Brewer signs child welfare overhaul into law - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Brewer signs child welfare overhaul into law

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(Source: CBS 5 News) (Source: CBS 5 News)

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed into law legislation that overhauls that state's child welfare agency just months after revelations that thousands of abuse and neglect reports had gone uninvestigated.

The two bills approved by the House and Senate on Thursday will create and fund a new Department of Child Safety to replace the old Child Protective Services department.

The new agency will be funded at a total of $834 million.

Brewer proposed the overhaul after revelations late last year that more than 6,500 abuse and neglect reports were closed without investigation by the old CPS.

Brewer set up a temporary department in January under Charles Flanagan, the former head of the state's juvenile corrections department. He will also head the new agency.

The governor issued this statement as she signed the reform legislation into law:

"It is a momentous day for Arizona, as we take the boldest and most meaningful step in state history to reform and replace our problem-plagued child welfare system. This new agency, under the devoted, tireless and passionate leadership of Charles Flanagan, is a critical step forward in creating a child safety system that lives up to its name and mission.

"With this historic legislation, we begin to reverse a longstanding crisis and implement long-lasting change. Through necessary resources, safeguards, checks and balances and oversight - as well as a clearly-defined core mission of child safety - there will be no room for excuses, secrets or faceless decision makers. There will be no more mixed messages and competing priorities. Finally, Arizona will have a child safety system with the capability and culture to protect our children.

"Certainly, a system that has been broken for decades will take time to repair. Implementing true and lasting reform in any agency - especially one with such a vital mission and vulnerable population - will take time. But for the first time in state history, we are on a clear path to a successful child safety system that will not fail in its mission.

"I thank the bi-partisan Child Safety Reform Workgroup, the CARE Team, the stakeholders and advocates, the Legislature and everyone who has played a part in this crucial and overdue cause. This is only the beginning, and it will be incumbent upon future governors and legislators to continue our remarkable progress. But today, we can take pride in knowing that we made history - and we made a difference."

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-District 24, released this statement after the Arizona House passed the bills.

"This week our Legislature continued the task of reforming Arizona's child-safety system. The legislation we passed created the framework and funding for the new Department of Child Safety.The bills are designed to correct the issues that overwhelmed Child Protective Services.

"While this is progress, it will take time for the new agency to work through the nearly 15,000-case backlog. Also, prevention and support services still aren't receiving enough resources to curb the growing child-safety caseload in this state. Unless we invest in prevention and support services now, the new agency will suffer the same failures as CPS.

"Earlier this year, Arizona House Democrats proposed a budget that included $193 million for child safety and other health and human services programs. That was a more realistic budget for addressing the issues that plague our child-safety system.

"Unfortunately today, Democrats lost the fight to get additional funding for childcare subsidies for working families, for grandparents caring for their grandchildren and for Families First, a substance abuse treatment program. For years, support and prevention services have suffered drastic budget cuts. Without these services, more families faced situations that required attention from CPS. This trend will only be reversed by prioritizing the programs that help families avoid crisis. Also, we must ensure that there are always enough caseworkers to manage the caseloads as children continue to enter the system.

"We've just started taking the steps necessary to correct the damage done to child-safety programs in Arizona. House Democrats are encouraged by the progress we have made and will continue to push for more robust reforms that will better serve our children, families and state."

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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