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Arizona Department of Child Safety’s (DCS) director, Mike Faust, has issued a handful statements on the COVID-19 pandemic. As recently as April 10, 2020, DCS was not allowing in-person visitation to occur between a parent and their child in DCS custody.
Since COVID-19 forced schools to close, reports of child abuse in Arizona have decreased by about twenty-five percent (25%). At first, this seems like one of the few silver linings of the pandemic (outside of Tiger King and attending business meetings without having to wear pants). However, after 20 years of litigating child abuse and neglect cases, I don’t believe this statistic is cause for celebration.
Imagine you are a juror in a case involving infant abuse. The treating physician testifies that, when the infant arrived in the hospital, she was covered with large bruises. The doctor then states, “The family was awkward, and the father was visibly irritated.” The family also offered no explanation for the infant’s condition. After accurately informing you that accidental bruising is exceedingly rare in infants, the doctor concludes the infant’s bruising is consistent with trauma caused by a severe beating. He adds: “I see this sort of thing every day, and it’s heartbreaking.”
The Boston Globe recently published an important article analyzing every state’s compliance with Federal Child Abuse and Treatment Act of 1974 (“CAPTA”). Shockingly, the article concludes that no State is fully compliant with CAPTA’s requirements. However, Arizonian’s should be especially concerned because Arizona was the ONLY State that refused to share information regarding its CAPTA compliance, calling it “a time consuming, lengthy, non-value added survey.”
Brittany Zamora has garnered nationwide attention for her nefarious sexual relationship with her 13-year-old student. Zamora recently pleaded guilty to several sexual abuse charges and is now facing a lengthy prison sentence. However, a lesser known civil suit also surfaced, claiming Zamora’s school district knew about the abuse months before the parents discovered it and did nothing to intervene. Given a failure to report child abuse constitutes a class 6 felony under Arizona law, we ought to be curious whether the district’s officials could be criminally liable, too.
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