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Keeping Kids Safe: Why Is Arizona Hurting Its Children Instead of Protecting Them?

July 10, 2015

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment.  We owe our children, the most valuable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.” 
-Nelson Mandela
Children are some of the most vulnerable and fragile members of our community.  They deserve a loving, safe, secure childhood in a setting that nurtures them – not hurts them.  They deserve to be kids.

As Arizona personal injury attorneys, we strive to protect our clients, our families, and the community.  The dirty, sad secret of Arizona’s Child Welfare system is that kids are being hurt and killed as a direct result of a underfunded, under-important child welfare system here in Arizona.

In January 2014, former Governor Jan Brewer admitted the failure of the agency under her watch.  She stated, “it is evident that our child welfare system is broken, impeded by years of structural and operational failures.”  In May 2014, former Governor Brewer created the Department of Child Safety, a new state agency aimed at improving child welfare in Arizona.  Because the Department of Child Safety is still nascent, it’s hard to measure its success.  What we do know is that at least two foster children have died in the past 48 days.  That’s two too many.

We have a supreme and honorable duty to protect the most vulnerable among us, including Arizona’s foster children.

This past February, the Arizona Center for the Law in the Public Interest filed a class action personal injury lawsuit against the Department of Child Safety and the Department of Health Services for its alleged failures and shortcomings that directly harmed over 17,000 children in Arizona’s foster care system.

Specifically, the lawsuit claimed that Arizona foster children lack access to physical, mental, and behavioral health care, there is a shortage of families willing to adopt foster children, and a failure to adequately investigate foster children mistreated while in foster care custody.  This is another “black-eye” to the State’s child welfare system.  The lawsuit is named Beth K. v. Flanagan and the Arizona class action personal injury lawsuit can be viewed in full at http://www.scribd.com/doc/254608406/Beth-K-v-Flanagan-2-3.  The allegations are shocking.

The Children’s Action Alliance released the following chart, illustrating the dramatic rise in foster children in Arizona.  The results are staggering.  The number of children in Arizona’s foster care system has nearly doubled since 2000.  This underscores the importance of a high functioning child welfare system in Arizona that protects these vulnerable children who want and deserve love, security, and safety.

So, how can the great state of Arizona turn the tables, and become a leader in child welfare?  Perhaps, local law enforcement can work better with the Department of Child Safety to ensure correct matches for foster children. Better investigative practices by the Department of Child Safety are also imperative and arguably more important.  Our lawmakers and bureaucrats need to make this a priority.  Today.  Enough of the politics.  Protect our children.

The case of Cloud Gerhart perfectly illustrates this deficiency.

Before Cloud was even born, authorities were notified that the woman who birthed him (I reserve the term “mother” for the amazing, loving women who deserve it) twice tested positive for marijuana during her pregnancy.  Between the day Cloud was born and the day the State finally removed him from the care of the abuser who birthed him, the State’s child abuse hotline received at least six phone calls notifying the State that Cloud was skinny and hungry while the woman who birthed him drank and smoked marijuana in her filthy, trash-ridden trailer home in Sierra Vista.  In fact, the Department of Child Safety visited the trailer, and apparently believed Cloud was not in harm’s way.  When Cloud was finally removed in September, 2014, the two-year old weighed 17 pounds.  The normal weight for a 2-year old is 24.8 – 28.9 pounds.

We, as a community and State, must do better.  As Arizona personal injury attorneys, we will be fighting for vulnerable children and adults when they are abused and taken advantage of.

Call Torgenson Law to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you know of a child that’s been harmed by another person or entity, call Torgenson Law today.  As Arizona personal injury attorneys, we’ve handled numerous cases involving heinous acts against children and vulnerable adults, and would love to help you and your family.  Our Phoenix injury lawyers will fight to make sure our society’s soul treats children with the love, safety and security they deserve while we hold the victimizers accountable.