PHOENIX (Monday, February 13, 2017) –
The Arizona Republic published an article yesterday that made reference to a recent internal memo sent to all Department of Child Safety (DCS) staff. Here is a copy of the entire memo referenced for those interested:
TO: All Department of Child Safety (DCS) staff
FROM: Director Gregory McKay
DATE: February 3, 2017
SUBJECT: Court Orders
Arizona’s Department of Child Safety (DCS) will pursue the establishment of a process whereby a judge will authorize the temporary removal of children in cases not involving present danger (exigency), and not involving the state’s need to interview or medically evaluate the condition of an alleged victim for a brief, prescriptive time period.
If DCS investigations become overly inhibited, children will be left in unsafe, abusive conditions and poor outcomes will prevail. Although citizens have a Fourth Amendment Constitutional right protecting them from unreasonable search and seizure of their persons, homes, papers, and effects; the government must maintain the ability to assess the safety of children and protect them from harm. In the historic sense, the Fourth Amendment originally enforced the notion that “each man’s home is his castle”, secure from unreasonable searches and seizures of property by the government. But, child victims are witnesses deserving of governmental protection when necessary; they are not the possessions within the “castle.” Children too are afforded constitutional rights to live free from abuse and neglect; thus the decision to take children into temporary custody must be balanced between these two sometimes competing interests. It is of paramount importance to understand the goal of DCS is to protect children, not procure evidence to be used as an aide to criminal prosecution. Although that is at times the byproduct of a joint investigation involving police, it is not the intent of the child welfare agency.
This will not change the Department’s current procedure of taking children into temporary custody because they are unsafe and time is of the essence. In short, if harm will befall a child if there is any delay in providing for their security, emergency temporary custody is authorized.
This will not change the Department’s current procedure as it relates to obtaining an unimpeded interview and/or assessment of an alleged child victim without parental consent.
This will change the Department’s procedure in cases involving children who will be in danger in the foreseeable future if they are not secured. In short, if time permits the relaying of facts to, and the consideration of a judge, a court order will be sought prior to taking temporary custody of a child.
DCS investigators and caseworkers will be the providers of fact when seeking a court order. The Attorney General’s office will continue to engage as the Department’s legal representation under the current construct. In summary, an Assistant Attorney General (AAG) will likely not speak on the Department’s behalf when seeking a court order for temporary custody.
This new process should not create anxiety among DCS staff. This new process will not be implemented until such time that DCS and the courts show readiness to sustain it with fidelity. It should not spark a sentiment that Arizona is trying to confine the necessary taking of children into emergency care. To the contrary, Arizona remains committed to an aggressive approach to keeping children safe, however, seeks to ensure that every removal of a child from a parent is justified and unavoidable. This is merely a way to protect DCS staff while making critical decisions using a consensus based approach with judicial support. That is a benefit to DCS staff, parents, and children. DCS vigilantly protects children and will never deviate from that duty.