Arizona Governor Jan Brewer announced today the members of a task force she's organized to review the state's child-safety policies following a recent spike in horrifying/highly publicized cases of child abuse.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery -- who made waves with his controversial proposal to create an investigative unit separate from state Child Protective Services that would determine whether police or CPS case workers handle certain child-abuse reports -- will serve as the chairman of the task force.
"There can be no higher priority than the safety of children under state supervision," Brewer says. "I've assembled the best child-safety experts in Arizona in order to review state procedures and identify ways to help the agency perform at the highest level. With the expertise of law enforcement, physicians, victim advocates, and others who've devoted their lives to child safety, we can ensure that our state safeguards are the most effective possible."
Other members of the task force include the following:
- Justice Robert Brutinel, Arizona Supreme Court
- Judge Michael McVey, Maricopa County Superior Court
- Clarence Carter, Director, Arizona Department of Economic Security
- Steve Twist, President, Arizona Voice for Crime Victims
- Dr. J. Kipp Charlton, Pediatrician, Maricopa Medical Center
- Dr. Cindy Knott, Vice President, ChildHelp
- Dr. Steven Anderson, Director, ASU School of Social Work
- Veronica Bossack, Assistant Director, Division of Children Youth and Families, Department of Economic Security
- Cassandra Larsen, Director, Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families
- Linda Gray, Arizona State Senator
- Leah Landrum-Taylor, Arizona State Senator
- Eddie Farnsworth, Arizona State Representative
- Terri Proud, Arizona State Representative
- Dave Byers, Director, Administrative Office of the Courts
- Marty Shultz, Community Leader
- Anne Donahoe, State Foster Care Review Board, CASA Volunteer
- Lt. Katrina Alberty, Glendale Family Advocacy Center
- Grace Bee, Foster Parent
Brewer says the task force will hold at least two public meetings, during which "it will hear testimony from experts in the following areas: child protective services investigations and management, law enforcement investigations, the administrative office of the courts, social services, foster care, crisis shelters and group homes, and child-welfare advocacy."
CPS has come under fire in recent months following several child-abuse related deaths, including those of 10-year-old Ame Deal and 6-year-old Jacob Gibson.
Deal was found dead in August by family members. Her body had been stuffed inside a tiny foot locker. The family initially claimed the girl had been playing hide-and-seek with other children and gotten stuck inside the box. According to police, that was a lie -- she was put in the box by her cousin as punishment for stealing a Popsicle and left there overnight.
Getting stuffed in a foot locker was nothing compared to some of the other abuse the 10-year-old girl allegedly suffered at the hands of her family -- get all the details of Deal's horrific murder here.
Gibson was killed a few weeks after Deal when his parents beat him with a belt and a wire hangar.
Gibson's parents had been on CPS' radar since 2005. At one point, the agency removed Jacob from his parents' home, only to return him to his abusive parents. More on Gibson here.
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CPS felt the brunt of the criticism following the deaths of Deal and Gibson. Critics say the agency has failed the children it's supposed to protect. Others say CPS is underfunded, understaffed, and overburdened.
Either way, Brewer's task force is attempting to fix what is clearly a broken system.
Brewer has given the task force until December 31 to provide to her "a detailed list of recommendations for statutory, organizational, management or protocol reforms necessary to enhance the welfare of children under state supervision or custody."