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

By: - October 7, 2019 3:30 pm

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. 

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joined the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.