A House panel voted Thursday to make it more difficult for Child Protective Services to take a youngster from a home after a Mesa legislator testified that some caseworkers lie.
The measure would require the agency to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” to a court it was necessary to remove a child. That is more difficult to prove than the current requirement to show a “preponderance of the evidence” the child is the victim of abuse or neglect.
And SB1430 would require CPS to make “all reasonable efforts” to inform parents of their rights before taking a child.
Sen. Karen Johnson, RMesa, said the changes are necessary because of what she sees as some overzealous caseworkers.
“The fact that the mere work of a caseworker is the only actual proof needed to remove a child and place them in foster care is alarming,” she said.
Johnson said there is evidence that caseworkers misrepresent information and actually file false reports.
Johnson told the Judiciary Committee some caseworkers distort facts “to paint a parent negatively before a court.” The result of taking a child, she said, can end up causing more emotional and physical harm to children than leaving them home.
CPS lobbyist Herschella Horton said real harm could come from the requirement that caseworkers make efforts to find and notify parents before taking a child.
She said that presents not only practical problems when a child is found abandoned but also could work against a youngster’s interests and hamper investigations.
The House Judiciary Committee wasn’t the only one place where CPS found itself under legislative scrutiny Thursday.
Members of the House Select Committee on Government Operations, Performance and Waste grilled agency officials over whether CPS was keeping files on women who voluntarily gave up their newborns under a 2001 “safe haven” law.
That statute permits women to leave infants at locations such as hospitals and fire stations without identifying themselves and without facing prosecution for child abandonment.
It was approved as an alternative to young women leaving newborns in bathrooms and trash containers.
Janice Mickens, program administrator for CPS, assured legislators there are no files. And she said her agency did not attempt later to find the 11 women who have so far given up their children.