On top of setting a budget and tackling education reform, the 51st State Legislature will also eye an overhaul of the scandal-plagued Child Protective Services. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5/AP) -
State lawmakers report back to the state Capitol complex Monday morning with a hefty agenda waiting for them. On top of setting a budget and tackling education reform, the 51st State Legislature will also eye an overhaul of the scandal-plagued Child Protective Services.
Compounding the problems at the already struggling agency, CPS discovered 6,500 cases tossed to the side and marked uninvestigated in November 2013.
Since then, the state agency says it has assigned 90 percent of those cases.
At Children's Action Alliance in Phoenix, members like Dana Wolfe Naimark are pressing lawmakers to take emergency action.
"We have backlog upon backlog upon backlog," Naimark said. "There are many thousands of families counting and I would say all of Arizona is counting on our lawmakers to not just take emergency action but get things right for the longer term."
To accomplish this, Naimark says CPS must be restructured with stronger leadership, better processes and better procedures to handle case loads and more funding.
In a January interview with CBS 5, state Rep. John Kavanagh said all of the options are on the table and that CPS would need a "multi-faceted" overhaul.
Child welfare advocates say the scope of the problems with CPS are much bigger than expected and it could take years for state lawmakers to make lasting corrections.
"I think we can take steps toward a better, stronger system," Naimark said. "We probably won't finish the job in one legislative session."
Already, several lawmakers are in the process of drafting bills overhauling CPS, either by funding or by a complete restructure.
Gov. Jan Brewer will lay out all her goals when she delivers what is likely to be her final State of the State address.
Brewer is in the final year of her first full term in office. But because she served part of another term after former Gov. Janet Napolitano took a Cabinet post in the Obama administration in 2009, she's in her second term and can't run for a third unless she fights a legal battle.
She's declined to say if she plans to try to run again.
For more on this story and other stories around Arizona from this author, follow Shawn Kline on Facebook and Twitter.
Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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