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Arizona Lawmakers Push Bill Raising Qualifications Of Child Welfare Director

Arizona Capitol
(KJZZ file photo)
Arizona Capitol in Phoenix.

Several Democratic lawmakers want to raise the qualifications necessary to run Arizona’s child welfare agency. The proposal lays out what experience a director would need for the job. 

The legislation is being backed by 19 Democratic lawmakers. It would require the director of the Department of Child Safety to have a graduate degree in social work or a closely related field and minimum levels of child welfare management experience. According to current law, the director must have qualifications and training to manage the department. Also, the director must have administrative experience in family support services. 

Tim Schmaltz is president of the Arizona chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Last month the group called for new leadership at DCS.  

Schmaltz said he hopes the law is changed so that "in the future we won’t have a leadership team like this that is learning on the job." 

The department declined to comment. The current DCS director, Greg McKay, wouldn’t meet the proposed qualifications. He has 20 years of law enforcement experience and is a former foster parent, but does not have a college degree. 

State representative and social worker Rebecca Rios is one of the bill’s sponsors. 

“Our Department of Child Safety is in chaos,” she said. “The responsibility lies at the top, that means the governor and who the governor chooses to appoint to run that agency.” 

The bill hasn’t yet been assigned to a committee, an essential first step for it to become law. Governor Doug Ducey’s office said in a statement he’s focusing on meaningful reform that will keep Arizona kids safe. 

Arizona has legal requirements for directors of other state agencies. For example:

  1. Department of Health Services director must have an educational background that prepares the director for administrative responsibilities and health related experience.
  2. Department of Corrections director must have administrative experience in adult correctional programs.
  3. Attorney general must be a practicing attorney for at least five years prior to taking office.
Alexandra Olgin was a Senior Field Correspondent at KJZZ from 2013 to 2016.