Report Shows Arizona Has More Reports Of Child Abuse Than National Average
A new report shows Arizona has more reported cases of child abuse and neglect than the national average. The Auditor General found the state also had lower rates of confirming those reports.
The rate of confirmed child abuse cases nearly tripled between 2008 and 2013. That can partially be attributed to new laws in 2009 that expanded the definitions of abuse and neglect. The Auditor General’s report said that number is still artificially low because many of the claims reported to the Department of Child Safety haven’t been proven. Spokesman Doug Nick said the good news is child removal rates are lower than the numbers of confirmed cases.
“What that means is that workers are getting into the situation…earlier in the process before it gets worse for the child and you can do remedial things as opposed to removing," he said. “What our agency needs to do is get to more of those situations sooner before they get more serious.”
Nick said the agency is triaging the most serious cases, which involve children under five and infants born with substance abuse problems. The report also found Arizona has a unique approach to investigating reports of child abuse and neglect. The Department of Child Safety has a special unit that examines cases determined to involve criminal conduct. Nick said the Office of Child Welfare Investigations was created in 2012.
“Unfortunately, that’s partly the result of the situation several years ago when Director [Greg] McKay in a different position in this agency blew the whistle were not being appropriately or had not been investigated and the OCWI was created as a response to that,” he said.
That unit is a certified criminal justice agency which means it has access to FBI databases. The Auditor General reports the other state with a similar unit is Texas.