Senate President Andy Biggs Pushing for Audit of CPS

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Arizona Senate President is pushing for an external audit of Child Protective Services.

The proposed audit is just the latest attempt at reforming the agency, which simply shelved thousands of allegations of child abuse and neglect because of large caseloads.

See also:
-Report on CPS Failures Cites Too Much Work

Senate Bill 1386 would appropriate $250,000 from the state's general fund to find an expert to perform this review.

Wednesday, before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved the bill, Biggs acknowledged that $250,000 may not be enough to cover the "exhaustive investigation" he wantsr.

Biggs said he wants the external auditor to look into the "culture, the structure -- everything that's going on at CPS."

A team assembled by Governor Jan Brewer already did a light investigation of the issue and found that the 6,500-plus cases were shelved because of the amount of work thrown at staff.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety also is conducting a review to find out how this was even allowed. Although the caseloads may have been high, CPS is bound by law to investigate all cases to a certain extent and within a certain timeframe.

The audit Biggs proposes wouldn't be carried out by a state agency. Instead, an outside expert would perform the audit. Biggs said he wanted the CPS structure compared with those of other states to find out why the shortcomings of Arizona's agency has been so extraordinary.

And if this appropriation were to pass, it would be only a drop in the bucket as far as new CPS spending is concerned. At Brewer's suggestion, legislators already have approved $5.7 million in immediate new spending from the state's general fund to hire more CPS staffers.

Brewer also has asked for another $65.1 million to be budgeted for new CPS funding, including another $21.5 million for even more employees, $25 million in a "transition fund" to separate CPS from Arizona's Department of Economic Security, $8.6 million more CPS' law enforcement component, the Office of Child Welfare Investigations, and $10 million to revamp the child-abuse reporting system that's also been blamed as a factor in the uninvestigated cases.

Several lawmakers who have given preliminary approval to various bits and pieces of CPS funding this session have acknowledged that they've been "throwing money" at CPS for several years now to try to correct problems, and all they got was the scandal involving thousands of ignored cases.

This time, they're still supposed to believe things will be different.

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Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.
Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

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