Arizona Leads the Way: Why Mandatory Recordings for Child Protection Interviews are Long Overdue

In a historic move, Arizona has taken a significant step towards enhancing child protection with the passage of HB2402 by the House Health and Human Services Committee with unanimous agreement today. This groundbreaking legislation, spearheaded by Rep. Matt Gress, marks the first of its kind in the nation to mandate the recording of all child interviews conducted by Child Protective Services (CPS) – also known as the Department of Child Safety (DCS) or similar names in various states. Ascend has been working behind the scenes for years to see this legislation come to fruition, and we are grateful to advocate for this important change on behalf of Street Grace.

The importance of this legislation cannot be overstated, as it addresses crucial aspects of child welfare and protection. By requiring mandatory recordings of all CPS/DCS interviews, Arizona is setting a precedent for accountability and transparency in child welfare practices. This measure ensures that every interaction with a child in need is documented, providing a crucial layer of protection for vulnerable children.

But why is this amendment so significant, and how does it relate to the broader issue of child trafficking and abuse prevention?

First and foremost, statistics reveal the staggering prevalence of children who come into contact with CPS. In the United States, an alarming 37.4% of children will undergo CPS interviews before they reach the age of 18. These initial interviews are often traumatic for children and should be treated with the utmost accountability. By mandating recordings of these interviews, Arizona is taking proactive steps to ensure that every child’s voice is heard and respected.

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, shining a spotlight on the urgent need to protect children from exploitation and trafficking. Tragically, children are often the primary targets of traffickers, with 60% of trafficking victims having experienced the foster care system at some point. With CPS serving as the gatekeeper to foster care and child removals, mandatory recordings of all interviews can serve as a critical tool in identifying and preventing trafficking situations.

Moreover, the implementation of mandatory recordings can significantly increase the identification rate of trafficking victims. Currently, the identification rate for human trafficking victims stands at a shockingly low 0.4%. By documenting all interactions with vulnerable children, Arizona’s legislation has the potential to uncover cases of trafficking that may otherwise go unnoticed.

The Department of Justice has long recognized the importance of recording interrogations, and many state law enforcement agencies require police body cameras for accountability purposes. Additionally, Child Advocacy Centers throughout the US consider recordings of child interviews standard best practice.

In the realm of child protection, the need for accountability measures such as mandatory recordings is long overdue. Every child deserves to have their voice heard and their rights protected, especially when they are in vulnerable situations. Secret interviews are unsafe and not only compromise the safety of children but also undermine the integrity of the child welfare system as a whole.

Arizona’s pioneering legislation sets a powerful example for other states to follow in prioritizing the safety and well-being of children. By ensuring that every interaction with CPS/DCS is recorded, Arizona is taking a proactive stance against child trafficking and abuse. In the fight to protect children from harm, transparency and accountability are paramount. With mandatory recordings for child protection interviews, Arizona is leading the way towards a safer and more secure future for all children.

Reflecting on a Year of Growth and Collaboration: Partnering for Impact in 2023
Take Action: the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act – Introduced this week