Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Protecting Children

Jan Brewer, the notorious governor of Arizona, used a part of her State of the State address to announce the dissolution of the state's Child Welfare Agency. the CWA, the department that investigated allegations of child abuse and neglect, had been plagued with scandal for failing to look into more than 6000 cases of alleged child maltreatment.

Brewer announced that the agency would be replaced by a cabinet-level, free-standing agency headed by the state's juvenile corrections director. As you might expect, the announcement was met with surprise and concern by the state's legislators who had no idea it was coming.

There are a lot of unanswered questions about how this new agency will work. That's because the way any government agency is run is decided by the legislature. And in this case, the legislature had no idea this change was coming. That means that, until the legislature passes laws that outline the role of this agency, pass a budget to fund it, and set up its rules and regulations, it technically can't do anything. It has no authority, no budget, no operation procedure, nothing. Until it has that, the state of Arizona has no way of investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect.

This is an example of using a hatchet for a haircut. It's a blunt instrument being implemented for delicate work. Brewer's move has potentially put thousands of children at risk. Not only that, but appointing the head of juvenile corrections to an agency to investigate child abuse and neglect seems a bit counterintuitive to me. If Brewer wanted to change how things were done, she should have gone to the legislature, and worked on the problem. If there was a scandal, fix the system, don't throw the system out and twiddle your thumbs until the new one is ready to go. It's like selling your car before you've even started looking for a new one. Sure, it might get rid of your Ford POS, but then you're stuck.

I'm really hoping that this comes off smoothly, but it definitely concerns me.

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