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Community shares ideas to improve CPS

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Four hundred people packed into Memorial Hall at Steel Indian School Park in Phoenix Tuesday night for a public forum addressing Arizona's broken Child Protective Services system - following last month's revelation that more than 6,500 reports of abuse had been ignored.

About 50 community members provided suggestions at the event, which was sponsored by Children's Action Alliance and other child advocacy groups.

Four members of the CPS oversight committee were there to listen - including Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, Rep. Debbie McCune Davis and Dana Wolfe Naimark, president of Children's Action Alliance.  

Many of the speakers said CPS not only needs to be reactive, it must also be proactive to help families.

"I think that one of the things that CPS needs to get back to is putting their money into the prevention programs," said Julie Rosen, executive director of CPLC Parenting Arizona. "When we focus on that, we prevent problems from occurring."

Rosen pointed out, in 2009 Arizona slashed funding in half for preventative services and there have been consequences.

"We have over 15,000 children in out of home care, which means they've been removed from their families because the families didn't have the resources to provide a healthy environment for those children," she said.

Victoria Gray is a Phoenix grandmother who is raising six of her grandchildren.

She said she wants CPS to make more of an effort to place children with family members, instead of strangers, and provide services to help them.

"My husband and I are both retired, and we have these children and what do we do with them?" Gray asked. "There's no resources. We have some behavior issues from their (childrens') backgrounds."

Those services cost money, which former CPS case worker Gordon Hall told the crowd the legislature needs to pony up.

"The no. 1 issue to solve CPS problems always comes down to dollars," he said.

Hall also said more money must be spent on bolstering and retaining the CPS workforce.

"Hire more CPS investigators and ongoing workers. Do the proper training and then pay these people the right amount of money," he said.

Another former social worker suggested removing CPS from the Department of Economic Security and then giving the agency its own budget.

The chairman of the independent team, overseeing the investigation of thousands of neglected CPS cases, was also at Tuesday's forum.

Charles Flannigan said he will take every suggestion into consideration.

"We've already been told by the Children's Action Alliance that they're going to provide us all of the documentation, the notes from the meeting, the notes for consideration," he said.

Flannigan said his CARE team hopes to have a website up and running as early as Wednesday where you can track its progress as it reviews those overlooked cases.

He said it's all in the name of transparency and that you'll be able to leave comments and suggestions.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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