Arizona DCS Completing More Investigations, But Court Cases Increase

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Friday, January 29, 2016 - 5:05am
Updated: Friday, January 29, 2016 - 11:01am
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(Courtesy of Arizona Department of Child Safety)

After years of struggling, Arizona’s child welfare agency says it’s making progress. A recent report shows the department is completing more investigations of child abuse and neglect than it’s receiving. But that isn’t translating to fewer court cases.

Arizona law requires the Arizona Department of Child Safety to investigate every report of child abuse and neglect. That can be very time consuming. In 2013, the agency estimated it takes workers nearly 12 hours to complete each investigation from start to finish.

Nanette Gerber said that estimate is conservative; she worked at the state child welfare agency for more than 20 years and supervised investigators.  

“A good social work assessment requires attentive interviewing skills and that sometimes takes as long as it takes to gather the information and that goes at the pace of the person you are interviewing what they want to reveal,” she said.     

The department set a goal of completing 20 percent more report investigations per week than the agency is receiving.

Spokesman Doug Nick said all employees are pitching in to meet that goal. “We’ve closed more reports than have come in 8 out of the 12 months in the year 2015," he said.

However, in that same time, the children with open court cases grew by nearly 6 percent to 21,455. This has an investigator at the agency concerned. That investigator wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. The employee said the pressure to meet the closure goal means not being able to devote enough time to each investigation of child abuse and neglect.