Fired CPS Workers Say They're Not Responsible for System of Ignored Cases

Categories: News
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Alejandro Hernandez


Six state employees were fired last month after an investigation into the thousands of ignored Child Protective Services cases, but five of those employees say it wasn't their fault.

The five women held a press conference Wednesday with their attorney, explaining that they were just doing what they were told by superiors.

See also:
-Report on CPS Failures Cites Too Much Work
-Legislators Pass Budget With CPS Funding Well Below Jan Brewer's Proposal

"Our belief, when we were directed to do this, was that our superiors had researched and looked at whatever information in the statute that would allow us to do that ['not investigated'] process," said Tracy Everitt, who was a program manager with CPS.

The five women were part of what was called a SWAT Team, which was supposed to process all of the allegations phoned in to the CPS hotline, and assign those to case workers. (The sixth person fired, Sharon Sergent, was their boss.)

They admit they marked these cases as "Not Investigated" but say they did so only during a 20-month span. Information released by CPS has shown that the "Not Investigated" process was started before the 20-month window and continued after another team took over processing the cases. The report that started the whole thing, discovered by a Phoenix police detective who's been working with CPS, wasn't assigned by this group of women, either.

Their former employees' attorney, Terry Woods, described the highest-ranking of the five women as "four steps down from the top," and this wasn't a plan of their own.

"There is no legal action at this point in time," Woods said. "We are contemplating the possibility of a lawsuit for wrongful termination."

A couple of the women said they didn't particularly like having to shelve some of these cases by marking them as low-priority, but the agency simply didn't have the resources to investigate every single claim.

An initial review found the reasoning for these uninvestigated cases was that the work just outpaced the ability of workers -- it was just impossible to investigate every single case, let alone catch up on a backlog. And the Department of Public Safety's lengthy report on the matter didn't find any other sinister motive at CPS.

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A finding from the initial review of the "not investigated" crisis.
Of course, after a team came in and reviewed the 6,500 cases that were shelved, they decided that a few hundred of those children needed to be removed from their homes immediately, so the "NI" process wasn't without consequence.

But these five women seemed to be confused as to why they were targeted for firing. The whole process wasn't really a secret around CPS, and the DPS report shows a list 14 pages long of employees who designated cases "NI" (although the five women at this press conference applied "NI" labels in much greater numbers).

Even when DPS interviewed Department of Economic Security director Clarence Carter, he seemed to be aware -- to some degree -- of what was going on.

From the report:
Carter was asked about his understanding of NI. Carter said the CPS historically had more cases to review than manpower to do so. Carter said CPS developed a "mechanism to triage cases with a set of criteria, which would allow you to take a lower level intervention for cases you could determine the children were not in harm's way. Carter said CPS was required by statute to investigate all reported cases of child abuse, but it was never his understanding or intention for cases not to be investigated . . .

Carter was asked how he thought cases were getting attended to if CPS had more cases than staff to work them. Carter stated he believed there was a "triage" process, where staff could certify children were not in harm's way through an administrative investigation, not requiring an "on ground investigation."
In addition to the magical "triage," employees were also sending Carter semi-annual reports that included the number of cases "not responded to." The report says Carter insisted he "was unaware cases were not being investigated."

Woods, the attorney, says he's still gathering the facts to see if the women have a valid claim for a wrongful-termination suit.

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Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.




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8 comments
OHBOY
OHBOY

Its no secret around CPS as to what was happening with the "NI" cases.  In fact, it was no secret around the other divisions within DES.  Everyone knew.  This is DES' MO as to how they work.  Create confusion so no one will understand it and then blame a few workers.  This type of work within DES has been going on for a long time.  Brewer didn't want to be caught so she and Carter drummed up this scenario.  Policy changed weekly within all of DES not just CPS.  Workers continued with "policy" then it changed and they were never told.  Workers then were chastised for their errors.  There are now over 300,000 FAA cases that have not been processed.  What will become of them?  Will Brewer catch them or be out of office before they are found out.

jurywork
jurywork

Scapegoat isn't an official smell until it reaches management.  Then it becomes a designated job title.  AZ style.

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

Remember Bill Keene's comic strip "Family Circus"? ........................."not me"....he must be the one in charge

Cozz
Cozz topcommenter

...and end the end, the children are screwed again...Nice job Arizona leadership, you bunch of fucking twits.

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

What the fired CPS workers are saying about their just following orders is highly believable but when are they going to start naming names? A sweeping order like the one they say they received from higher-ups did not start with their immediate supervisor. So let's hear it. The sooner the better because you know that whoever had the brilliant idea to "NI" those cases had to be a few pay grades above them and no doubt they already have high-powered legal beagles to defend them. They know what's coming.

shadeaux
shadeaux

Blame the Republican leadership? and all the lemmings who elect them time after time. 

Arizona has been under Republican control for decades so it stands to reason that CPS, and all it's problems are ENTIRELY THE CREATION OF REPUBLICANS.


In Nov. the lemmings will do as they've always done, and the children will be screwed (literally and figuratively) once more because if the Republicans were capable of doing better.......don't you think they would have done it by now?

Original-American
Original-American

Gov. Jan Brewer is culpable for the parlous state that CPS is in. During her entire administrative term. She had plenty of opportunities to fund the CPS program. But instead, chooses to fund her right-wing extremist toy box, such as private prisons,  pro-gun initiatives and the private corporate moguls.

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

@shadeaux  

No, actually it doesn't "stand to reason" that the internal problem of all agencies are entirely the creation of Republicans.

Upon hearing that assertion, "reason" shakes its head sadly and walk away without bothering to respond.

 

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