Arizona Lawmakers Question Director McKay About DCS Progress

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 5:07pm
Updated: Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 11:44am
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Alexandra Olgin/KJZZ
Arizona Department of Child Safety Director Greg McKay addresses reporters on July 30, 2015.

 Arizona legislators on Wednesday questioned the new rules and regulations the Department of Child Safety is drafting. The newly formed agency was given leeway to rewrite rules when it was created last year. Lawmakers say the language is too vague to hold the agency accountable.  

Director Greg McKay said DCS needs the flexibility to sort out which reports to investigate

“We simply as a government agency can’t continue to take on every reportable accusation of parent or guardian if it doesn’t meet the criteria for our agency,” McKay said. “When we do have to respond we do have to have a certain reasonable exit strategy to be able to close a case.”

McKay said the proposed rules would allow the agency discretion to close cases that are old or don’t merit a full investigation. Last year, McKay criticized his predecessor for not investigating every report.

Legislators also probed about why the backlog of inactive cases has been growing. There current backlog is 14,707 cases, which is up more than a 1,000 from this time last year.

State Rep. Debbie McCune Davis is on the Child Safety Oversight Committee.

“We gave the department extraordinary resources to address the backlog a year ago,” McCune Davis said. “we are clearly beyond the one year mark and these numbers are still rising.”   

She said she expected the backlog to be significantly lower by now after DCS was given $4 million in additional funding to investigate cases. McCune Davis asked McKay if more money would help the agency work through the inactive cases.

“An infusion of manpower alone will not solve that,” McKay responded.

In the strategic plan the director released last month, the agency plans to cut the number inactive cases in half in the next two years.

“Obviously we do need to resource the backlog,” McKay said. “Because as long as the backlog exists, caseworkers are trying to catch a falling refrigerator down a flight of stairs. It just doesn’t work you can’t do your work with old work.”

McKay said he’s looking to employ contractors to help with the workload but some additional potential solutions could require changes to the law. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect Debbie McCune Davis's correct title.

Updated 8/20/2015 at 11:44 a.m.

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