DCS Director David Lujan Takes Action to Right Errors in Child Welfare System

News Release

August 22, 2023

This was originally posted on August 21, 2023.

Department Asks Courts to Postpone Trials and Hearings for Two Weeks

Phoenix, AZ– Only months into the job, Department of Child Safety Director David Lujan has discovered a flaw in the Department’s data system, Guardian, that could potentially impact cases in the child welfare system.

“As a social worker, protecting our most vulnerable children is a top priority of my administration and I’m proud that Director Lujan is taking swift action to right the wrongs of the previous administration,” said Governor Katie Hobbs. “The mistakes made are unacceptable, and I am devastated for any family and child who may have been affected. Moving forward, my administration will do everything in its power to fix this egregious error.”

“Safeguarding the due process rights of all families impacted by the child welfare system is an immediate goal for me and my leadership team,” said Department Director David Lujan. “Urgently rectifying any harm that was caused by this system flaw is the top priority of the Department right now, and we will fully cooperate with our attorneys and the courts until every document has been disclosed.”

After its implementation in February 2021, the Guardian system prevented records from being directly uploaded into a casefile by providers, such as social workers. Instead, the previous administration required case manager review and approval for documents to be uploaded, allowing a substantial backlog of provider documents to build.

Moving forward, Director Lujan has changed this system to allow documents to be uploaded to case files directly by providers. Additionally, the Department is working with the Children’s Bureau, the Auditor General, and the Department of Administration to eliminate any further design flaws.

Out of an abundance of caution, today, on behalf of the Department of Child Safety, the Attorney General’s Office asked courts to postpone any trial or evidentiary hearing for the next two weeks to ensure the Department discloses previously unapproved documents to the court. A preliminary search of the data shows that 596 open juvenile court cases have 1,867 unapproved documents associated with them. 139 closed cases that resulted in adoptions have an associated 252 documents, and 515 closed cases that resulted in guardianships have an associated 1,962 documents.

Additionally, the Attorney General’s Office will review all documents in closed cases that resulted in an outcome other than family reunification, to ensure that all documents were disclosed.

In the event a document was not disclosed, the Attorney General’s Office will assess if the document could have impacted the outcome of the case and seek any necessary remedy from the courts. The Attorney General’s Office will provide the same review for any case currently on appeal.


Read letter to courts below.