There have been recent articles and interviews regarding the newly enacted Court Authorized Removal process that imply that DCS is removing children from their homes without court approval.
Some of the statements have been misleading and we wish to clarify our work for the public who places their trust in us to care for Arizona’s most vulnerable children and families.
In a November 26 interview with KJZZ, a reporter stated that prior to enactment of the Court Authorized Removal law, removal decisions rested solely with the child welfare investigator. This is not and has never been the case. All child removals have always, and still require, a thorough case review and approval by the investigator’s supervisor prior to DCS making a removal decision.
Additionally, in all instances, when a child is removed from their home, whether by the new Court Authorized Removal system or under exigent circumstances, DCS has a time constraint of 72 hours to file a petition with the juvenile court outlining the maltreatment that has occurred and why it is necessary for DCS to take custody of the child. When the judge signs the petition, we only have temporary custody at that time. The preliminary hearing in the case is then set within 5 to 7 working days where the court will determine if continued DCS custody is necessary.
A removal under exigent circumstances varies depending on each case’s unique circumstances. But the statutory reason covering exigent circumstances remains the same: there isn’t enough time to get in front of a judge before harm will come to a child.
Examples of exigent removals include such cases as crime scenes where parent(s) are killed or arrested, motor vehicle accidents where adults are hospitalized and time is needed to find family members to care for the children, or when children are abandoned with no parent or family member immediately available to care for them.
While the newly enacted Court Authorized Removal process involves the courts in our decision-making process prior to the removal of a child, it does not replace the long-standing legal requirement that we file a petition with the juvenile court within 72-hours of removing a child.
Within this 72-hour window, DCS must present all child removal cases, whether a Court Authorized Removal is in place or not, to a judge for confirmation of the removal decision or return the children.