The agency that oversees Arizona's Child Protective Services reports a programming error is to blame for more than 10,000 incomplete case records, handed over by CPS during the last two years.
It's a computer glitch that's likely to have a ripple effect on parents, children, attorneys and the entire judicial system in our state.
The Department of Economic Security has sent out 30,000 notices letting people involved with CPS cases know the records they requested might not have contained all of the required information.
"It's a programming inconsistency," said Tasya Peterson, a DES spokesperson. "The case management system CHILDS was created back in 1996."
In 2010, DES added a program to log and track public records requests from CPS.
Prior to that year, there's no way to know who requested public records and if they were complete.
During its annual review in June, DES officials noticed only about a third of requested CPS case information was being released.
"It could be court special advocates; it could be attorneys (who filed public records requests)," said Peterson.
Parents, judicial and law enforcement agencies – along with the media – are also affected.
"Anybody involved in the case we wanted to notify and let them know there are these additional records – if you'd like to request them," Peterson said.
Phoenix attorney Robert Pastor says this recent error only highlights systemic problems within CPS.
"It's just another example of CPS failing its citizens," he said. "But, more importantly, (they're) failing the children they're in charge of and should be protecting."
He points out, these incomplete records might have resulted in children being wrongfully removed from a parent's home or criminal convictions where the defendant didn't have all of the information they were entitled to, to defend themselves.
"All of those people are going to be coming back to the court system and saying, 'Judge, I didn't get a fair shake. Judge, I didn't have all of the information,'" said Pastor.
He also worries for the children who've been returned to parents based on incomplete records.
"That is the biggest fear that any one of us should have as a citizen; that there's a child out there in harm's way because CPS dropped the ball."
But, DES officials say until this summer they had no reason to believe there was a problem with their system of releasing public records.
"We believed we were releasing all of the information we were obligated to release," said Peterson. "So, we were just as surprised as everybody else has been about this."
She said DES has fixed the issue with their case management program, and from here on out public records requests will be fully honored.
They also have a team on hand to answer any questions, or retrieve complete case information for those entitled to it.
Those who wish to receive additional information and/or records are asked to notify DES in writing.
Tuesday, May 21 2013 9:43 PM EDT2013-05-22 01:43:10 GMT
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