PHOENIX (Tuesday, March 29, 2016) – The Arizona Attorney General’s office issued a formal opinion yesterday upholding the Department of Child Safety’s (DCS) longstanding policy of interviewing children without parental notice in instances of neglect. The opinion overrides a decision reached earlier this year by the Arizona Ombudsman-Citizen Aide Office.
The Department of Child Safety’s policy of interviewing children without parental notice when abuse is alleged was never in question. The issue revolved around the term “neglect” and whether DCS had the same legal authority when neglect is suspected.
The formal opinion “explicitly rejects the conclusions reached in the Report of the Ombudsman-Citizens’ Aide,” noting that the Ombudsman “failed to consider the statutory context or the plain language of the provisions contained in the internal cross-references, which calls into question the hyper-technical textual analysis.”
Child neglect is the most prevalent form of child abuse in the United States. According to Director Gregory McKay, the legal definition of neglect is often misunderstood. While it includes unreasonable risk of harm due to lack of food, clothing, and shelter, in its’ most severe form it is a failure to protect children from serious maltreatment, such as sexual abuse by someone other than the parents in the home, drug abusing parents, and drug exposed children.
“We take our responsibility to protect children very seriously and the Ombudsman ruling would have significantly compromised it," McKay said. "We need to delicately balance the rights of parents with the rights of child victims to disclose without inhibition; in the end, we must protect all people by exercising due diligence and good faith."