Brewer rejects call for special session over ignored child abuse complaints

2013-11-23T00:00:00Z Brewer rejects call for special session over ignored child abuse complaintsBy Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
November 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday rejected calls by some Democrats for a special legislative session to give more cash to the beleaguered Child Protective Services.

Press aide Andrew Wilder said Brewer has given her approval to use any and all necessary overtime to clear out the backlog of the 6,000 reports of abuse over the last four years that were ignored. He said the agency has the resources it needs, at least for the time being.

Wilder said CPS may ultimately need more staff to meet the legal requirement that every complaint of child abuse be investigated. Clarence Carter, director of the state Department of Economic Security, already has asked for an extra 350 employees.

“It’s premature to call for a special session when there isn’t a plan,” he said. And Wilder said Brewer also wants to wait until the Department of Public Safety completes its investigation of what went wrong at CPS.

“You need to know what the problem was, how it happened, who did it,” he said.

Wilder also said Brewer has no intention of honoring calls by some, including the Children’s Action Alliance, to fire Carter. He said any such decision would not be made until that DPS inquiry is complete.

Carter disclosed the practice of marking some complaints not for investigation on Thursday, but was unresponsive to questions of how the practice started and who authorized it, beyond suggesting these were decisions made at some lower level.

But in a letter to the governor, Dana Wolfe Naimark, president of the Children’s Action Alliance, pointed out that the practice continued over several years and in different units of the agency.

“It’s clear it was not one or two rogue employees, but a systemic policy,” Naimark wrote. “Director Clarence Carter is responsible for this lapse, and we urge you to ask for his resignation.”

Wilder said that’s not going to happen, at least not now.

“She is going to let DPS conduct its independent review before she or other people should be drawing conclusions,” he said.

Wilder acknowledged Carter’s request for 350 new employees, on top of 200 approved by lawmakers earlier this year, including caseworkers.

But he said Brewer considers that unrelated to this week’s revelations. And Wilder said any new employees would simply do the daily work of the agency and not deal with the newly discovered backlog.

Wilder said Brewer does not believe CPS needs an immediate infusion of new cash and employees to clear the backlog.

“It’s going to require a lot of staffing resources,” Wilder said.

“The state will make sure the resources are there for overtime. It will be done. Every case is going to be investigated.”

He also said Brewer wants to look closer at Carter’s budget request for next year — including those 350 workers — before making any decision.

The question of what to do now has taken on decidedly political overtones. Republican state Rep. Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix said she doubts there is a need for a special session to immediately appropriate more dollars.

“There are contingency monies in CPS’ budget,” she said. She also said she wants to see what plan of action the governor proposes.

But Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Fred DuVal said Brewer should “immediately call a special session” to act on Carter’s budget request for the coming year.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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