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Report on CPS Failures Cites Too Much Work

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The team Governor Jan Brewer assigned to process and review the thousands of cases ignored by Child Protective Services reports that the root cause of the failure is that "demand exceeds capacity."

The "CARE Team" led by Charles Flanagan -- who's since been tasked with running the new agency that includes CPS -- cites many more problems in their report, but it's all traced back to workers having too much work to keep up with.

This report isn't a full investigation and doesn't identify the specific workers who implemented the plan to just shelve thousands of cases -- some of which should have been investigated immediately -- but the Arizona Department of Public Safety is currently doing its own investigative review of the agency.

The CARE Team reports that due to insufficient staffing, CPS has high turnover, a backlog of cases, high wait times, and abandoned calls at the CPS hotline. These things lead to a lack of standards, inexperienced supervisors, insufficient training, and more individual judgments, the report states.

So it's not just a staffing problem, the team concluded. There are too many places where all of these cases can fall through the cracks, which should never happen.

"The cost of a failure in this process is significant. A process failure puts a child in harm's way; a single failure can result in the death of a child," the report states. "Our [review team] identified 142 total failure points between a call arriving at the Hotline and closing an investigation."

The workload's described in the report as an "unwinnable game" -- it's just impossible to manage the work.

Although it's not a major part of the report, people on the CPS oversight committee, as well as CPS employees interviewed for this report, have said that the database for these hotline calls is horrible to navigate and takes way more time than it should. Both CPS reviewers and some legislators have called for funding to overhaul this database for several years now, but it hasn't happened yet.

Governor Brewer called for such an update in her budget proposal.

As for staffing, the Legislature just approved about $6.8 million to hire more CPS workers. Plus, Brewer's budget calls for another $21.5 million budgeted for new employees next year.

This is all in addition to last year's budget, which included $12.9 million for 150 new employees, plus more supplemental funds approved by legislators -- another $4.4 million from the general fund for another 50 caseworkers.

The CARE Team report can be found below:

CARE Team Report 2014-01-31

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.

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