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Overhaul of Ariz. child welfare urged

PHOENIX — An independent team named by Governor Jan Brewer to review Arizona’s troubled child welfare agency called Friday for a top-to-bottom overhaul of the department to focus it purely on child safety.

The team released a 54-page review outlining steps needed to address years-long problems at Child Protective Services. The most severe issue was revealed in November when more than 6,500 child abuse and neglect reports were found to have not been investigated.

Brewer abolished Child Protective Services earlier this month and created a new child welfare department that reports directly to her.

The Republican governor’s CARE team report recommends retraining social workers, working more with outside providers and law enforcement, and overhauling the state’s child abuse hotline.

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The report also recommends creating an agency inspections bureau to provide oversight and removing civil service protections from child welfare agency workers to allow exceptional performance to be rewarded.

The report revealed big lag times in the abuse hotline system, noting that 26 percent of callers hang up while on hold. It mapped 142 possible points in the current system where an abused or neglected child could fall through the cracks.

Associated Press