Arizona

Nov 26, 2013 11:04 AM by Erika Flores

Child abuse cases go uninvestigated, department says they're working to clear up backlog

TUCSON -The Department of Economic Security said they have a plan to clear up the reported backlog of thousands of child abuse cases that CPS failed to investigate.

Child welfare officials said about six thousand cases of suspected child abuse or neglect were never investigated after being reported to a hotline.

The cases were improperly designated "N.I." meaning not investigated to help manage the heavy workload.

Officials plan to review all of the cases.

Governor Jan Brewer has approved using overtime to investigate these cases.

Kami Mark was in the foster care system for nearly five years. She said she's disappointed in how these child abuse cases were handled especially since it hits close to home. "It really makes me very sad," she said.

Mark said she can imagine what those children must be going through.

"I was a child of abuse," said Mark. She said the abuse went on for a few years.

"My mom and I were very physical towards each other it was very abusive," said Mark. "My dad started drinking, and he was neglecting me and my sister then."

She then was taken into CPS custody.

"If it weren't for my case being reported and them coming investigate it, who knows what could have happened to me?" said Mark.

She said she is grateful to CPS for helping her get through this, but she admits the system needs work.

"I know that CPS workers are very overwhelmed with their cases. I know they have a huge case load," said Mark.

She said she isn't shocked to hear that CPS misclassified 6,000 child abuse cases.

"It's such a big issue. I'm not sure where to begin," said Bob Heslinga with AVIVA Children's Services. "For that many to have not been taken care of is much more a strategic decision than an accidental one."

He said the system is damaged and dysfunctional and adding resources to the department should have been a priority.

"You have increasing pressure on a small group of people who are handling far more than they should in order to make some headway," said Heslinga.

"It has many flaws. It does, but there are case workers and staff members out there that absolutely love these kids," said Mark.

The Department of Economic Security tells News 4 Tucson they're very concerned about this matter and will do everything they can to ensure a thorough review of these cases as quickly as possible.

They said "child safety is paramount."

They tell News 4 Tucson they are submitting an action plan to the committee chairs.

News 4 Tucson has requested a copy of that plan and will release the details once we get it.

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