New Arizona Child Welfare Agency Director Vows To Fix The System

February 24, 2014

(Photo by Stina Sieg-KJZZ)
Charles Flanagan, leader of the CARE team, at a press conference in December 2013.

The new director of Arizona’s Child Protective Services said the troubled agency can perform better. Charles Flanagan met for the first time on Monday with a special legislative committee looking into problems at the child welfare department. 

Flanagan told members of the Child Protective Services Oversight Committee that he is doing everything possible to fix the system. CPS announced last November that it failed to investigate 6,500 possible abuse cases, and he said that is unacceptable.

“We are going to investigate every single one of these cases” Flanagan said.

Last month, Gov. Brewer signed an executive order to separate CPS from the Department of Economic Security. She selected Flanagan as director of the new state agency called “Child Safety and Family Services.” Flanagan said he wants to make the division more transparent.

“I will be creating an audit process that is not within the same chain of command of the people doing this work and their supervisor and their supervisor’s supervisor who are just reinforcing the same bad practices" he said.

Flanagan said improving employee morale will not be easy. Last year, CPS experienced a 28 percent turnover rate.

“When you are overworked and there is a lack of supervision and mentoring then the crushing work load does lead you to believe there can be no win here, and 'Why would I want to put myself in that position,'” he said.

Gov. Brewer recently signed legislation that provides almost $7 million in supplemental funding for CPS. It will be used to hire 192 additional case workers this year and another 86 next year.

Dana Naimark is director of the Children’s Action Alliance. She said her advocacy group is pleased with the changes Flanagan wants to make, but she is not letting down her guard.

“It’s clear that simply getting this supplemental allocation to hire more people isn’t the end of the story. It’s clear that investigating the 6,500 reports that went uninvestigated is not the end of the story," Naimark said.

She said the next challenge is getting lawmakers to approve a state budget that includes adequate funding for the new child welfare agency.