- Associated Press - Sunday, August 16, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - A proposal to improve the state’s child welfare efforts would loosen the rules on investigating reports of child abuse that are made to a hotline.

The Arizona Republic reports (https://bit.ly/1hgm0Ux) that under the proposed rule, child welfare workers may not have to see every child who’s named in such abuse reports. It would mark a reversal from the current standard, which requires such interviews.

Arizona did a massive overhaul of its child welfare system last year in the wake of revelations that the overburdened Child Protective Services division had failed to investigate thousands of abuse and neglect reports phoned in to a state hotline. The Legislature scrapped Child Protective Services and instead created the Department of Child Safety, a cabinet-level agency reporting directly to the governor.

The proposed rules guiding investigations are open for public comment until Sept. 15.

Critics say the agency may be going too far in loosening the standard, to the point it may mark a return to the practice of setting aside cases without a hands-on investigation.

“The new rules say you don’t have to have eyes on the child,” said Beth Rosenberg, director of child welfare and juvenile-justice policy for the Children’s Action Alliance, which lobbies for policies that protect families and kids.

She pointed to a proposed rule that says an investigator should interview or see a child “if possible.” It also makes it optional to interview other people associated with the child, or to review documents related to the case.

Doug Nick, a spokesman for the department, said the agency is trying to write rules that match its recently completed strategic plan. Among other things, the plan calls for increasing the accuracy of how the agency evaluates risk in abuse and neglect investigations.

Nick said the proposed rules are “a little less restrictive,” but added there is no intent to do what would amount to an in-office review where no one checks out a child’s condition.

“Our strategic plan doesn’t contemplate not seeing children,” he said.


Information from: The Arizona Republic, https://www.azcentral.com

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