Friday, April 17, 2015

Child welfare agency says some cases may take longer to hear


Posted April 10

By Associated Press

PHOENIX — The new director of Arizona's child welfare agency outlined plans to stop assigning lower-priority cases despite condemning a similar practice while leading the agency's criminal investigation two years ago.

The Arizona Republic ( reported Friday that the Arizona Department of Child Safety director Greg McKay said he intends to stop assigning some cases because of high demand.

"My first priority is to stop assigning cases which we all agree cannot be served due to overwhelming demands," McKay wrote in an April 1 memo. "... This insurmountable volume and accompanying liability of unassigned reports should be owned by the Department, not the already decimated field force."

His office later clarified the cases will be assigned and investigated, but emphasized more time is needed to ease the burden on caseworkers, agency spokesman Doug Nick told the Arizona Republic.

McKay first detailed his new policies while meeting with the Child Safety Oversight Committee on March 23.

"Moving forward we can't treat every case as equals, which is we've done until now," McKay said during testimony.

The Senate confirmed McKay the following day.

Previously, McKay worked as the head of the Office of Child Welfare Investigations where he is credited with discovering that 6,600 child abuse reports phoned into the Child Protective Services hotline had been illegally closed without investigation.

McKay blew the whistle on CPS in November 2013. In a letter he wrote to then-Gov. Jan Brewer, McKay called the practice of reducing an investigator's caseload and unassigned cases a medicine "worse than the disease."

That discovery led Brewer to overhaul the child welfare operation, make it a Cabinet-level state agency and rename it the Department of Child Services.

Though the agency has since been reformed, many of the logistical problems remain. The department's latest statistics reveal it received 1,045 reports per week on its hotline during a six-month period in 2014.

Still, the governor's office expressed confidence in McKay's direction.

"Given his reputation for blowing the whistle on problems within the agency over the years, no one has a better understanding than Greg McKay of what it takes to ensure cases don't slip through the cracks," Gov. Doug Ducey's office said in a statement after The Arizona Republic sought comment.

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