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Arizona child abuse complaints ignored

| Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, 6:48 p.m.

PHOENIX — A scandal in which 6,000 child abuse complaints in Arizona were filed away and never investigated illustrated what advocates say is a tragically common problem across the United States: Many agencies have crushing workloads and inadequate oversight.

In some cases, those flaws have led to deaths and criminal charges against social workers.

“This is a system that years ago was dubbed a poor system for poor people, and very often the resources are not there to do this very difficult and very important work,” said Dr. Howard Dubowitz, a pediatrician who studies child protection policies at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

“The notion that this is a system that is nicely equipped to fulfill its mandate is often a dream that some of us are hanging onto.”

Arizona officials promised prompt action when it was disclosed Thursday that over the past four years, a team at the state Child Protective Services agency tried to cope with the heavy workload by overlooking thousands of complaints.

Under state law, all reports generated via the hotline must be investigated.

Authorities re-examining the cases have identified at least 125 in which children were later alleged to have been abused.

No deaths have been connected to the lapses.

Clarence Carter, who as director of Arizona's Department of Economic Security oversees CPS, called the situation “cause for grave alarm.''

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