a Phoenix Republican who co-chairs the Legislature’s CPS oversight committee. “Is it a systemic problem?”
Republican Sen. Nancy Barto, the committee’s other co-chair, said the problem was system-wide. And while neither GOP lawmaker called for Carter’s ouster, both were harsh in their assessment.