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Jan 13, 2014 11:27 PM by Rebecca Taylor

CPS as we know it, abolished, new cabinet-level agency in the works

TUCSON - Governor Jan Brewer has outlined her top priorities for the new legislative session. Her most pressing issue is overhauling CPS.

Brewer signed an executive order abolishing Child Protective Services as we know it. She wants to create a new Division of Child Safety and Family Services that will report directly to her.

In November CPS made national headlines. More than six thousand calls for help that should have been investigated weren't, disregarded by hotline workers.

In response Brewer created a nine person, independent team to oversee the investigation of those cases.

She's now proposing a separate agency all together, no longer run by the Department of Economic Security or DES.

Child welfare agencies like Casa de los Niños are hopeful, the move gets results. Questions remain where funding and staffing will come from.

Governor Brewer laid out her plan with a passionate, direct tone. "It makes me angry, enough, with uninvestigated reports of abuse and neglect, enough with the lack of transparency, and enough with the excuses," said Brewer.

Susie Huhn, CEO of Casa de los Niños says, "Well it's bold. It is a very bold move."

Huhn is eager to hear details. How the new agency will be carved out, and how the budget will be formulated?

"It's hard to recruit people to work in a system that's duisfuctional and hasn't been working very well," says Huhn, "And we still have case workers carrying huge case loads, almost 70 percent over national averages."

It also remains to be seen how receptive lawmakers are to adopting the Governor's plans, by changing Arizona law and building a new permanent agency, no longer under the DES umbrella.

Representative Ethan Orr says, "I do think in talking to leaders on both sides of the aisle, there's a little bit of push back because they weren't involved in the decision, but that's to be expected anytime you make a major decision. I want to look at the merits at what she's proposing, not what she's proposing."

Orr adds, "I think creating a new unit is a good start, but the key to me is what kind of performance matrix, and accountability are we going to have within that unit."

Huhn says, "It didn't get in this mess overnight, it's not going to get fixed overnight. So I think we have to give it credence and support to move forward in a positive way."

Lawmakers will have a better idea of the budget they'll tackle, later this week. The Governor is expected to reveal it on Friday.

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