When a child comes from a setting where dad does drugs, drinks away paychecks and abuses his four daughters, trusting a system that ignores the warning signs and calls for help will only increase the level of distrust that a child will have towards adults and “the system”.

After the initial call to Child Protective Services (CPS) is made and ignored, the result is that two years later the same abuses have been occurring, and the permanent damage is greater than it would have been had officials intervened two years before.

While the details will remain private for the victim, this case is actual. This is one of many cases over the years that fell through the cracks, and eventually four children were displaced, a father went to prison, but all of it was too late.

In recent months, the media has given a lot of attention to Gov. Jan Brewer’s plans to overhaul CPS, the fact that state lawmakers came together in the recent session to approve funding, and hiring 126 new caseworkers to go with the 1,194 already on staff statewide.

All of this comes on the heels of a report stating that more than 6,500 cases of reported abuse were ignored.

While the talk is good, the plans to fix the problems sound good – I, for one, sit back and think about the damage that has been done.

Telling those children who have continued to suffer abuse while CPS did nothing that something is being done now is not as comforting as one might think. These children make up the most vulnerable of our young population. The damage being done now will continue as they work to finish high school, work to get into college and, later, become adults.

When it comes to children who have rough childhoods and are abused, the future is grim and learning to trust again is almost impossible. 

There’s been a lot of talk about abolishing CPS and creating an entirely new agency, but at the end of the day, I hope in all the realignment and changes, they remember that it’s the children who matter.

Statistically, these children who usually get involved with CPS, are removed from homes and have to go through the foster care system, are slated to fail. 

On a good note, there is a program aimed at helping foster children succeed that is making these children a top priority.

FosterEd is a program aimed at improving the educational outcome for foster children. With the odds already stacked against these children, having the state’s 14,000 foster children, 4,000 of which from Pima County, have mentors who aim to help children succeed is exactly what this state needs.

Why do these children need long term mentors? The answer is in the statistics – 56 percent of foster children graduate high school, only 13 percent go on to attend college, and from there, only 3 percent graduate from college. These numbers are the exact reason why the state’s ignoring cases for so long will have long term consequences and damage more children who deserve more from us as a society.

(1) comment

John Flanagan

In my view, the documented failures of CPS in investigating and adjudicating "alleged" child abuse cases should not be viewed superficially. In fairness to those who work on these cases for CPS, one needs to restrict blame and fingerpointing without having all of the facts presented. There are questions to answer first: 1) Did CPS have the resources to implement Arizona laws? 2) Do CPS case investigators have a workable caseload, or does the system assign hundreds of pending, old, and new cases to each investigator? 3) Does the legal system hamper case investigators in many cases? For example, can counselors and lawyers for the accused discourage or delay investigations of abusers, thereby extending the time in which adjudication can be resolved? 4) Does the court or hearing schedule unnecessarily delay cases needing more prompt resolution? If news agencies would investigate these cases in a fair and balanced manner rather than in a spectacular and emotionally charged way, then perhaps truth would triumph, solutions found, and some reputations left intact.

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