Victoria Steele: CPS crisis cannot wait; Governor should call special session

2013-11-26T00:00:00Z Victoria Steele: CPS crisis cannot wait; Governor should call special sessionBy Victoria Steele Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Happy Thanksgiving! It is a common greeting this time of year, but it will be hard to enjoy the holiday knowing that it won’t be happy — not for the thousands of Arizona children living in fear of abuse or neglect.

Last week we learned the shocking news that over the past four years, Child Protective Services ignored 6,000 reports of child abuse. Apparently, CPS put a policy in place that allowed these reports to go uninvestigated without even a follow-up call. This practice violates state law, which requires all child-abuse reports be investigated. Additionally, the agency still has another 10,000 cases backlogged, pending investigation.

In light of this shocking news, Gov. Jan Brewer has ordered CPS to work overtime until all 6,000 cases have been investigated. But CPS is a badly broken agency struggling with a crushing workload. Reports of neglect and abuse have increased dramatically in recent years, and case managers have caseloads that have skyrocketed above the state standard. Demanding overworked investigators to work harder and longer hours is not the answer and could make a horrible situation even worse.

The governor’s spokesman said it is “premature” to call a special legislative session to appropriate the money necessary to hire the caseworkers needed to address this crisis. But for every child who is scared and suffering the unspeakable horrors of physical or sexual abuse, I say it is not premature — it is an emergency requiring immediate action.

The state Legislature has the authority, and indeed the responsibility, to protect our children. How can we enjoy the holidays knowing that the system that is supposed to be protecting children from abuse has actually allowed it to take place unchecked? How can we enjoy our Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie knowing there are thousands of Arizona children out there right now cowering in fear, waiting for someone to rescue them?

We cannot wait for another investigation to be completed before we act. We must do it now. I implore the governor to call the Legislature into special session immediately so, together, we can protect these children who desperately need us.

Victoria Steele is a state legislator representing District 9 in Tucson.

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

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