/ Modified may 5, 2014 6:11 p.m.

CPS Reform Work Begins at AZ Capitol

Lawmakers are meeting with staff to draft legislation to create a new child welfare agency.

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Members of the Arizona Legislature’s Republican leadership are meeting this week with legislative staff to prepare for a special session to overhaul the state’s child welfare agency.

Leaders are meeting with legislative counsel, the staff attorneys who help them write constitutional bills, to get ready for an eventual formal debate about how to remake a child welfare system, said Chris Leone, a spokesman for the Arizona House Republicans.

The task looms after a series of missteps by the former Child Protective Services agency in recent years that led to un-investigated cases of child abuse and neglect, and allegations of mishandled cases.

Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson) wants the overhaul to include restoration of some funding for things that can prevent child abuse and neglect, he said, including help for low-income families to pay for daycare.

“Things like child care subsidies are so very important. I think as you move more people to a state of independence, giving them the support they need, you’re going to see the cases of neglect reduce,” Orr said.

It is short sighted not to fund those programs, he said, because they end up saving the state money.

Sen. Anna Tovar, (D-Tolleson), the Senate minority party leader, said funding for child care and preventive care would help.

"We can't essentially move this agency to a new building, put some paint on it and have new caseworkers and expect it to run efficiently," she said. "There needs to be monumental changes to this agency to ensure that our children, our most vulnerable children, that this never happens to them again."

No date has been set for the special session in which lawmakers will debate, and then decide, the details of a new child welfare agency.

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