6000 Arizona Child Abuse Reports Botched; Children Left Vulnerable

Ariana-Leilani 1Over the past four years, a team at Arizona’s Child Protective Services agency improperly designated the 6,000 cases “N.I.” — meaning “Not Investigated” — to help manage their heavy workload and focus on the most severe cases, said Clarence Carter, chief of the state’s child welfare system. At least 125 cases already have been identified in which children later were alleged to have been abused.

The sad part is that no one has been disciplined.   Similar to a practice common to areas like the District of Columbia Child and Family Services, “The practice of misclassifying the cases and essentially closing them started in 2009, and rapidly escalated in the past 20 months as caseloads increased, Carter said.

Arizona has struggled in recent years with an increase in child abuse reports, a growing number of children in foster care, and turnover of child welfare workers. It also has been criticized by families who lost children, including relatives of a 5-year-old girl who police in a Phoenix suburb said was killed by her mother despite previous abuse reports.

The hotline problems were exposed after two police agencies inquired about the status of two abuse cases. Both cases had been marked N.I., McKay said. Further investigation found the practice was widespread. The problems were blamed on a special unit that reviewed incoming hotline reports and decided, like a triage team, which ones were most serious. Normally, incoming reports from police, family, doctors or neighbors would be sent to field offices for investigation, McKay said. But the specialized unit was reviewing them first and wrongly classifying some.

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