Arizona CPS Exposed discusses the CARE Team, will Arizona make CPS better or worse?

This week we are going to break from the CPS process and discuss the governor’s care team and their recommendations.

Gov. Jan Brewer called the special session specifically to address the problems with CPS. It will start on Tuesday.

What can our listeners do?

Listen to this show. Today we are discussing the care team’s report and recommendations.

Read the proposal on our website. Every legislator was emailed a copy of that proposal yesterday.

We will be asking you to make phone calls or send emails. But first you need to be informed.

Can you tell us what happened over the last couple of months since Brewer made the announcement that she abolished CPS?

Like every time in the past, when CPS makes the headlines for failing to protect the children, the governor appoints another task force to look into the problem. And just like every time in the past the committee is stacked with people from within the agency itself and those organizations who directly benefit from the business of removing children from their homes. The families who have had to fight CPS are never included.

The task force solicited input from community organizations and sent surveys to over 1,700 CPS employees. They claimed the CPS employees were “subject experts” that are performing this important work.

They also claim to have established a website for individuals to submit comments as well as a toll free number to call in. However, when we inquired about this website a number of times and never received a response. Others have reported the same frustration. If the public was invited to comment, it was not widely publicized. So one can only imagine where this input really came from. If you read the comments it will be clear that the majority came from CPS employees.

Also this week the topic on Van’s radio show “Crossroads with Van“ was Tom Horne. While we were listening guess who called in to the show – Tom Horne! We asked questions of CPS and his response was disturbing. He was actually bragging about having helped removed thousands of children from their families and homes and that the number of children in foster care today in Arizona is now over 16,000. He believes he is “protecting the children” by removing them from their family and it is his agency’s job to defend CPS’s position.

Tom Horne agreed to be open to discussing the issue with groups like ours. We are trying to set up a meeting. If you would like to listen to Van’s show click on the link at the bottom of this article, or you can access it from our website. It is approximately 16 minutes into the show when CPS is brought up.

What are the recommendations from the CARE team?

We have posted both documents from the care team on our website, which can be found under the tab “Understanding the Issue,” under the topic “Arizona State Reforms,” which include “Arizona Care Team Reports 2014” and “Arizona care Team Comment Summary FINAL.”

The recommendations include:

  • Hire more staff to reduce the overwhelming workload the Case Workers carry (include regional boundaries as criteria).
  • Raise salaries to market levels
  • Examine ways to prevent employee turnover
  • Modernize technology
  • Streamline work processes to promote best practices
  • Provide more training for employees
  • Restructure the agency to a standalone body, to provide more oversight
  • Promoting healthy partnerships within our community to ensure safety and services for children and families.

Do you think these recommendations will solve the state’s CPS issues?

While some of the concerns voiced were valid and actually some of what we observed, none of the recommendations get to the heart of the problem. None of this addresses the corruption and deception taking place within the agency by the employees as well as the Attorney General’s office. Until you focus on the true mission of CPS and hold employees, the AAG and judges accountable nothing will change. Far too many employees believe they can play a god role and that they have the right to determine who should raise our children.

Far too many businesses and agencies measure their success on numbers. For CPS it is based on the number of children “helped,” the services provided, adoptions completed…it’s all about the numbers. They want to measure by statistics but fail to recognize the negative statistics that result because a child was removed from the family. Numbers and statistics cannot measure the heart and soul of the child that has been permanently affected by being removed from their family.

Just recently the federal government released a study done by the National Center for Health Statistics. This study is also posted on our website under the tab “Understanding the Issue” under the topic “Reports and Studies,” “Adverse Family Experiences Among Children in Nonparental Care.” The results of this study show what society in the past has always known. Children raised by traditional two biological parent families fare the best, while children raised in foster care fare the worst.

The biggest question the CARE team failed to answer is why there are so many more children in foster care today than even 3 years ago. Are Arizona families more abusive? Why does Arizona rank 47th in the nation when it comes to protecting the children?

Instead of focusing on those questions the comments in the CARE Report reflect the issues with the agency. Many of them came from CPS employees. Don’t get us wrong, the agency is an issue. But the problem isn’t the number of employees, the lack of pay or benefits, or not enough technology. The problem is the unchecked and unrestrained power the state has given the CPS employees with the support of the Attorney General’s office and judges.

Can you share with us some of the issues raised in the CARE report?

Staffing

The first three areas listed involve staff. They want more staff, more money, less work, and more incentives to stay in their jobs.

Hiring more staff will only increase the problem and does not address the root cause. That is insanity. CPS has been adding more staff with each past reform, but this has only led to more children being removed.

Somehow the public is supposed to believe that if these CPS workers get paid more money and have more incentives to stay on the job that their work ethic will change. Paying people more will not change their attitude or belief that they are “saving the children” by destroying the child. It will not change their philosophy of the “redistribution of our children” and their belief that they alone have the right and obligation to decide who shall parent our children.

I get so ticked off at people who go into a line of work, especially those in government positions, knowing the pay scale, and then complain because they aren’t paid enough. If you don’t like the pay when you are offered the job find something else!

If they want less work then maybe they should properly investigate cases and stop removing children they know shouldn’t be taken. Start working WITH families whose children are removed to obtain a successful reunification instead of fighting against it. They create their own work issues when they have the attitude of “take all the children and sort it out later” which usually means 12-24 months later.

They only increase their work load when they delay the reunification process and continue to fight against it, even when the parent’s have met their goals and done what is asked. Keeping these cases on their load instead of releasing them only increases their case load by their own choice!

The incentives they mention to stay on the job also came with comments that they don’t feel appreciated. I can tell you that the parents whose children you have taken will never thank you. The children who feel wrongfully removed from their families will never thank you.

Comments included:

  • The only recommendation is increase our pay. I have dedicated more time and effort regardless. However, additional pay motivates people to stay.
  • There is absolutely no incentive for me to stay besides having good health insurance. No rewards for 100% contact, or getting so many adoptions done.
  • I do not appreciate having a case load more than double workers in rural areas and being paid the same amount.
  • I resent being told this is a calling, not a job.

The one I thought was the most self-serving was:

“The first day I walked in our office, the first thing that I perceived, is that this organization needs exercise rooms. Definitely.”

Modernize Technology

While I believe they should have working equipment and supplies in the office, these people all want laptops to take in the field. Apparently paper and pencil to take notes is no longer sufficient and they cannot find the time to document their cases until they get back to the office without the computer. However, from our own files, we found they couldn’t find the time to document their notes until almost 2 weeks later!

We were at so many CFT meetings and the facilitator of the meeting, as well as a number of others, all had computers. The problem was that much of the meeting time was spent waiting for the person to type notes into the computer. There wasn’t eye-to-eye contact with those in attendance. Everyone was too concerned about documentation in the computer. At every site they had to locate electrical outlets to plug in. Many also needed some type of internet access which wasn’t always available or was too slow.

These people should be role models for parents. So what message are you sending to these parents when the CPS case workers think it is okay for all attendees in a meeting to have their faces buried in a computer screen while never making eye-contact? Is that how we want parents to interact with their children?

While technology is not a bad thing, does every case manager need to be provided a laptop? Many times these case managers never attended the meeting in person, and sometimes they attended while they were driving in the car or at home with children in the background! All they did was phone it in.

As with all technology you have to be concerned about security. When you read other comments about the work habits of these CPS workers you have to be concerned how secure the computer information would be.

One comment in the report indicated that they had been trained to “keep the file cabinet locked at all times, but this doesn’t happen.” You can imagine the violations that could occur if they all had computers!

The greatest benefit to technology would be having a system that actually worked. The CHILDS system has issues. As we mentioned before, only about 1/3 of the documents actually print and this has been a known problem since 1996.

So technology is only as good as the program and those using it. Obviously if the state has had an issue for over 18 years with technology and continues to use it, more computers isn’t going to solve the problem.

Streamline the Process and Use Best Practices

I will agree there is a lot of duplication in the system. When we read reports they were obviously entered in different systems and the information wasn’t consistent, even though it was supposed to have documented the same meetings or encounter. By eliminating duplication in entry perhaps we can also eliminate biased reporting entered days or weeks after the fact.

But a number of the comments written indicated that policies and procedures aren’t even being followed. Instituting new policies and procedures won’t help if the staff ignores them.

There has to be real consequences for failing to adhere to the policies, including termination of employment. Of course the CPS workers only want what benefits them and they certainly don’t want to be held accountable if they fail to do so.

Comments included:

  • What happened to checking policies? I have also heard from other workers that this is the main reason why AZ DES has a high turnover rate.
  • After attending various training classes, where it was stated that ALL FILES WILL BE LOCKED IN A SECURE CABINET OR ROOM, I find that no one follows that dictate. They do not follow policy.

Training

That seems to be a catch all for most organizations. Proper training when you hire someone or even promote them to a new level is necessary. On-going training for the sake of training just wastes tax dollars. I know I’ve held a number of jobs where we were required to participate in training sessions yearly. They were not informative, did not help us with our jobs and only put us behind on our workload because we missed several days in the office.

One of the common threads shared was the lack of training for supervisors. Apparently supervisors are an issue and one that is creating internal conflict within the agency. Perhaps it isn’t only a lack of training but the selection or promotion of people who shouldn’t be in supervisory positions in the first place.

I took a customer service class many years ago and the one statement that stuck with me was that “employees are only going to treat the customer as well as the supervisors treat their employees.” That statement is so true! So I guess the true reflection of CPS is seen in this statement. The employees believe their supervisors lack the training and skills to be supervisors, and the supervisors don’t appreciate the work of their employees. Likewise the employees lack the training and skills to be out in the field and they certainly don’t understand the situations facing families. The employees are dumped on by their supervisors and the employees in turn take this out on the families they are charged to help.

Apparently these workers aren’t well trained when you read comments that include:

  • Little to no training is provided to CPS employees in the areas of uncovering deception and assessing perpetrator credibility.
  • We have no adequate testing for our people before they go to the field.
  • Education the people at the Top who make decisions for the field workers. Do they fully understand what it takes to do a thorough investigation?
  • Many times we are thrown out there and we do not know what we are doing.

Restructuring

Gov. Brewer has already taken the steps in this direction by removing it from DES. But if you have the same government agencies overseeing the agency, no matter who is it under, you will still face the same corruption and deceptive practices. The agency and employees must be held accountable!

There should be an audit process that is on-going. Parents should be able to go to a board that is not protected by CPS and bring concerns forward. We just wanted someone to honestly look at our case without bias to see how much went wrong. But there isn’t that type of oversight. Unless the people affected by CPS can report issues without retaliation there will be no meaningful changes to the agency.

Those suggestions were not made in any of the comments.

What can the listeners do?

The legislators actually had it right. They unanimously passed in both houses SB1386 for an independent review of CPS. The cost of this independent study would have been $250,000. The governor vetoed the bill on April 30th. The cost to the state for foster care placement of the additional 5,000 removed over the past 20 months is $3,000,000 per month! The governor is asking for an additional $60 million in this special session for CPS. She has already been granted $59 million when the agency was removed from DES.

How much more money are we growing to throw at the agency? Why are they refusing to listen to those families and children the agency has destroyed? What are they afraid an independent review will uncover?

We need to take action now. This is an election year and primaries are coming up in August. Will the legislators bend to the will of the governor and pass legislation quickly so they can resume the campaign trail? Many are facing challengers in this election.

Make phone calls and send emails to Sen. Andy Biggs and Rep. Andy Tobin asking for the independent review of CPS before making any changes and spending more money. Tell them they had it right with SB1386. Ask them to over-ride the governor’s veto of this bill, or put the legislation back on the floor and pass it again.

Sen. Andy Biggs: (602) 926-4372 email: abiggs@azleg.gov

Rep. Andy Tobin: (602) 926-5172 email: atobin@azleg.gov

Call your senator and representatives and ask them to do the same.

The phone numbers for all legislators are posted on our website under the tab “Understanding the Issues,” under the topic “Arizona State Reform,” titled “Arizona State Legislators.”

The governor claims that the new director, Charles Flanagan, has been diligently seeking input from others including families affected by the child welfare system. We had a meeting scheduled with Flanagan and he cancelled it. He has not been cooperative in scheduling another meeting with us.

How can she claim they are working to seek input when it has been reported that the legislation to reform CPS is already written?

Finally, sign up for ALIS. This can be done on-line and you can track and submit comments on legislation. The link is posted on our website under the tab “Understanding the Issue,” under the topic “Arizona Legislation.”

When we talk with legislators and candidates, the most common questions is “what three things can be done to improve the CPS system?”

Our recommendation would be:

  1. No anonymous reporting at any point, including the first call or report to CPS
  2. Oversight agency to ensure CPS policies and laws are being followed and a source for parents involved in CPS to file complaints with that will be investigated by an independent agency, not referred back to CPS
  3. Raising the level of evidence required to remove children from the family, hearsay or just accusations from the CPS case worker or investigation cannot be the sole justification for removal

Next week’s show

Next week we will continue to discuss the CARE team’s reports and the concerns raised that weren’t addressed in the recommendations.

Sources and Links:

Arizona Care Team Report 2014

Arizona CARE Team Comment Summary FINAL

National Center for Health Statistics, report “Adverse Family Experiences Among Children in Nonparental Care, 2011-2012”

Crossroads with Van – Monday, May 19, 2014 Show – featuring guest caller Tom Horne

Arizona State Legislators – contact list

SB1386 – Making a supplementary appropriation to the Department of Administration to contract for a review of Child Protective Services

ALIS Link – to sign up and become an active member of the legislative process from your home

AZ Project 2014 Recommendations