Child Support

Letters from the week of March 20, 2003

So, tell me again: Who are the liberals here?

If the pattern elsewhere holds, eventually the governor, the Legislature, and the various committees and commissions will realize that child removal does not equal child safety and, in fact, you can't have child safety without family preservation. The only question is: How many more innocent children will be traumatized by needless foster care placement, and how many more will have to give their lives before the message sinks in?

Richard Wexler, Executive Director
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform Alexandria, Virginia

Cabinet work: Congratulations to Amy Silverman for writing an objective account of the mess known as Child Protective Services in Arizona. Ms. Silverman did an adequate job of presenting some of the issues which have critically weakened CPS case managers' ability to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect.

Ms. Silverman was correct in saying that the workers are underpaid and overworked. I disagree with the statement that they are undertrained. "Inadequate" best describes the training new intake (investigative) case managers receive. Furthermore, they are not accurately informed of the number of cases they will be assigned in a given week. That number can vary from one area to another. Telling workers they will get an average of three to five new cases per week (a number omitted from the article) is misleading. Some intake workers are assigned as many as six to eight new cases per week.

In the article, Ms. Silverman describes Model Court as a success. In the eyes of the Court, perhaps it is. However, the article makes no mention of the fact that, when faced with a Model Court dependency, the intake worker has only three to five days to complete an investigation and a day or two to prepare a court report. This is hardly sufficient if one is to expect a complete investigation of allegations of abuse, neglect or abandonment.

Although Ms. Silverman addressed the Removal Review Teams, she neglected to say that these teams include only one person who has actually gone out into the field to investigate the allegations or has been in the parents' home the intake case manager. Everyone else on the team may have their own agenda regarding the removal of the child or children involved. The dichotomy of "family preservation versus child safety" frequently comes into play at this level.

In the case of Anndreah Robertson, the front-page case about the infant who died from alleged exposure to drug use by the mother and grandmother, the Arizona Republic crucified the intake worker's actions but ignored the fact that the case manager was one of several individuals who were involved in the decision-making process. The Republic columnist made the worker the scapegoat for this tragedy while ignoring the fact that several others should have shared the blame. The agency backed up the worker but failed to acknowledge that the removal review team shared in the decision to leave the infant in the home.

Intake workers are leaving CPS faster than the agency can fill the vacancies. Who wants to be the "whipping boy (or girl)" for the media or CPS when a child tragically dies when left in the home of an alleged abuser?

I truly wish that Ms. Silverman had delved deeper into the issues which plague CPS. However, I was pleased that she exposed the fact that legislators interfere in the process through the ombudsman's office. I applaud Ms. Mang for citing the fact that lawmakers have attempted to use their office to influence decisions made by CPS and the administrative officials who decide if an allegation is substantiated or unsubstantiated.

I commend your publication for having the courage to point out that it will take more than commissions and subcommittees to bring about change. Governor Napolitano and Noreen Sharp have a challenging task ahead. I pray that, when they receive the reports from these committees in June this year, they will do more than "moving chairs on the Titanic," because that is my greatest fear in this situation.

Our governor pledged to make child safety the number one priority of CPS. Formation of the "Children's Cabinet" was a nice first step but is just so much rhetoric if neither this body nor Governor Napolitano has the courage to impose a major shakeup in CPS. We don't need more rhetoric. What these children need is real action. Let's pray that such action results from the work of the Children's Cabinet and the committees that have been created.

Name withheld by request

Law Law Land

Joe foe: I just read your article on Sheriff Joe's antics of late ("Gag of an Order," Robert Nelson, March 6). I am profoundly grateful that there are still reporters like you around to continue to expose Sheriff Joe for what he is a murderer and human rights violator. I believe, and numerous articles and evidence have shown, his continued exploitation of the incarcerated population under his "care."

Now, don't get me wrong, I know that most of those incarcerated deserve to be where they are, but there is no excuse for the human rights violations of this man.

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