PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer abolished Arizona’s beleaguered Child Protective Services on Monday, immediately transferring the task of safeguarding abused and neglected children to a new cabinet-level division over which she will have direct oversight.
The move, unveiled at the governor’s State of the State address, is part of an overhaul aimed at fixing the problems that have plagued the state’s child welfare system for years, though none of them quite like last month’s revelation that more than 6,500 complaints of abuse received by the agency’s hotline had been shelved before any investigation.
Ms. Brewer has been under intense pressure from child welfare advocates, as well as legislators from both parties, including some of her closest allies, who have long sought the reorganization of Child Protective Services under a separate structure. The agency operates under the largest of the state’s bureaucracies, the Department of Economic Security, which oversees dozens of safety-net programs, including cash assistance and health care benefits for the poor.
“It is evident that our child welfare system is broken, impeded by years of structural and operational failures,” said Ms. Brewer, a Republican.
The change requires legislative approval, but it is unlikely to face significant opposition, given that it is the type of reorganization that most of her critics had sought. Ms. Brewer did not say how the agency would be funded.
The new agency, the Division of Child Safety and Family Services, will handle complaints and investigations of abuse and neglect, which have hit record numbers since the state’s economy crashed in 2009, as well as foster care and adoption.
Charles Flanagan, director of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, will be in charge. He leads the team of legislators, prosecutors, child welfare advocates and state officials overseeing the inquiry into the ignored hotline complaints.