Senator cites conspiracy theory in opposing child safety bill

Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

A Mesa Republican cited an unfounded conspiracy theory that “sexual predators” are stealing children from the Arizona Department of Child Safety as a reason for his opposition to a proposal that would mandate schools post information on child abuse and neglect. 

“There are indications that sexual predators are coming in there and stealing these children,” Sen. David Farnsworth said about children in DCS custody. He cited no evidence.

DCS did not return requests for comment.

Farnsworth was the sole vote against Senate Bill 1448, which was approved 29-1 by the Arizona Senate on Thursday. The bill requires all Arizona schools to post a sign in a public area that contains the DCS hotline number for abuse and neglect, instructions to call 911 for emergencies and directions for accessing the DCS website.

Farnsworth has in the past said he believes the agency may be complicit in sex trafficking

“We need to look and make sure these kids being taken into custody are kept safe,” Farnsworth said in the Senate Thursday. He said he was voting against the bill to “increase awareness” around the issue of children in DCS custody that are “not safe.” 

Last year, Farnsworth claimed that the agency had “lost” more than 500 children. However, an Arizona Mirror analysis of the data that Farnsworth was using showed the actual number was less than half that. 

Farnsworth has introduced a series of bills aimed at DCS, including one that would disallow an investigator from considering broken bones as evidence in an investigation unless there is “clear and convincing evidence of corresponding abuse such as bruising or damage to internal organs.”

So far, it appears the majority of Farnsworth’s bills aimed at DCS are dead, as they were assigned to committees but were not heard. Only one bill, Senate Bill 1013, which would make DCS create a semi-annual memo on runaway and missing children, appears to be alive. It is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

SB1448 must be considered by the House and signed by the governor before it can become law.