By January 31, Child Protective Services plans to have started (or completed) investigations into the cases that have been ignored over the last three years.
The Department of Economic Security, which oversees CPS -- or is supposed to, at least -- finally released its plan for how the agency's going to deal with 6,110 calls to the CPS hotline that never got assigned to investigators.
It's been nearly two weeks since this problem was discovered, as the Office of Child Welfare Investigations found all these cases had been marked "Not Investigated," so they'd never see an investigator's desk.
Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter and Office of Child Welfare Investigations Chief Detective Gregory McKay said they didn't know the source of the problem right now, and the Department of Public Safety is supposed to do an administrative review.
Meanwhile, the effort to investigate these cases already has begun.
Just yesterday, workers finished going through all the ignored cases of 2013, a total of 2,919 cases. Ten of those required an "immediate response" from investigators. Twenty-three cases include "potential criminal conduct," essentially an allegation of child abuse or sexual abuse, as defined by state law.
Of those nearly 3,000 cases from this year, 879 were categorized for "potential alternative investigation." According to CPS definitions:
A disposition assigned to a report by a CPS Supervisor, when all children living in the home have been observed by a professional mandated reporting source and determined not to be a victim of child maltreatment.
Nearly 1,800 of the cases were categorized as needing a field investigation, so those finally will be given to a case worker (case workers whose caseloads already are well above the standards, by the way).
Employees are now sorting through the 3,191 ignored hotline calls made from 2009 to 2012. The DES plan lists 257 "potential supplementary workforce to conduct investigations." Those people would start "refresher training" on investigations next week.
Finally, by January 31, 2014, DES plans for investigations on all the ignored cases to be "initiated or completed as appropriate."
As all this happens, Howie Fischer of Capitol Media Services reported on the Department of Public Safety's probe into how these 6,000-plus allegations were ignored.
". . . less clear is whether DPS will try to figure out exactly who is responsible for what became a policy at the agency of ignoring state laws which require all complaints to be investigated," Fischer reports. "And, for the moment, no one is looking at whether a crime has been committed."
Before the CPS Oversight Committee last week, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery made it clear that, by law, these allegations have to be investigated to some extent within a matter of days.
Activists have alleged that there likely was criminal wrongdoing in ignoring all these allegations.
Neither Carter nor McKay knew why anyone had used the "Not Investigated" or "NI" tag to mark the cases. They said they didn't even know why that classification would exist.
The only somewhat descriptive reference to "Not Investigated" we came across on DES' website was the following glossary definition:
A disposition assigned to a report by a CPS Supervisor only when there is inadequate staff to complete a field investigation.
Some Democrats and activists have been calling for a special legislative session to direct more funds toward CPS, but Brewer has rejected the calls, although she reportedly has said she's approved any need for overtime costs for the current employees due to these cases.