Senator’s ‘lost’ foster child claims don’t reflect DCS statistics

A Republican senator claims that the Arizona Department of Child Safety has “lost” more than 550 children, but data reported on a monthly basis by the child welfare agency shows the actual number of missing children to be far lower. 

Sen. David Farnsworth, a Republican from Mesa, made headlines for claiming that many of those supposedly missing children are being sold as sex slaves in a global sex trafficking cabal

Farnsworth claimed that he came to that conclusion after investigating how the agency “lost” 551 children last year, even though he admitted to another news outlet that he had discovered no evidence relating to where the children were or whether they were, indeed, being trafficked for sex.

Farnsworth would not speak with Arizona Mirror about his claims when contacted by phone. 

“I think you’ve covered it quite thoroughly. I don’t think I’ll give you more ammunition to smear me,” he said Oct. 4 before abruptly ending the conversation. 

DCS spokeswoman Cynthia Weiss told the Mirror that agency staff met with Farnsworth Sept. 26 to explain its data to him. She said DCS has not heard from the senator since that meeting. 

DCS’s most recent monthly operational and outcome report sets the number of children who are missing from state care at 43. If runaways are included, that number rises to 232 – less than half of what Farnsworth claimed. 

Missing children are distinguished differently from runaways in agency data. Missing children are generally abducted from state care, most often by a parent or other family member. 

The figure Farnsworth cited when he spoke with Yellow Sheet Report, a high-priced insider newsletter aimed at lobbyists and government officials that was the first to write about Farnsworth’s accusations about DCS, also included a category called “No ID placement.” 

That category relates to foster care situations where paperwork is still being worked on and the agency is waiting on it to be completed. Oftentimes, the child is in the care of an extended relative, and the agency always knows where that child is while the paperwork is finished, Weiss said. In Farnsworth’s figures, the “No ID placement” category accounted for 206 children, or roughly 40 percent of the total he alleged were “lost” by DCS.

DCS’s data on children is continually updated to reflect a moment-in-time count of how many children are missing or have run away, in accordance with state and federal law, Weiss said. 


  1. It’s not that the numbers are wrong. If children are missing, then the State of
    Arizona needs to find them. However, the issue does beg the question, “where did the good Senator get his numbers and the fate of the supposed children he was talking about?” In terms of the difference between the good Senator’s numbers and the actual numbers reported by DCS, why the difference?

    The good Senator needs to provide a source for his claims.

    I’m sorry but having survived conservative fear mongering and conspiracy theories, I feel I’m owed more than just his outspoken claims.

  2. I’m confused on this issue.

    Does the State have 43, 206, 232, 551, or 1 victims here? Rather than hide, the good Senator needs to come out with a reconciled discussion on the 43 missing and 232 runaway children. The imbalance of 206 children being lost, stolen, or in runaway status also needs further discussion. The 1 victim’s status in the Senate is known. DCS and the good Senator have an accountability problem in terms of what is being done.

    Finally how did the fate of the children get injected by the Senator into the discussion? Being trafficked for sex is far too clear of a claim to hang up the phone for fear of being smeared. The good Senator owes every parent in this state more discussion on that claim. Sex trafficking is a felony and withholding that information could be seen as a felony too.

  3. I agree with Mr. Durham’s comments with the exception of calling Mr. Farnsworth a “good” senator. Good senators don’t fabricate stories to sensationalize their conspiracy belief systems. Good senators don’t fictionalize data and twist numbers perversely. Fear mongering serves no purpose but to rile up one’s political base of like thinkers. I would hope that the majority of voters in that district recognize such behavior come the 2020 elections.

    • This story makes it clear that 275 children went missing from AZ custody last year (232+43). Do you know of some happy and safe place where runaway children go when they disappear from group homes? If these children are alive, they are in grave danger. How can you hear this news and think about politics, rather than thinking about the safety of hundreds of children?


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