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Child Protective Services Failed to Investigate Thousands of Allegations

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Thousands of allegations of child abuse phoned into Child Protective Services were not investigated.

Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter, whose department includes CPS, disclosed the fact Thursday morning.

About 6,000 allegations dating back to 2009 weren't investigated because CPS staffer(s) classified the calls in such a way that they wouldn't be investigated. It's unclear how that happened at this point.

Coincidentally, Carter is scheduled to be at the Legislature's CPS Oversight Committee meeting this afternoon, in a hearing that starts at 2:30 p.m.

(Click here to watch that hearing live, it's in Senate Hearing Room 1.)

Meanwhile, Governor Jan Brewer issued a statement saying she doesn't "want to see the lights off at CPS" until each of these allegations is investigated.

Stay tuned for updates.

UPDATE 4:13 p.m.: Carter told the CPS Oversight Committee Thursday afternoon that the allegations were made over the hotline, then someone coded the cases "Not Investigated," or "NI," and were never passed on to investigators. Nearly half of those allegations were made this year.

"There are 6,000 cases where we are not sure whether or not children are in harm's way," he said.

Office of Child Welfare Investigations Chief Detective Gregory McKay explained that the first indication something was wrong was discovered in August, when a cop asked a CPS investigator to check the status of a report made in December 2012, involving an allegation that a teenager was sexually abusing an elementary school-aged sibling. The case was marked "NI," so the case was never even given to an investigator. A chain of events led to CPS finding the 6,000 cases marked "NI."

Both Carter and McKay said they don't know the source of the problem right now, and the Department of Public Safety is supposed to do an administrative review. They apparently have tracked it to CPS' so-called "SWAT" unit, which is supposed to review cases and send them to investigators, or close them. Republican State Senator Nancy Barto pointed out that these "SWAT" members are supposed to be more experienced CPS employees.

Carter said he brought the issue straight to Governor Brewer once he found out and said he'd never seen her that heated. He quoted her as instructing him not to "cover any of this up." (FYI, if that's a directive that needed to be given, we have bigger problems here.)

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who's also on the panel, stressed several times that each and every one of these cases, by law, is supposed to be investigated. He asked why there even was an ability to mark cases as "NI," and there's no explanation at this point.

Over the weekend, CPS looked at the "NI" files from allegations made this year, and Carter said 10 of those cases were found to require "immediate attention," so someone had to investigate the case that instant.

The CPS officials don't know how many children are actually involved in these 6,000 cases at this point, as reports regarding the same child could have been made several times, and reports could have been made about a parent allegedly abusing multiple children.

On the next page, you can see a CPS brochure for the "hotline," which explains how that system works.

CPS Hotline Brochure

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.

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