After making headlines for claiming without evidence that the Arizona Department of Child Safety is tied to sex trafficking, Sen. David Farnsworth appears to not be backing down from the claim in an interview with controversial outlet The Epoch Times.
“After several months of digging, I am quite confident that there is a connection,” Farnsworth told the website. He did not cite any evidence.
The Epoch Times has been subject of controversy after an investigation by NBC News found it had spent $1.5 million on more than 11,000 pro-Trump ads, more than the President’s own re-election campaign. The website has also been known to post stories about the far right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory.
The story also quotes some other figures with questionable backgrounds.
Watson claims in the story that he has met with Farnsworth two times and has helped get 30 children back from DCS custody since November. That claim not easily verified as DCS rarely gives detailed information on cases due to state law and nuances of how the system operates.
There is no evidence that The Epoch Times tried to verify the figures cited by Watson or others in the story.
The Epoch Times quoted Steve Robinson, who they fail to identify as being a part of the United Liberty Coalition, as saying that DCS does not provide statistical information on child abuse cases. One of the only other sources interviewed is also a member of the United Liberty Coalition which is not mentioned by the author.
The organization, which says it aims “to unite Americans under the love and appreciation of our country and Constitution,” mainly seems to be focused on DCS and voter fraud. Currently, the group is organizing a protest of Child Protective Services in Colorado and its Facebook page contains a multitude of right-leaning posts and stories about the “Deep State”.
Robinson’s comment about DCS not providing statistical information is a partial truth.
DCS does, in fact, provide this information.
State and federal law mandates the agency provide reports monthly on its progress, but those laws also stipulate the types of information which can be released due to privacy laws.
The story also cites an op-ed, stating it was published in AzCentral, however, the link goes to a different story in Newsweek.
The article is correct in stating that “Arizona has not implemented the trafficking-related provisions of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act,” something that was partially discussed during the governor’s task force on child sex abuse.
“I think most knowledgeable adults believe that there is a sex trafficking ring all across the world,” Farnsworth told the outlet.
Farnsworth once again told the outlet that he believes that the numbers he has found back him up, though he has yet to explain those figures.
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 has previously claimed.
According to the non-profit Polaris Project, 1 out of 7 runaway children in 2017 were likely vicitms of sex trafficking.
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 first began making public 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, DCS spokeswoman Cynthia Weiss said.