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Updated Jan 13, 2014 - 6:58 pm

Gov. Brewer calls CPS agency 'broken' during State of the State address

PHOENIX -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer used her annual State of the State address Monday to focus on overhauling a troubled child welfare agency, saying she signed an Executive Order to do away with the Child Protective Services agency.

She called the agency ``broken" and created a new Division of Child Safety and Family Services, which will report directly to her.

The move comes after revelations that CPS failed to investigate about 6,500 of reports of abuse and neglect.

The Republican governor said she was ending the agency's oversight by the Department of Economic Security by executive order, saying the recent scandal ``broke my heart and makes me angry.''

Children's advocacy groups took it as a sign that Brewer is serious about reforming child welfare but said the long-term solution has to include early intervention to prevent child abuse and a larger network of resources. The groups and some Arizona lawmakers had been pressing for the agency to be moved out from beneath the state Department of Economic Security, which her decision did.

``We can't continue business as usual,'' said Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and chief executive of Children's Action Alliance. ``The hard work begins now.''

Some Arizona lawmakers said they were troubled that Brewer created the division without any input from the Legislature. Sen. Chester Crandall, R-Heber, said the name of the child welfare agency can change but it won't mean much until laws are put in place to govern it and money is set aside to run it.

Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, the House minority leader, said Brewer cannot eliminate CPS. He said he would not support the new division until he sees how it operates.

``Quite frankly, her appointee that was heading up CPS is what got us in this mess in the first place,'' he said. ``And now she just did another appointee for what seems like a new entity without any input from us again.''

Brewer praised the team she created, CARE, to investigate the problems and said more than 3,000 children have now been seen by social workers or police.

She selected the head of that team, Juvenile Corrections Director Charles Flanagan, to run a new cabinet-level agency to oversee child welfare.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety was ordered to conduct an administrative review to determine why the cases were not investigated.

Flanagan, who has been overseeing a special team to investigate problems within CPS, was tapped as the new division's director. The latest tally from the team shows that more than 3,000 children connected to the reports of abuse and neglect now have been seen by social workers or police. Nearly all the cases that were ignored from 2009 through November have been assigned to investigators.

Kathy McLaughlin, executive director of the Prescott-based Arizona Child and Family Advocacy Network, said the new division should be more manageable and more accountable. Flanagan will report directly to Brewer. ``I have every faith that the governor chose the right person,'' she said.

Brewer said she will call on the Legislature to work with her to codify the new division. She said child safety must be the priority and become embedded in the fabric of the division.

``Enough with the uninvestigated reports of abuse and neglect,'' Brewer said. ``Enough with the lack of transparency. And enough with the excuses.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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