The Arizona Daily Star brought a lawsuit to compel Arizona’s Child Protective Services (CPS) to disclose records in two cases culminating in the deaths of three children.
In Arizona, as in many states, including Florida, juvenile dependency cases are sealed and confidential.
The problem with that is that it all but eliminates oversight by the legislature and accountability to the public.
When there are deaths or near-deaths of children, some Arizona legislators believe that records should have to be turned over to anyone making a request for them, unless disclosure would impede an investigation. Legislation to implement that policy is pending in Arizona.
More pending legislation would
- make termination of parental rights proceedings and other juvenile dependency proceedings public, unless it would not be in the best interests of the children involved and/or would be harmful to them
- increase files available to police and prosecutors with a court order
- implement new procedures when a child in protective custody goes missing
- provide greater public access to the personnel records of state employees, including CPS employees
Notwithstanding opening of hearings, the proposed legislation prohibits disclosing personal identifying information about children outside the courtroom.
Some legislators fear that too much information will be made public – and haunt the children involved.