Legislator calls for more DCS oversight

Posted: Updated:

An Arizona legislator says there are not clear rules that spell out the conditions under which the state can remove children from your custody.

State Rep. Kelly Townsend, R - Mesa, is calling for more oversight and accountability at the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

Now 16-month-old Hannah Osceola suffered a terrible seizure in February of 2014 when she was just 7 months old. Her mother, Shawna Green rushed her to the hospital for treatment.

Just two hours later, police officers and a DCS specialist descended on the emergency room and announced to Green that not only was the state taking custody of Hannah, they were going to her home to remove her other three kids from custody as well.

"I was thinking, what happened? What did I do?" said Green.

Doctors noted evidence of a possible rib fracture to Hannah and reported it to the authorities. It turns out that what doctors saw was a rib deformity from a surgery Hannah had at 4 months old.

"I provided all the evidence. I don't know why they would do that," said Green.

It took 16 days and an experienced attorney for Green to get her kids back.

Townsend is proposing a law that would force DCS to set up clear policies that spell out what has to happen before a child is removed from the home.

DCS Director Charles Flanagan told CBS5 last week there's a backlog of more than 13,000 cases the agency is combing through.

He also expressed concern about an apparent lack of direction for the agency's investigative specialists.

"One of the biggest problems is they don't have the supervision, mentorship and leadership they need. Why is that? Because our supervisors are overwhelmed and they're carrying full caseloads," said Flanagan.

When asked for comment on the proposed legislation, a DCS spokesperson provided CBS5 with the following statement:

The Department's standard practice is for the Specialist to consult with their supervisor or supervisor's designee prior to serving a Temporary Custody Notice. DCS policy does allow for Specialists to remove a child without prior consultation with their supervisor in emergency situations where that is not possible, in order to ensure there is no delay in protecting the child. In such a situation, the Specialist is required to notify their supervisor within two hours of the removal.

Copyright 2015 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.