Well isn’t that the million-dollar question? When Jan Brewer shut down Arizona CPS in 2014, it was pretty shocking to a lot of people in the state. In fact, it was shocking to a lot of people all over the country. After all, it’s not every day that an entire government organization is shut down suddenly by another government official. And it’s even more shocking when that organization is one that’s supposedly doing a public service to the community.
However, as you may have guessed by now, the only serving going on at Arizona CPS was self-serving. In fact, the organization was so corrupt that it was doing more than just taking away children needlessly. Arizona CPS used children as monetary tools to line the pockets of judges, police officials, lawyers, social workers, and therapists who played their game. And it worked out well for them. For quite a long time.
But then, Governor Jan Brewer stepped in and threw a wrench into their plans. For a little while, anyway. And while we won’t get into the unfortunate state of affairs nearly 7 years after this unprecedented shutdown, we will assess some of the reasons why Governor Brewer found it so necessary to completely dismantle the Arizona CPS and set up a new organization in its place. So was she justified in shutting down Arizona CPS? Oh hell yes! And we’ll barely have time to explain the most basic reasons. That’s because there’s an ocean of information about this and it just keeps getting deeper and darker the more you dive in.
Why Governor Brewer Shut Down Arizona CPS
The Arizona Department of Child Services, or as it was formerly known, Arizona CPS (Child Protective Services) has one of the most checkered pasts of any government institution in the United States since the Confederacy. I’ve personally heard of many of the Arizona CPS horror stories before even deciding to write this article. The letters “CPS” has always had a negative connotation.
Even the best of us parents do not enjoy hearing those letters regardless of how perfect (ish) our parenting styles may be. It’s even a long-running joke in our household that when the baby decides that she shall not enjoy being put down for a nap, and proceeds to scream and shriek like she is being tortured, CPS is surely on their way to rescue her.
The Arizona CPS is one of the institutions responsible for giving the letters CPS its bad rap. The internet is littered with articles containing horror stories regarding Arizona CPS workers removing perfectly healthy and happy children from good homes and placing them in foster care facilities where the children are physically and sexually abused. These stories tell about how the Arizona CPS workers remove these children without even explaining to the parents and guardians why they are doing so. I just imagine having one of these CPS workers show up to our house one day and try and take my daughter without even giving a reason why.
A Personal Understanding of CPS
I have had personal experience with being close with a CPS worker from another state. And I know how hard the work is. It’s a thankless job in many respects. I’ve heard all the horror stories about just how terrible some people can be to their children. To me as a parent, some of the things I’ve heard seem almost impossible to comprehend. There are parents out there with something broken inside of their souls, and they are doing horrible, terrible things to their kids that a normal parent would never be able to do.
The Arizona CPS institution as well as the CPS divisions in all the other states are a very necessary groups whose function is to protect these children from the terrible abuse that they are suffering from in their homes. However, when this CPS institution begins to operate in a manner not conducive to that goal, in fact, operate in an opposite manner, and start removing children who are not in danger, and placing those children into danger, then you have a very serious problem.
In 2014 the then Arizona Governor completely dissolved the entire Arizona CPS department and completely rebuilt the entire organization. Why did she do this? Well first let’s take a look at Jan Brewer herself.
Former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer
At first, Jan Brewer wasn’t even elected Governor of Arizona. She just kind of fell into the role when the then Governor, Janet Napolitano resigned to enter President Barak Obama’s presidential cabinet back in 2009. Brewer was born in Los Angeles but lived in Hawthorne Nevada until she was ten years old, then moved back to California. Right out of high school Brewer attended a community college and got her radiological technologist certificate and that would be the whole of Jan Brewer’s education.
Climbing the Ladder
In 1987 Jan Brewer was elected to sit on the Arizona House of Representatives even though her original intention was just to run for the school board. Soon after, Jan Brewer found herself elected to the Arizona Senate where she sat from 1987 to 1996. By 2002 Brewer, now being a veteran politician, ran for the Arizona Secretary of State and defeated Sal DiCiccio by a mere 23,000 votes.
After the then Governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano was selected by President Obama to be the Secretary of Homeland Security, Jan Brewer became the Governor of Arizona as the Secretary of State was first in line of succession per the Arizona Constitution. During her inauguration, Governor Brewer promised the state of Arizona she would fight to keep taxes low so that Arizona could attract that fat cat California business. Then, not even 60 days into her term as Governor, Brewer proposed a tax increase to the State Legislature.
Targeting of Vulnerable Minorities
Then, in April of 2010 Brewer signed into law Arizona SB1070, better known as the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act. When I first read the title of this bill I was like “ok, safe neighborhoods sound great.” No. This bill makes it a crime for any immigrant to even head to the local 7-11 for a bag of chips without having their immigration papers on them.
Under SB1070 if you are over the age of 18 you HAD to have your immigration papers on you at all times or you are guilty of a misdemeanor and could go to jail. (8 U.S.C. § 1304). Even worse, SB1070 also allowed law enforcement to lawfully detain anyone and check their immigration status if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that an individual was an undocumented immigrant.
Yes, I’ll let you take a moment to think about that one… That means that the police could pull you over, detain you and check your citizenship based solely on the color of your skin. Thankfully the United States Supreme Court struck down a number of provisions in SB1070 in Arizona v. United States due to the obvious allowance of racial profiling.
In 2010 Jan Brewer was elected to serve another term as Arizona Governor by defeating Terry Goddard in the general election. It seems the Republican party in Arizona and the general population really enjoyed Brewer’s support of SB1070, according to post-election polls.
In 2014 and towards the end of Brewer’s second and final term as Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer abolished the Arizona CPS agency and rebuilt the entire institution, rebranding it as Arizona Department of Child Safety. Also, in 2014 Brewer vetoed Arizona SB 1062, a bill allowing Arizona business owners to deny service to homosexual individuals.
How Bad Was the Old Arizona CPS Agency? Short Answer? BAD.
Maribel Ontiveros and Antonio Garcia were just an average everyday couple who had never been in trouble with the law or had never had any run-ins with the government whatsoever. One day they took their son, after having suffered from some serious panic attacks to the hospital out of concern for his health. Shortly thereafter the Arizona CPS workers arrived on the scene and refused to let his parents see the boy. They offered no explanation as to why they were denying the parents access to their son.
Confused, Maribel called the office of Arizona CPS to learn that even the office refused to give her any information at all as to why they were denied access to their son. If this wasn’t bad enough, the same Arizona CPS workers arrived at the couple’s home three days later in the company of Arizona police and removed the couple’s two other children, all without a single word as to why. Unfortunately, this is just one case amongst many where Arizona CPS would remove children from homes without even giving a single reason why. As I said, I would go straight to jail that day.
CPS Caseload Backlog Exposed
It came into the light in late 2013 that the Arizona CPS agency faced a backlog of over 14,000 reports of uninvestigated child abuse and neglect incidents. Yet the Arizona CPS agency has more child removals than nearly every other state in the U.S. It was almost as if the CPS unit was overwhelmed by all of the cases of child abuse reported in Arizona.
It became apparent that the Arizona CPS workers were so understaffed that they would just remove the children from their homes without even spending a single hour attempting to actually investigate the claim of abuse. These people were literally getting a claim of child abuse and just showing up at the children’s homes and removing them.
I’m sure you are asking yourself right at this very moment how this one government agency could be so negligent in their very important duties. Well, the answer is simple. When an area has an influx of child abuse and neglect incidents, it’s the government’s duty to direct the necessary funds and resources in order to combat that influx. Well in 2009 our friend Jan Brewer, along with the GOP-led Legislature slashed the Arizona CPS funding, right when they needed it the most. A typical government move. And one that was poorly thought out and short-sighted.
After Cutting Funding, Jan Brewer Abolishes Arizona CPS
After all of the constant horror stories about the Arizona CPS division coming out in the media regarding understaffing, chronic backlogs, and child deaths after an uninvestigated Arizona CPS reports, then Gov. Jan Brewer abolishes the CPS division in 2014. Brewer then signs a landmark Childs Safety Reform that statutorily creates the new and improved Department of Child Safety (DCS).
In Gov. Brewer’s statement releasing this benchmarked child welfare reform, she states:
“It is a momentous day for Arizona, as we take the boldest and most meaningful step in state history to reform and replace our problem-plagued child welfare system. This new agency, under the devoted, tireless, and passionate leadership of Charles Flanagan, is a critical step forward in creating a child safety system that lives up to its name and mission.”
This bold and mostly unprecedented action by the Governor did trouble a few of the Arizona lawmakers. It seemed at the time that it was Brewer’s decision to cut the funding from the Arizona CPS division that caused the chaos stemming from understaffing in the first place. One representative Chad Campbell stated on the record:
“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.”
The Arizona Department of Child Safety Takes Over
With the new and improved Arizona CPS department, now named Arizona Department of Child Safety, led by Charles Flanagan in place this department now faced over 14,000 reports of abuse that needed to be investigated, thousands of children that needed to be placed in foster care homes, homes that were too few for the demand, and with all of Arizona’s eyes upon them.
At that time the Arizona government now led by new Governor Doug Ducey, increased the Department of Child Safety’s budget by nearly $120 million. This allowed DCS to hire more caseworkers and increase the foster care program incentives. The new DCS cut the wait time for child placement in foster care to just 10 hours from almost 44.
As a result, the Department cut the number of backlogged cases to under 2,600. Most importantly the number of children removed from their homes evened out. After all, the new department now had the staff and resources to take the time to properly investigate the report of abuse instead of just removing the child from their home.
So, was Jan Brewer Justified in Shutting Down the Arizona CPS Department?
Well, if you look at the good that came from Jan Brewer abolishing the old Arizona CPS division then yes, she was justified. But was the condition of the old Arizona CPS department mostly her fault? I’m going to say, also yes. I refuse to believe that each and every caseworker in that old Arizona CPS was a terrible, petty, and evil baby snatcher that just loved to take perfectly safe children and put them into foster care.
I’m sure the majority of those workers were compassionate social workers that were just trying to do the best job possible with their enormous caseloads. If you have 10,000 currently active cases and a department budget that only pays a mediocre wage to just ten caseworkers, you don’t have to be a mathematician to see the problem.
Jan Brewer created a massive problem when she cut funding to the Arizona CPS department in 2009. However, she then rode in on her white horse in 2014 and abolished the entire program. Ok, so hooray for her I say. But it just sounds like she was just covering up her own mess and then trying to act like she just saved all of these poor kids herself. I suppose that I personally am going to say sure, Jan Brewer was justified in shutting down the Arizona CPS department in 2014. Just like I’m justified in grabbing a broom when I bump into the end table causing my wife’s favorite vase to fall and smash into a thousand pieces on the floor. But that’s just me. And it’s not something worthy of praise.
Help Us Fight the Good Fight
Costs to document this historical government tragedy have been excessive. However, they are far from over. Our personal expenses to fight the powers that continue to victimize our children and their families have exceeded over $1,000,000. They continue to grow by the day. In order to save face, the state of Arizona continues to blame the victims of corruption. They do so at great damage to their reputations and credibility.
Any contribution you can make to aid our cause is most appreciated. You can donate to Saving Grace Advocates using the link provided. Please help us fight Arizona CPS corruption and bring justice to the families and children who have suffered at their hands. Thank you for your continued support and contributions.