To Set Up Child Welfare Agency After Abuse Scandal
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[May 30, 2014]
By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona Governor Jan
Brewer signed legislation on Thursday to create a new child-welfare
agency, providing $60 million in additional funding to improve a
scandal-ridden system that was found last year to have ignored nearly
6,600 reports of abuse and neglect.
Brewer, a Republican, signed two bills that are meant to transform
the existing child welfare agency into a cabinet-level organization
to focus on child safety, bolstered by additional caseworkers and
“With this historic legislation, we begin to reverse a long-standing
crisis and implement long-lasting change,” Brewer said in a
statement. “Finally, Arizona will have a child safety system with
the capability and culture to protect our children.”
Lawmakers from the state Senate and House of Representatives
approved the legislation earlier in the day in a special session.
Backers said the changes could not have come too soon.
Speaking on the House floor, Representative Kate Brophy McGee, a
Republican who worked on the bills, spoke directly to the state’s
children. “We are finally here for you,” she said.
Brewer called lawmakers into session last week to focus on
rebuilding the child-welfare system after officials discovered last
November that thousands of hotline calls reporting abuse and neglect
had never been investigated.
Prior to Thursday's action, officials launched two separate
investigations that resulted in policy changes and the appointment
of a new director to oversee the agency.
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Last month, the investigations led to the firing of five top
managers and a supervisor. The managers complained they were being
made scapegoats for the child welfare crisis.
The final legislation mirrors a proposal from the governor last week
that includes ways to reduce a backlog of about 15,000 cases and
calls for improved transparency and accountability.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Gunna Dickson and Leslie Adler)
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