Why Arizona Abolished Child Protective Services

by Tina Rhodes

A couple of days ago Gov. Brewer of this fine state abolished an entire state government agency: Child Protective Services.

She replaced it with a new one called “Child Safety and Family Services” and put a guy by the name of Charles Flanagan in the director’s position, current head of the AZ Department of Juvenile Corrections. This change by the Governor is most likely bad for Arizona, although one could also argue that things couldn’t have gotten any worse.

The tipping point for the Governor, beyond CPS’s well known longterm underperformance, was the fact that a review of their caseloads discovered that 6,000 cases that originated from the official hotline had not been investigated. This is as horrible as it sounds. It is also illegal because AZ laws says that those cases MUST be investigated. Nevertheless, what the news media is not reporting to the public is the context in which all this occurred.

CPS has, like most other state agencies, been purposely starved by the Republican Governor and Republican-led legislature.

Arizona is a conservative state and prides itself on low tax rates. Combine that with revenue plummeting due to the Great Recession that started in 2008 and from which we are just now recovering, and we ended up with very few funds for a lot of services. We are recovering though, thankfully. Experts are saying that Arizona revenue will have grown by 3.5% in Fiscal Year in 2013 and are predicting 5.3% in Fiscal Year 2014. In the end, we get what we pay for, and Arizona doesn’t pay for much.

However, even when times were good, state services were dismal. Here is just one example*: In 2006, the state had approximately 5% of the population living with serious mental illness and on average spent $157 per capita and assisted only 18% of the adults in need. In addition, an unusually low percentage of the money budgeted for mental health services, 7%, went to state hospital care — the national average is 70%. This means that if you’re mentally ill in AZ and need assistance from the state you aren’t likely to get any and if you happen to end up homeless and mentally ill, there are no hospitals for you.

This again, follows a conservative trend to deinstitutionalize mental health treatment . This trend began in CA when Reagan was governor and when he was elected President he spread that policy nationwide with ramifications we are still feeling today. Suffice it to say, it’s part of the Republican strategy to starve government so that it will fail. And when services fail, because they’ve made it inevitable, they can say, “See government doesn’t work so let’s just do away with it.” Even now Arizona is projected to have a budget surplus but Republican state legislators are still preaching austerity. Here’s what Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills**) had to say back in October 2013 a couple of months before the most recent scandal.

Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said a more realistic snapshot would build in extra spending requests in the coming years, especially since the state has had a recent run of surpluses.

“A lot of people are asking for more spending,” Kavanagh said, ticking off requests he’s seen for Child Protective Services, wildfire management and roads.

If lawmakers spend even $150 million more a year over the state budget’s baseline for the next three years, he said, the deficit could balloon to $1.4 billion by June 2017.

That’s just theory at this point. Many involved in the budgeting process caution it’s hard to reliably predict revenue and spending more than a year ahead of time.

The point is that CPS was set up to fail. Having worked in law enforcement myself I am very familiar with how child protection services are supposed to work and the incredible burdens the very underpaid, under appreciated and over worked social workers have to contend with. I thought my caseload as a Probation Officer was bad until I found out about the social workers and what they had to deal with. At least with my active caseload of 150 felons in the community, which was about half of their active cases, the likelihood that anyone’s life and mental health really depended on what I did or didn’t do was low.

That’s not the case with CPS.

Many of the kids’ lives and mental and physical health are directly dependent upon CPS employees every single day. Needless to say the turnover for their employees is extremely high because morale is naturally horrible. High turnover rate means more down time and increased costs for training making CPS even more expensive to run than other agencies.

Of the 6,000 cases that were ignored, 125 were found to be actual cases of abuse and none of those were reported as fatalities. That’s about a 2% rate of actual abuse from Hotline cases. Ultimately this latest scandal is simply further proof that CPS could never have succeeded. This kind of agency faces enough of a challenge in our society without the extra burden of being starved financially.

So the Governor can create a new agency all she wants but it will still have the same mission, still have to draw from the same pool of underpaid and disillusioned social workers, and still have the same caseload pressures as before. Furthermore, the fact that she’s putting someone who has been involved with locking up kids and not saving them doesn’t bode well either.

In the end, the people that suffered and will continue to suffer are first and foremost the kids and second the overwhelmed CPS employees. I’m sure the Governor and the state Republican controlled legislature feels their hands are clean and on the surface it may appear they are lily white. Right now it appears that Gov. Brewer is sweeping in to save the day. That’s because they are willing to let that all roll downhill like they always do and the local news media and the voting public will let them get away with it yet again. For what it’s worth, at least some of us know the truth.

________________

*Another somewhat related example are the approximately 400 felony cases, some of which were sexual in nature and the victims were children, that went uninvestigated in the city of El Mirage. Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office was paid to investigate the crimes except they never were. Funny how Joe is still in office….why is MCSO even allowed to exist if CPS isn’t under the same circumstances? Why hasn’t El Mirage sued the holy bejeebers out of MCSO for unrendered services, fraud, theft, something….anything? Typical Arizona bullpucky to which the voters turn a blind eye.

**Fountain Hills is a VERY wealthy community to the East of Snottsdale where Sheriff “I serve green bologne to my inmates and have one of the highest correction death rates in the country” Arpaio happens to reside.

  • trog69

    If not for helping raise the grandkids, I’d have left this desert years ago. The despicable Legislature and the governor are bad enough, but to keep getting re-elected means that the voters are just as bad.

  • konnie

    I stand alone in my radicalism. I think every baby boy should have a vasectomy at birth, and every girl baby have her tubes tied before they leave the hospital – for free. think about that! it would make abortion obsolete, empty prisons, eliminate poverty, and reduce unemployment. When the child comes of age – wanted, valued, productive and responsible the procedure can be reversed. A man who wants to be a father would have to really want it to undergo surgery. A woman would certainly want to be a mother to do the same. No unwanted pregnancies. No unwanted children. And the argument eliminated from our civil discourse.

    • feloniousgrammar

      Yeah. You just keep “standing alone in you radicalism” dear.

    • Gunnut2600

      You…are not…familiar…with how the surgeries actually work are you? The term “reversible” procedure is pretty much relative. Its not nearly as reversible as you think.

    • Dawn9476

      There is already a way to dramatically drop the number of unwanted children born in this country. Comprehensive sex education and readily available birth control.

  • mrbrink

    Yeah, it really is despicable what’s been going on in Arizona. Just setting aside that a man like Joe Arpaio is the sheriff where much of AZ’s juvenile “correcting” takes place, the right-to-work state boasts some of the highest rates of poverty in the country(1 in 4 children in Arizona are in families at or below the poverty level)while continuing to top national lists in cuts to public education:

    The Madison Elementary School District in Phoenix has not replaced its social-studies textbook in 15 years, and its math textbooks are about 10 years old. Instead of the recommended 40 hours of teacher training annually to implement new initiatives, teachers have received only three hours in some years, said Tim Ham, superintendent of the Madison Elementary School District.

    I was reading through Flanagan’s Five-year plan as Director of the ADJC and it didn’t take long to pick up on the passive-aggressive contempt for “failing public schools,” which probably sounds great to investors in private prisons and whatever public-funds-sucking-spider-subsidiary-web he’s in charge of weaving, as well as failing charter schools which are now receiving TWICE the state funds per pupil as public schools.

    Throw in cuts to food and nutrition(SNAP) and the increasingly bureaucratic poor-punching and red tape cruelty, limited opportunity and economic mobility up and down the economy, and the ‘starvation method’ of Republican governance isn’t just rhetorical, but now it’s a great excuse to just consolidate as much education, social services, jobs and healthcare they can into the meat grinder of a prison factory economy– a one stop shopping mall of social engineering. “You are here.”

    Great write-up. Great to see the Banter giving a platform to such remarkable and uniquely qualified talent. It really is a testament to the culture promoted and nurtured around here. Good looking out. And Irish’– you’ve earned this opportunity through intellect, go-to judiciousness, blood and guts, humor and professionalism. A bullshit detector made of gold. Couldn’t be happier about this. Truly, sincerely: Right on!

    Do your thing.

    • conundrum

      It’s a simple plan, get the citizens with expensive problems to move to a blue state.

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      You are soooo right, Mr. Brink! One of Gov. Brewer’s advisers is a former Corrections Corporation of America executive and private prisons have their claws sunk very deep into our prisons. The charter school madness has taken control of the schools here in AZ so they can brainwash our kids. Private Industry is sucking this state dry and the politicians are busy helping by scaring the bejeesus out of the average voter to keep them distracted. You are, as always, spot on.

      And thank you for your wonderful feedback! Your response made my week.

      Edited to add: I used to live near that Madison School District…it was and is one of the highest ranked school districts in the state. That should tell you something.

  • Sabyen91

    “put a guy by the name of Charles Flanagan in the director’s position, current head of the AZ Department of Juvenile Corrections.”

    I get the feeling the school to prison pipeline is soon going to be the cradle to prison pipeline in AZ.

    • bbiemeret

      Don’t know if you remember WI governor Tommy Thompson or not, but I remember the WI corrections system was out of control when he left to be Bush’s Transportation Secretary. Almost every prison was over-crowded, with inmates sleeping on the floor. I remember many counties built brand new jail facilities, just to lease large sections to the state for temp housing of prison inmates. Prisons and jails create jobs, ya know. Plus, Badger State Industries offers labor for about $1 and hour, max.

      I know this is worse wherever there are private prisons.

      • Sabyen91

        Tommy was such a dolt but he did so much damage both in the state and out. That Milwaukee charter school that closed in the middle of the night reminded me of him. Vouchers and “Welfare Reform” were his deformed babies.

  • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

    Hey all, I know it does’t say so but I wrote this article. IrishGrrrl is Tina Rhodes. :)

    • Christopher Foxx

      Pleasure to meet ya.

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        Likewise /curtsy

    • HilaryB

      Excellent!

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        Glad you liked it. I hope it is the first of many.

    • David L.

      Great debut, Tina!

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        Thank you!

    • bbiemeret

      Congrats Grrrl, nice work. Sorry to hear about your AZ troubles. My sister works @ ASU in Tempe. I thought about moving there for a time (cheap real estate and work, I live in So Cal), but I don’t think I can do it. Mrs. Brewer frightens me, just a little too Wicked Witch of the West.

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        Thanks. Wicked witch…that made me smile because it is so true. My nickname for her is Old Leatherface.

        • bbiemeret

          HAHAHAH!!! Nice.

    • undsoweiter

      Nicely done, Thank you. Do it again.
      I’ve heard a number of red state lawmakers advocate for the repeal of child-labor laws. Possible solution. That way OSHA could look after them. Well, at least for the twelve to fourteen hours they’re at work.

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        Thanks! It wouldn’t surprise me to hear them advocating such a thing.

    • Badgerite

      Are they still on “God’s Time” out there? Very good article and very true. GOP governors have a habit of cutting services across their state, thereby racking up surpluses and claiming great budgetary success. But they never tell you and the press tends to studiously ignore, the long term human and societal costs build into their policies and how it will affect the well being of the people of the state in the future. I wonder if you have ever considered running for office?

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        Yes, AZ is still on “God’s Time”, too bad they aren’t also on “God’s Shitlist” ;)

        I have considered running actually but I don’t think I could handle all the scrutiny of my private life. I live pretty openly about who I am and my personal journey but I don’t honestly think enough people would vote for me. Thank you for the encouragement.

        • Badgerite

          Arizona’s loss!

  • muselet

    She replaced it with a new one called “Child Safety and Family Services” and put a guy by the name of Charles Flanagan in the director’s position, current head of the AZ Department of Juvenile Corrections.

    A chill ran down my spine when I read that.

    I know nothing about Charles Flanagan. For all I know he may be a fine individual and the perfect person to head the new agency. However, his background is in corrections, not social work. Those require vastly different skill sets and involve vastly different expectations.

    This could go terribly badly.

    –alopecia

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      Exactly! One of the reasons being a probation officer was so hopeless is because you have to help them like social worker on one hand and then punish them like a cop on the other. They’re antithetical and require entirely different training, mindsets, and approaches.

      • muselet

        So being a probation officer is a lot like being a middle school vice principal. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

        –alopecia

        • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

          LOL, yes, in a way you are right!

  • MaryJane Mccarthy James

    Time and time again we see how these so-called “pro-life” scum could care less about the actual child.

    • Norbrook

      They only care about it until it exits the womb. Then it’s just another taker whose mother should have been chaste.

      • trog69

        Forcing a pregnancy to term is their style of punishing women for having sex out of wedlock. It wasn’t until they were confronted with the fact that granting exceptions for rape and/or the health of the mother was hypocritical if taken to its logical conclusion that they’ve begun the fight to keep pregnancies viable no matter what. They revel in punishing what they see as wanton hussies. Nevermind that they forgive men every time for indiscretions, as long as they praise Gawd.

    • muselet

      That’s why I call them fetus fetishists. It’s more accurate.

      –alopecia

      • Groundloop

        Might I suggest “fetushists”?