Kristi's Kids

May 13, 2014 10:05 PM by Kristi Tedesco and Edgar Ybarra

CPS hotline in crisis

PHOENIX - When you call Arizona's child abuse and neglect hotline to report a possible case, there's a one in four chance your call won't even be answered. Kristi's Kids has been investigating Arizona's Child Protective Services since 2007 and the hotline has surfaced as one of the biggest problems.

According to the new head of child welfare in Arizona, Charles Flanagan says, "we're dropping... not answering 26 percent of the calls... and there are those who believe that 26 percent call back later... but (Kristi) we don't know that."

Charles Flanagan has been appointed, by Governor Jan Brewer, to lead the newly-formed Division of Child Safety and Family Services.

Kristi's Kids spoke to a foster mom, who didn't want to show her identity, we'll call her 'Barb'. Barb is a mandatory reporter who says she has had negative experiences with the hotline. Barb tells Kristi's Kids, "we can keep calling but I don't know that I've seen anything done on the calls that we've made..."

3-year-old Roman Barreras' remains were found in a toy chest, this past spring, in Tucson. His mother had documented problems with drug abuse and all of her children, including Roman, were removed when he was born. Eventually, the kids went home to their father, but the hotline calls kept coming in.

In 2012, Roman's older brother wasn't showing up for school. Then, in 2014, a relative called saying Roman had basically disappeared.

Instead of CPS handling the situation and doing a welfare check, when the school called, hotline workers told the school to notify police. The problem is, police couldn't find the family and the school didn't even know Roman existed. There would have been no way to flag for his welfare. The hotline dropped the ball. There was no more follow up, and no official report.

Flanagan says, things have to change. He tells Kristi's Kids "it's about children's lives and it's about whether or not we as a society value those lives."

To see the first images of Arizona's CPS hotline ever released, click the video above. To report child abuse or neglect click here.

To see the Child Welfare Reporting Requirements semi-annual report from April through September of 2012, click here.

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