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Brewer Calls For Major Child Safety Reforms In State Of The State Address

Gov. Jan Brewer addressed the Arizona House and Senate during her 2014 State of the State address where she announced the separation of Child Protective Services.
(Photo by Nick Blumberg-KJZZ)
Gov. Jan Brewer addressed the Arizona House and Senate during her 2014 State of the State address where she announced the separation of Child Protective Services.

Gov. Jan Brewer said she has abolished Child Protective Services as we know it and created a new division charged with child safety. In her 2014 State of the State address, Brewer called on the legislature to make the new division a standalone agency. She also called for education and tax reforms.

Monday morning, Gov. Brewer signed an executive order that does away with the division inside the Department of Economic Security that oversaw Child Protective Services. Her order created the new Division of Child Safety and Family Services.

“With its own cabinet-level director who reports to me, and I have asked Charles Flanagan to serve as that director," Brewer said.

Flanagan has served as director of the state Juvenile Corrections department since 2011, and he has been leading the independent team Brewer appointed to investigate thousands of uninvestigated reports of abuse and neglect that came into a Child Protective Services hotline.

“I and our team are absolutely committed to creating systemic change that leaves a positive legacy into the future, just as the governor had requested, (and to) do things that are going to make children in Arizona, particularly these vulnerable children, safer," Flanagan said.

But the governor does not just want to create a new division, she wants lawmakers to go one big step further.

“The time has come to statutorily establish a separate agency that focuses exclusively on the safety and well-being of children and helping families in distress without jeopardizing child safety. I call on the legislature to work with me to codify a new, permanent agency," Brewer said.

“The devil’s in the details, and I just don’t have any of those details right now. None of us do," said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell.

He was optimistic that the changes Brewer outlined can prevent future failures of the child safety system, but he was upset by the surprise announcement.

“If we keep doing things behind closed doors, and keep doing things without talking to each other, it’s going to continue to happen again and again," Campbell said.

Brewer also called for doing away with the tax manufacturers pay on the electricity they use and for a dedicated funding source for the genetic research institute TGen. She announced a plan for a Human Trafficking Council and she said Arizona must prepare its students for an increasingly challenging job market.

“That means we stop funding the status quo, and instead reward innovation and measured outcomes, and fund the results we want," said Brewer.

Brewer wants lawmakers to pass the Student Success Funding model, rewarding schools whose students perform better, and she called for a plan that would freeze an in-state student’s tuition for the four years it should take to get an undergrad degree. Brewer also spent time lauding Arizona’s turnaround, but Campbell said it is easy to claim a surplus of millions when you have slashed education funding.

"I use the analogy all the time, 'If you’re sitting at home and you have a bank account that has $10,000 in it but your roof’s leaking, your car has four flat tires and your kids have no clothes, should you be proud of that $10,000 sitting in your bank account?'"

Monday’s State of the State Address was almost certainly Brewer’s last. Though she has made noise about running for reelection, she is constitutionally ineligible to serve as governor beyond her current term.

Nick Blumberg was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2010 to 2014.