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House panel endorses spending $250k on external CPS review

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PHOENIX – A state House committee unanimously endorsed a bill Thursday that would appropriate $250,000 for an external review of Child Protective Services.

Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, who authored SB 1386, told the House Committee for Reform and Human Services that Arizonans need to know why the agency didn’t investigate thousands of reports of child abuse.

“I felt like maybe we should get independent, objective – some group not attached or affiliated in any way with CPS – to come in and tell us what they think are our cultural and our institutional issues that we may have and help us correct those,” he said.

The bill cleared the Senate without opposition.

Gov. Jan Brewer has called for replacing Child Protective Services as a unit within the Arizona Department of Economic Security with an independent agency that has a director reporting directly to the governor.

SB 1386 would allocate the money from the fiscal 2014 general fund to the Arizona Department of Administration to commission a review.

Biggs said it would be valuable to see how other states approach protecting children, especially given the large number of Arizona children who are removed from their families’ homes.

“We have one of the highest if not the highest removal rates of children in the country, and we need to probably – not probably, I think we need to know why,” he said.

Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix, said an external review is appropriate given the significant changes being made to Child Protective Services.

“It’s just going to operate a lot smoother and faster given the fact that the governor is moving forward on creating a new agency,” he said.