Crimes against children fall under the criminal code, but most states also have agencies specifically designed to come to the aid of those children long before an abuser can be tried and convicted. In Arizona, this agency is called Child Protective Services. Under Title 8, Chapter 10, Article 1 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, CPS is obligated to investigate every report of a potentially abused or neglected child and is empowered to immediately remove that child from a harmful home.
Anyone can call CPS if she feels that a child is endangered. However, under Arizona's Abuse Reporting Law, it is actually a crime for professionals such as doctors, nurses and teachers to not make a report to CPS or the police if they have reason to believe that a child is being harmed.
What Defines Abuse?
Specific actions are defined under 201 of Title 8. This list not only addresses willful acts of aggression or physical harm against a child, but it also includes the offense of turning a blind eye to that abuse–for instance, if your spouse is abusing your child but you do nothing about it.
Rights of CPS
Arizona law allows CPS caseworkers to speak with a child suspected of being abused without his parent being present. CPS may also question the parent suspected of abuse without an attorney present. Agency representatives are not required to tell him that they can and will contact the police if the abuse is “substantiated” or believed to have happened. If CPS decides that abuse has occurred, they are within their rights to remove the child from the home immediately.
Rights of Parents
When CPS receives an allegation of child abuse, the first thing it must do is contact the accused parent to set up an interview. According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security, the parent has the right to refuse to be interviewed by CPS, but this does not prevent CPS from moving forward with its investigation.
If CPS removes a child from his home, the parent must be served with a temporary custody notice telling him why. This notice will include information regarding a preliminary protective hearing, which is the next step in the process. CPS is allowed 24 hours to notify the parent of the date and location of the preliminary protective hearing. If the parent admits the allegations at this hearing, a judge will declare the child to be “dependent,” meaning that he is placed under the care of the state. If the parent denies the allegations, the matter will be scheduled for an initial dependency hearing, where a judge will decide whether to declare the child dependent. Reunification of the parent with the child is the goal of the state, but once a child has been dependent for a period of a year with no progress made toward reunification, the law requires that an initial permanency hearing be held in order to permanently place him in the home where he’s been living.