Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 28, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Protecting Arizona's Children Part 1


  • Child Protective Services is constantly under public scrutiny as it carries out its job of protecting Arizona�s children. Find out about the challenges CPS faces as we begin a four-part series about the agency. Department of Economic Security Deputy Director Ken Deibert and Janice Mickens, program administrator for CPS, will talk about how the agency does its job and what it does.
Guests:
  • Ken Deibert - Deputy Director,Department of Economic Security - Janice Mickens - Program administrator,CPS


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on Horizon we begin a four-part series, taking an inside look at child protective services. Protecting Arizona's Children. And we talk with Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts, next on "Horizon." Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Child Protective Services seems to be constantly in the crosshairs of critics who say the agency goes too far or not far enough in protecting children. Tonight we begin a four-part series, Protecting Arizona's Children. This series will examine complaints again C.P.S., potential legislation that would affect it and programs designed to prevent child abuse. Tonight, however we focus tonight on how it operates and why it exists. Larry Lemmons introduces us to two workers on the front lines of child protection.

Larry Lemmons (VO):
Michelle Heermans is a C.P.S. Investigator. She's based at the private nonprofit Child Help U.S.A., in downtown Phoenix. But a good part of her day is spent on the road.

Michelle Heermans:
I have been doing C.P.S. Investigations for over two years. I have been with C.P.S. For three and a half years, going on four. The original reason I decided to work for C.P.S. Is because I wanted to be able to help people, families in need, children in need. You get to go out initially, meet the families. You get to make the determinations on what's going on, what the -- with the children in the home, make sure they are safe.

Larry Lemmons (VO):
Melissa Millspaugh is with the ongoing unit of Child Protective Services based out of Gilbert, also spends time visiting various clients.

Melissa Millspaugh:
Well, investigators are the first ones that go out. Once the child -- once they are moved in then the case comes over to ongoing, and we work with the families to try to engage them to get the kids to go back home. To help families be successful, get the parents engaged in services, to make a situation as to why they came into care better or put the family together.

>>Child Abuse Hotline, This is Danielle speaking, how can I help you?

Larry Lemmons (VO):
The process begins here as a call comes into the Child Abuse Hotline. This recreation shows a typical conversation Danielle Eager might have with someone calling to report child abuse.

Janice Mickens:
The hotline has really three functions. One is to determine whether the child is safe now, and if the child is not safe now, and if the child is not safe now and it is the C.P.S. report, then we're going to contact the field directly by phone and get them out there immediately. Meaning as soon as they can within that two-hour window. If the child is not safe and it's not something that C.P.S. could take a report, for example, occurred out of the home, a neighbor abused the child, we'll make a direct phone call to law enforcement. If the child is safe and it's not a C.P.S. report then we're going to document that within our C.P.S. system.

Larry Lemmons (VO)
The Arizona child abuse hotline operates out of an undisclosed location serving the entire state. 92 people work in various capacities at the hotline. The majority are C.P.S. Specialists who answer the phone and supervisors. The hotline is active around the clock. Reader boards located on the wall allow the specialist to know how long a call has been waiting and if the call is from the police.

Janice Mickens:
The top line is for law enforcement. Law enforcements has priority on calls that come into the hotline. The reason why we did that is because typically when law enforcements calls they are out on an emergency and they need somebody to get out there right away. So that if I'm just finishing up on entering something and I see a call is waiting, then I can go ahead and put off entering that information and take the next call.

Larry Lemmons:
If a call warrants an investigation it may be referred here to Child Health.

Maurenn Domogala:
Child Help children center of Arizona is a one-stop shop where all the key partners of child abuse investigation have come together. So in our facility we have housed our Child Protective Services Unit. We also have the Phoenix Police Department Child Crimes Unit. That's 32 detectives, four sergeants and a lieutenant who come to work here every day. We also have a partnership with St. Joseph's Hospital. They provide three pediatricians and two nurse practitioners who provide our forensic medical exams. So all those folks have come together so the family, the child has to go just to one place to go through the process of child abuse investigation.

Larry Lemmons:
This organization is an improvement over past practices which would include interviewing the child at a police station or examining the child in an emergency room.

Lt. Mark Zingg:
I think it cuts down on the trauma for the child. It also enhances the communication between all the disciplines that are here. So that there is no misunderstanding. We don't do this by phone or email. It's face to face, so we talk to the medical doctors when we think it's important and they talk to us so it's a constant stream of communication here. We get about 3700 cases a year. Most cases are class 2 felonies. So it's equal to homicide. Unlike homicide we have a live victim who is reporting what has happened to them or the medical examiner reports what's happened to them. So it's very hard on these detectives emotionally to see and hear the trauma inflicted on a child.

Larry Lemmons (VO):
But not every case warrants police investigation. Today Michelle has been given the task to check out a report ongoing possible child endangerment.

Michelle Heermans:
The concern is that regarding the condition of a dog who lives in the home. There's a concern that the dog has open wounds and is bleeding and that there's a possibility it looks like the dog's eyes were gouged out and a concern regarding the children because of the blood. They don't know if they have access to the blood from the dog.

Larry Lemmons (VO):
Michelle is basically walking into an unknown situation. It's a day-to-day risk she takes working for C.P.S.

Michelle Heermans:
There are points where there is a sense of danger. Majority of the times we are going out into these homes absolutely unknown. Don't know what's going on in the home, what we're going to come across, who is in the home.

Larry Lemmons (VO):
Michelle arrives at the address but no one appears to be home. After checking for another entrance she decides to leave a card. The ongoing unit at the Gilbert C.P.S. Housed in one of three buildings in the city gets involved in a case after it becomes part of the system.

Karen Youngman:
Our primary job right at the beginning is to work with the family to have the child returned. It doesn't always happen, obviously. But if that can't happen, if we can't engage the parents and we can't get that child home safely, then our plan becomes where can we place this child permanently?

Larry Lemmons (VO):
Melissa discusses her cases with her supervisor, who provides whatever assistance Melissa needs during her visits with clients.

Michelle Heermans:
I went over all of the services and stuff. And what we're going to do is wait for the judge. She knows our plan.

Karen Youngman:
If you need anything, give me a call if you need anything.

Michelle Heermans:
Right now we're going to see one of my clients. I just put her son back in the home with her. He had some delinquency issues and has been out of the home for some time. She worked a program with C.P.S. He did an amazing/awesome job. We were able to reunify them back home.

Larry Lemmons (VO):
These folks are a success story and allowed us to tape them during Melissa's visit.

>> One of the main things why I wanted to come out was besides just to see you, but to let you know we are trying to get it over to the In Home Unit so there will be a different case manager that comes out. This will be one of our last times seeing you guys. I know. Bet you're sick of me.

Son:
No.

Mom:
No, you've been very good with us.

Michelle Heermans:
You guys did an awesome job.

Larry Lemmons (VO):
Both Melissa and Michelle went on other calls during our visit but we weren't allowed to tape the interactions for privacy reasons. In fact, Michelle responded to one complaint and found the child was in no danger whatsoever. Determining if a call warrants an investigation is based on a series of questions such as those asked at the child abuse hotline, but there's no guarantee the call is genuine. Unfortunately, some misuse the hotline. All those involved in this story stressed their priority is to return a child to his or her family unless, of course, they suspect the child is in danger. Facilities like Child Help make the process more efficient and child friendly. It's an attempt to intercede with the family as unobtrusively as possible while nevertheless protecting the child from potential harm.

Ted Simons:
Joining us is the Deputy Director of the Department of Economic Security Ken Deibert and C.P.S. Child welfare program administrator Janice Mickens. Thank you both for joining us on Horizon.

Ken Deibert:
Thank you so much for having us.

Ted Simons:
Ken, primary responsibilities of C.P.S.

Ken Deibert:
Our primary responsibilities are to assure that children have safe and strong families to allow them to succeed in their life. In order for us to do that, we look at three primary areas of responsibility. Child safety, permanency for children, making sure that whatever their circumstances are they have a permanent, loving, caring relationship with their biological parents, foster parents or adoptive family. Also assuring that their well-being is addressed throughout our involvement with that child. Our involvement can range from very short period of time, couple of days, to many, many years where a child will graduate from our program and move off into adult life. We want to make sure that all during that process we're addressing their needs and assuring the best outcome for those children.

Ted Simons:
I'm hearing safe and strong families and I'm also hearing the child's best welfare. I think when a lot of folks hear about C.P.S. They are kind of wondering what gets most of the emphasis, the protection of the child or keeping the family intact.

Ken Deibert:
One of the balances that we have to bring to the child welfare system and our intervention and interactions with families is the balancing of this safety of the child with the need and importance of preserving the family unit. We won't work towards preserving the family unit if we feel and can demonstrate that the safety and well-being of that child is going to be put at risk by leaving that child within that family environment.

Ted Simons:
Janice, is that how you see it as well? I think a lot of folks will hear that and say yes, but there were warning signs that may not necessitate action now but you're concerned about the future, so the protection of the family now may put a child in jeopardy in the future.

Janice Mickens:
I would agree with Ken. Your example where there are warning signs, we're going to do a holistic assessment of that family. And look at whether the safety threats that are there, what are the strengths and risks of the family; are there some protective capacities for those parents that we can build on? What services can we put in to that family to deal with those risks so the family doesn't come through our system?

Ted Simons:
But again, from what I'm hearing, there is a very strong emphasis on the family which I think a lot of people would agree with, but there's a concern that there's so much emphasis that the protective part of C.P.S. might be in second place.

Janice Mickens:
It is not. It is our number one priority, so we're going to look at safety, but we're also going to look at can we maintain that child safely in their own home.

Ted Simons:
Ken, as far as other states compared to Arizona, Texas, Idaho, Washington. These states that have C.P.S. From what I understand seem to have a little maybe balanced a little more on the child side as opposed to family side. Is that a correct assessment?


Ken Deibert:
I think here in Arizona there's been a having strong focus from the policy makers, our legislature, to focus on the rights of the parents. While still trying to preserve the issue of safety. As you can see in the story that you did about our staff, we're constantly working to balance whether or not there's a safety risk to that child that cannot be addressed and requires that child to be removed with the what Janice was talking about, the strength of the family and can we effectively build on those to preserve that family and help that family become a more functional unit as a result of our intervention.

Ted Simons:
Do you think some of the other states have it wrong or do you think Arizona could get some sort of an idea to improve?

Ken Deibert:
I'm not sure there's a right or wrong. Child Welfare Services reflect and the laws associated with Child Welfare Services reflect the values of the communities. That's really what we respond to when we go out and do an evaluation of the family. Somebody in that community is calling us up saying, we're concerned about this child based upon our values or beliefs about how children should be cared for. The policies that are developed around child welfare services have to reflect and be consistent with the values of that community that we function within.

Ted Simons:
Janice, what do you think? Do you think Arizona could learn from other states or could other states learn from Arizona?

Janice Mickens:
I think other states could learn from us. I think we have done a great job of really providing a lot of new tools for our staff to you. We have brought in some national experts to work with us on our assessment of fields to make sure we're doing a good assessment of safety and strength and risk. I think we're moving forward in our in-home services program so that we are providing the services to strengthen the family, not just going out and saying, okay, there's no bruise so I'm closing the case, really looking at that family in a more holistic way.

Ted Simons:
There are ideas out there regarding reforming C.P.S. As I'm sure you're well aware. Without getting into specific legislation and going over general ideas, should coordination and cooperation with law enforcement -- can it improve?

Ken Deibert:
Absolutely. We have really a model program here in Arizona at the present time that outlines the joint investigation protocols between law enforcement and child welfare services. Again, in the story you saw the extensive coordination that occurs around the investigations between law enforcement and child welfare staff as well as medical personnel. Where we can improve that coordination is around the sharing of information particularly around missing children or missing parents where we have a concern for the well-being of a child and a family, we need to be able to effectively communicate that information to law enforcement, have law enforcement assist us in locating that family if possible so we can make a proper assessment of what kind of risk that child is in.

Ted Simons:
There's also some concern regarding custody orders and custody rights. Should C.P.S. always follow custody orders?

Janice Mickens:
Yes. We have a policy now where we will -- staff are required to make every effort to get that custody order so they will follow it.

Ted Simons:
Obviously both questions deal with high profile cases on both levels. So there is area for improvement here.

Ken Deibert:
Oh, I think Child Welfare Services is one of those areas where if you aren't looking at how you can improve the service, you are doing a disservice to your community and to your constituents.

Ted Simons:
To that end, shouldn't transparency be part of that improving process? In other words, how can folks know what needs to be improved when so much of C.P.S. is locked up?

Ken Deibert:
You know, Arizona, when I came to Arizona, and I took a look at our confidentiality laws in Arizona, literally ones that we're operating under currently were very open. We provide a great deal of information that many states don't provide regarding their child welfare services. We have worked very closely during this last legislative session with child advocates, with the media, attorneys, with legislative representatives, and other folks who are interested in improving the child welfare system to come up with what I think is even an improved package of expectations and laws around how information can be shared when there's a death or near death of a child at child welfare services might have been involved with.

Ted Simons:
I think the near death and fatal cases where people want to get some information and in the past C.P.S. has been reticent to get that information out. Is that something that can improve?

Janice Mickens:
In the past we were reticent based on what was in our statute. Part of that was based on wanting to protect the other children that were perhaps in the home. Not what the impact was going to be on them when this information hit the newspaper. We agreed that there needs to be some improvements in that statute. That's why we have worked closely with the legislature to develop a statute that is going to meet everybody's needs.

Ted Simons:
But you can understand how some folks are frustrated by what seems to be secrecy within the organization.

Janice Mickens::
I absolutely can understand that.

Ted Simons:
And you as well can.

Ken Deibert:
Yes, I think there's a question about timing of when information was getting released. We have always worked as long as I have been involved in getting the information out. We have a responsibility to assure and to protect the prosecution of the individuals who commit crimes against children. The previous statute really required that we focused on that.

Ted Simons:
We have to stop there. I'm sorry to say, great conversation. Thank you both so very much for joining us on "Horizon". We will continue our series, Protecting Arizona's Children, this week with a look at conflicts, problems and potential legislation involving child protective services.

&mddot; Leonard Pitts

  |   Video
  • A conversation with the nationally syndicated and Pulitzer prize-winning columnist about 9/11 and the candidacy of Barack Obama.
Guests:
  • Leonard Pitts - Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Pulitzer Prize winning syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts was at A.S.U. recently. He presented a 2008 A. Wade Smith memorial lecture on race relations. This was thrust into the spotlight immediately after 9/11 when a column he wrote ws given wide circulation on the internet. Larry Lemmons spoke with Leonard Pitts before Pitts delivered his lecture.

Larry Lemmons:
After 9/11 you wrote an editorial that was widely circulated throughout the internet calling the perpetrators of that "you monsters, you beasts, you unspeakable bastards." After this time now what sort of thoughts do you have about the direction the country has gone?

Leonard Pitts:
I'm disappointed in the direction the country has gone since then. I think we have taken our eye off the ball in terms of finding the people who were responsible for what happened on September 11th, 2001, and bringing them to justice. We got sidetracked in this massive misadventure in Iraq, but intelligence at the time properly read showed that had nothing to do with what happened on September 11th. I'm disappointed. I really want to see our efforts focused again where they should be, on not just capturing those who were responsible for September 11th but doing what needs to be done socially, politically and militarily to ensure that things like this don't happen again.

Larry Lemmons:
As a segue to what you're talking about tonight in Tempe, race, politics and the drama of Obama, Barack Obama was the only one who can say he was against the Iraq war from the outset. What does that do for him in this election?

Leonard Pitts:
I think it will help mainly with the ideologically driven voters, Democratic, Independent, maybe a few Republicans, there's a certain strain of the American electorate that demands purity. Ideological purity of its candidate so it's not enough to say I supported township and I don't now. That's almost not allowed. It has to be said I didn't support it then, I have never supported it. For a big slice of the electoral pie they belong exclusively to him. The question again is how big a slice it turns out to be.

Larry Lemmons:
What's the premise of your talk tonight?

Leonard Pitts:
The premise of my talk is there's a lot of premises but the main premise is Barack Obama by dint of his mere existence in this race, not so much by anything he's said or done but by the fact that he's a black man stands a very good chance of becoming the next president of the United States forces us into dialogues that we, you know, have needed to have for a long time but never have had. When I say us as African Americans, us as white Americans, us as Americans, period. His very existence is premise for a lot of healthy and unhealthy discussion that we have put off for way too long.

Larry Lemmons:
I would like you to speculate.

Leonard Pitts:
Okay.


Larry Lemmons:
What if Barack Obama is elected president. What do you believe that will do for the African American community in the United States?

Leonard Pitts:
I think there will be a lot of -- a lot of pride. There may also be unrealistic expectations in terms of what he would be able to do to confront issues of race, issues of discrimination. I happen to be of the theory, this is just my personal suspicion, that he would actually be a little handicapped in dealing with those issues in a way that a white candidate would not. The theory that only Nixon could go to China. Can a black president really deal with African American issues without being seen as pandering to or giving something to the community he came from as opposed to being an American statesman dealing with an American problem. I think he would have great difficulty with that.

Larry Lemmons:
Will there ever come a time, and Barack Obama has to win to make this so, when people just won't be thinking about that sort of thing?

Leonard Pitts:
Yes, I'm looking for our first Jewish president, our first woman president, our first gay president. We have a lot of firsts to do before that's no longer remarkable. Our next African American secretary of state may not be such a ground breaker because we have had Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. It takes that. It takes seeing those firsts normalized. I wrote many years ago, I'm tired of saying African American first because it's wonderful, it's great history but also the fact that we're still having firsts in the new millennium underscores for me how slow progress has been and again how far we have yet to travel.

Larry Lemmons:
Leonard Pitts, thanks for speaking to "Horizon."

Leonard Pitts:
Pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons:
That is it for now. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Ted Simons. You have a great evening.

What's on?

Content Partner:

  About KAET Contact Support Legal Follow Us  
  About Eight
Mission/Impact
History
Site Map
Pressroom
Contact Us
Sign up for e-news
Pledge to Eight
Donate Monthly
Volunteer
Other ways to support
FCC Public Files
Privacy Policy
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Google+
Pinterest
 

Need help accessing? Contact disabilityaccess@asu.edu

Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University    Copyright Arizona Board of Regents