CPS Memo: Ignored Investigations a Clear Attempt to Reduce Caseloads

The police detective who helped reveal the thousands of ignored Child Protective Services hotline calls revealed the apparent reasoning for the shelving of the cases in a month-old memo to Governor Jan Brewer.

Gregory McKay, a Phoenix police detective who's currently overseeing CPS' Office Child Welfare Investigations, said CPS administrators' designation of the cases as "not investigated" was "clearly an attempt by CPS to lessen the already over-burdened investigative arm of the agency."

See also:
-Child Protective Services Failed to Investigate Thousands of Allegations

The memo, obtained by several Valley news outlets, appears to have been first obtained by the Arizona Republic.

Not much has been said about why more than 6,000 allegations of child abuse and neglect were never investigated at all, despite a requirement by law to do so. Both McKay and Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter told a CPS oversight panel last month that they didn't know the exact source of the problem, or why the "not investigated" tag is even an option.

McKay apparently had a theory, as he explained in this memo to Brewer:

This is clearly an attempt by CPS to lessen the already over-burdened investigative arm of the agency. It accomplishes two goals; reduce investigator caseload and reduce the number of unassigned reports. This medicine is truly worse than the disease.

The final implication is what will be perceived as mismanagement of the public trust, and the public's money. Last year, CPS was given over $70 million to decrease caseload burdens, make process improvements, and prevent egregious cases of child abuse through better training and accountability. Instead, SWAT teams and units like the new Hotline QA Unit took on large amounts of manpower to "Not Investigate" reports requiring investigations.
(Note: The "SWAT team" at CPS is just a group of CPS workers tasked with processing cases.)

McKay's memo also seems to point out the source of the issue:
This practice became heavily implemented at the end of CY 2011, when CPS issued directives to utilize this practice only for a brief period of time. It confined the use of the "Not Investigated" disposition to backlogged reports and only select personnel were permitted to close reports in this manner.

With the advent of SWAT and Deborah Harper's ascension to Program Administrator, this practice became an acceptable measure to prevent newly created reports from being investigated. SWAT has no formal policy and does not have reports on an "Organization Structure" in the [CPS] database. This means, SWAT personnel, nor their supervisors or Program Manager (Tracy Everett) ever have documented accountability. The reports are closed under the original field office supervisor's name and Organization Structure in the [CPS] database.
McKay also noted that these CPS workers seemed to indiscriminately mark the cases as "not investigated," as cases that needed extra attention for a variety of reasons still got put on the shelf. That includes cases with three or more prior complaints, and allegations of criminal conduct.

DES has planned to at least start investigations on these cases by the end of January. Meanwhile, several police departments have now been asked to help investigate the cases in their jurisdictions, which may just mean checking to make sure a child appears fine and is living in acceptable conditions.

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley