A Scottsdale man had a large part in getting a new Arizona law passed that requires Child Protective Services to investigate substantiated claims against neglectful parents while they lived in other states and to include reports of a parent’s history with other state child care agencies.
John Gray, father of 4-yearold Haley Gray, who died Sept. 14, 2005, four days after she was found trapped inside her mother’s overheated vehicle naked and choking in her own vomit, pushed to pass SB1158.
It was approved by a 27-0 vote on April 26 and signed by Gov. Janet Napolitano on May 1. Dubbed “Haley’s Law,” it is expected to go into effect in late September, or 90 days after the legislative session ends.
“It was a long, hard road for us,” Gray said of its passage. “We were dealing with the tragedy of Haley dying and trying to understand the system. It’s more of an accountability law than it is anything else. CPS has a broken system, and we won’t stop until there are some serious reforms. They were too late to get those records from Florida to protect Haley.”
Under the law, if a parent is found to be investigated by CPS for neglect issues or had the children taken away from him or her in another state, it will weigh into CPS’ determination of where to place a child.
Gray, 46, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit earlier this year against Arizona, had fought CPS for months to gain the custody of his three children placed in the care of his ex-wife, Celene, 36, also of Scottsdale.
CPS officials said they conduct thorough investigations, but Gray and bill sponsor Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley, contended the agency didn’t do its entire job in Haley’s case.
Celene Gray had the couple’s three children taken away from her three times in Florida and three times in Arizona for various alcohol and drug-related offenses committed around them, according to CPS records obtained by The Tribune last year.
“Peoples’ histories don’t start when they move to Arizona,” Leff said. “To me, it was a common-sense law. We don’t want Arizona to be known as a state where neglectful parents can come to without any bearing on their past history. When CPS is evaluating the safety of a child, they need to know the entire picture.”
John Gray had been incarcerated in Florida for violating a custody order when Celene Gray moved to Arizona with their three children.
When John Gray moved to Arizona from Florida in early 2005, he began fighting CPS for sole custody of his children and told officials his ex-wife had been investigated by Florida officials before she moved to Arizona.
After John Gray sought out Leff to support Haley’s Law, he provided emotional testimony about a little girl who loved to play dress-up and ride her Barbie bike and said she would have flourished if she could have gotten away from his exwife’s lifestyle.
Last month, John Gray was awarded full custody of his two sons, now 7 and 8, by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge.
In the past, Celene Gray, through her attorneys, has declined to be interviewed. Charges of felony child abuse against her in the death of Haley were dropped last summer.
Haley’s Law provisions
• Courts are required to consider substantiated allegations of abuse or neglect committed in other jurisdictions when child dependency proceedings take place.
• Courts are directed to consider this information in the following instances:
• When considering evidence for terminating the parent-child relationship
• At preliminary protective hearings
• At dependency adjudication hearings
• At permanency hearings
SOURCE: Arizona State Senate