New law requires court order before DCS can remove children from home

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A new law requires the Department of Child Safety (DCS) to obtain a court order before taking children from their home, but the courts have not yet established a system for the court orders to be obtained.

Currently, DCS caseworkers can decide for themselves whether or not a child needs to be taken from a neglectful home, a policy some critics believe is the reason there were nearly 19,000 children in state custody last year.

Mary Jo Pitzl, a reporter who has covered DCS controversies extensively for The Arizona Republic, joined Arizona Horizon to discuss the possible outcomes of this new law.

>> COMING UP NEXT ON "ARIZONA
HORIZON," CHILD WELFARE WORKERS
MAY SOON HAVE AN ADDITIONAL
HURDLE WHEN REMOVING ABUSED KIDS
FROM THEIR HOMES.
ALSO TONIGHT: WHY THE VALLEY IS
AMONG THE FAST-GROWING DATA
CENTERS IN THE COUNTRY.
AND A NEW PROGRAM TEACHES
PHOENIX KIDS HOW TO WRITE
COMPUTER CODE.
THOSE STORIES NEXT, ON "ARIZONA
HORIZON."
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>> "ARIZONA HORIZON" IS MADE
POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS BY THE
FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS, MEMBERS
OF YOUR PBS STATION.
THANK YOU.
>>Ted Simons: GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO:
ARIZONA HORIZON."
I'M TED SIMONS,
ARIZONA HEALTH INSURANCE RATES
UNDER THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
ARE STABILIZING, THIS A YEAR
AFTER THE STATE SAW SIGNIFICANT
"INCREASES" IN PREMIUMS.
FILINGS WITH STATE REGULATORS
SHOW THAT AVERAGE INDIVIDUAL
RATES FOR RESIDENTS OF MARICOPA
AND PIMA COUNTIES WILL GO UP
LESS THAN 2% NEXT YEAR, WITH
SOME PLANS "DROPPING" BY AS MUCH
AS 9%.
AS FOR ARIZONA'S 13 RURAL
COUNTIES, RATES FOR THE ONLY
PROVIDER, BLUE-CROSS,
BLUE-SHIELD, WILL DROP ABOUT 1%.
THE STATE LEGISLATURE RECENTLY
MADE A RULE CHANGE THAT REQUIRES
A COURT ORDER BEFORE TAKING
ABUSED CHILDREN FROM THEIR
HOMES, BUT ARIZONA'S COURTS MUST
STILL COME UP WITH A SYSTEM TO
IMPLEMENT THE NEW RULE.
MARY JO PITZL OF THE ARIZONA
REPUBLIC IS COVERING THE ISSUE.
SHE JOINS US NOW.
GOOD TO SEE YOU.
THANKS FOR JOINING US.
>>Mary Jo Pitzl: THANKS FOR INVITING ME.
>> Ted Simons: SO THE JUDGE HAS TO GET
PERMISSION?
THIS IS A RULE CHANGE.
TALK ABOUT THIS.
>> Mary Jo Pitzl: IF YOU ARE GOING TO TAKE A
KID OUT OF A FAMILY'S HOME FOR
ABUSE OR NEGLECT, YOU HAVE TO
GET A JUDGE TO SIGN OFF OF IT.
RIGHT NOW A CASEWORKER CAN
DECIDE ON HIS OR HER OWN WITH
THEIR SUPERVISOR SIGNING OFF ON
IT THAT WE HAVE TO GET THE KID
OUT OF THERE.
YOU HEAR A LOT FROM FAMILY
MEMBERS THAT IS THE DEPARTMENT IS
ABUSING THE DISCRETION, TAKING
KIDS WHEN THEY SHOULDN'T AND THEY
WANT A WARRANT.
THERE IS ANOTHER THAT POINTS TO
THE U.S. INSTITUTION FOURTH
AMENDMENT PROTECTING AGAINST
WARRANTLESS SEARCHES, IF NOT FOR
KID, THAN WHAT FOR?
HERE WE ARE.
THE LEGISLATURE TOOK A
LAST-MINUTE ADDITION TO THE BILL
AND ARM TWISTING BY
REPRESENTATIVE KELLY TOWNSEND TO
GET THIS IN.
IT HAD A LOT OF SUPPORT IN THE
LEGISLATURE AND SAID YOU SHALL
HAVE A WARRANT.
>> Ted Simons: IT DOESN'T GO INTO EFFECT
UNTIL NEXT YEAR?
>> Mary Jo Pitzl: JULY '18.
>> Ted Simons: THEY HAVE TO HEAR FROM THE
COURTS TO HEAR WHAT?
>> Mary Jo Pitzl: THE COURT HAS TO SET UP A
PROCESS TO DO THIS.
HOW DO YOU GET A JUDGE IN PLACE
ASSIGNED TO HEAR THESE WARRANT
CASES? IT'S A TALL ORDER TO DO THAT
IN 15 COUNTIES.
IMAGINE BEING IN HILO COUNTY
HAVING TO RUSH TO THE COURT IN
GLOBE AND YOU ARE IN PACEN.
IT TAKES A WHILE TO GET THERE.
THEY ARE UNDER STAFFED SO
THEY'LL MODEL IT UNDER THE
INITIAL APPEARANCE COURT
HEADQUARTERED IN MARICOPA
COUNTY.
CURRENTLY, IF A POLICE OFFICER
NEEDS A WARRANT TO DO THE
DUI TEST, THEY DON’T HAVE TO DRIVE OVER
TO THE COURT WITH A PIECE
OF PAPER. THEY CAN
ELECTRONICALLY FILE THE SAME
WAY.
THEY CAN HIRE A COUPLE OF
STAFFERS TO DO THIS.
THEY HAVE TECHNOLOGY IN PLACE
WITH TABLETS TO COMMUNICATE
ELECTRONICALLY.
>> Ted Simons: THERE ARE AT LEAST FOUR
REQUIREMENTS IN TERMS OF GETTING
THE COURT ORDER.
THE CASEWORKER CAN DO X, YZ OR Z
PLUS.
>> Mary Jo Pitzl: THE CASEWORKER HAS TO PROVIDE
US GOOD PROOF ON WHY A KID
SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM THE HOME.
YOU HAVE TO BE SURE YOU CAN TELL
WHERE THE CHILD IS, DETAIL WHAT
THE ALLEGED NEGLECT OR ABUSE IS.
YOU HAVE TO SHOW WHY IT WOULD BE
DANGEROUS TO LEAVE THE CHILD
THERE EVEN IN THE SHORT TIME IT
WOULD TAKE TO FILE SOMETHING
ELECTRONICALLY WITH THE COURT.
THEY SET OUT CRITERIA, OPENED IT
UP FOR PUBLIC COMMENT AND IT'S
COMING IN DUE BY THE END OF THE
MONTH.
>> Ted Simons: ONE OF THE RULES AND
REQUIREMENTS, ONE REQUIREMENT,
YOU HAVE TO SHOW THERE IS
DANGER.
IT SOUNDS LIKE THE NEW RULE
SAYS, ALL OF THIS COURT ORDER
BUSINESS IS OUT THE BUSINESS IF
THE CASEWORKER FINDS IMMINENT
DANGER.
>> Mary Jo Pitzl: THERE HAS TO BE AN ESCAPE
HATCH.
THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE, YOU ARE
NOT GOING TO RUN TO THE JUDGE TO
TO GET THE KID
OUT OF A BURNING HOUSE.
THE FOURTH AAMENDMENT ALLOWS
THAT, SO THEY FEEL COVERED WHEN
DO THOSE CONDITIONS EXIST?
THAT'S NOT FOR US TO DETERMINE.
WE ARE SETTING UP THE FRAMEWORK
TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.
WHEN YOU INVOKE THAT, THAT'S
PROBABLY GOING TO BOUNCE BACK TO
THE LEGISLATURE AND THEY'LL HAVE
TO COME UP WITH LANGUAGE.
>> Ted Simons: AND THE LEGISLATURE, THE
PENDULUM SWINGS.
I REMEMBER BACK IN THE DAY IF
THERE IS THE SLIGHTEST HINT OF
TROUBLE, GET THE KID OUT OF
THERE.
THE PENDULUM HAS SWUNG THE OTHER
WAY AND YOU BETTER HAVE A GOOD
REASON TO GET THE KID OUT OF
THERE.
>> Mary Jo Pitzl: THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE
CONCERNED ABOUT THE PROCESS,
THAT EVERYTHING WILL THEN BE AN
EMERGENCY.
THERE ARE PEOPLE AT DCS THAT SAY
WE DON'T THINK THIS WILL CHANGE
MUCH BECAUSE RIGHT NOW
EVERYTHING IS EXIDENT
CIRCUMSTANCES.
A LOT OF THIS WILL BE THE PROOF
IS IN THE PUDDING AND WE WON'T
KNOW UNTIL THEY DO IT AND
ANALYZE IF THEY MAKE A
DIFFERENCE.
>> AS FAR AS BEING A SPEED BUMP
IN THE PROCESS, THAT SEEMS TO BE
ONE OF THE REASONS THE LAW WAS
ENACTED.
>> Mary Jo Pitzl: TO MAKE YOU THINK TWICE, ARE
YOU MEETING THE CRITERIA THE
COURT HAS SET OUT, AM I MAKING A
GOOD REASON FOR THE CHILD TO BE
REMOVED?
YOU WANT A JUDGE TO AGREE WITH
YOU, NOT REJECT YOU.
>> Ted Simons: AS FAR AS KIDS BEING REMOVED
IN ARIZONA, INCREASING?
WHAT'S HAPPENING?
>> Mary Jo Pitzl: THE NUMBERS ARE GOING DOWN.
I THINK THE LAST SEMIANNUAL
REPORT, 5,000 SOME KIDS BEING
REMOVED.
THAT'S A LOT BUT ON THE DOWNWARD
TREND.
THE NUMBER OF KIDS IN STATE
CUSTODY IS DOWN TO 16,000, THE
HIGH AT 19,000 EVEN A YEAR AND A
HALF AGO.
THERE IS SOME DOWNWARD MOVEMENT
IN THAT.
THE ECONOMY GOT BETTER, THE
DEPARTMENT TIGHTENED UP
PROCESSES.
THE PENDULUM IS STARTING TO
SWING THE OTHER DIRECTION.
WE'LL SEE IF THE PROCESS HALTS
THE SWING OR ACCELERATES IT.
>> Ted Simons: WHAT DO YOU HEAR ABOUT FROM
CASEWORKERS?
>> Mary Jo Pitzl:
NOT MUCH.
THEY DON'T LIKE TO TALK WITH
MEDIA.
THEY ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THEIR
JOBS AND THEY HAVE A VESTED
INTEREST IN KEEPING IT PRIVATE
BECAUSE OF CHILD PRIVACY.
THERE IS SOME THAT WILL SAY IT
WILL BE INTERESTING.
A LOT OF THEM WILL WELCOME IT
BECAUSE IT GIVES THEM SUPPORT.
YOU HAVE A JUDGE BEHIND YOU.
YOU ARE NOT DOING IT ON YOUR
OWN.
>> Ted Simons: WHAT'S NEXT?
>> Mary Jo Pitzl: PUBLIC COMMENT OCTOBER 27TH.
THE COURT WILL PUT OUT THE FINAL
RULE AND THE BALL WILL MOVE IN
JANUARY.
I EXPECT THE ROBUST TO BE WHEN
YOU CAN SAY THINGS ARE SO BAD WE
DON'T HAVE TIME TO SEND AN
E-MAIL TO THE JUDGE ASKING FOR
HIS OR HER APPROVAL.
>> Ted Simons: AGAIN THE LAW GOES INTO EFFECT
NEXT YEAR. WE'LL SEE WHAT THEY DO TO
TINKER WITH THE LAW.
UNTIL THEN, COURT ORDER IS NOT
REQUIRED?
>> Mary Jo Pitzl: NOPE
>> Ted Simons: GOOD TO HAVE YOU.
WE APPRECIATE YOU JOINING US.
>> Mary Jo Pitzl: THANK YOU.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Reporter, Arizona Republic

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