DETROIT (AP) - An audit of Michigan's Children's Protective Services cites numerous deficiencies in the system that has been under court oversight for 12 years.
The scathing report released Thursday by the state Office of the Auditor General found the agency failed to launch and complete investigations within required timeframes, and didn't complete criminal history checks.
Other deficiencies cited include: failing to complete face-to-face interactions with alleged child victims in a timely manner; not referring investigations to prosecutors; and not accurately assessing a child's risk of harm.
The agency agreed with most findings. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, of which CPS is part, said in a statement it takes the report "very seriously" and recognizes it "can and must improve."
The department must submit a compliance plan within two months.
"We have about 90,000 child abuse and neglect complaints that come in every year," said Bob Wheaton, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. "We take the findings of the audit very seriously and we understand that we do need to make improvements."
The office of auditor general finding CPS investigators did not complete required criminal history checks for over 50 percent of the investigations reviewed, that CPS did not refer investigations to the county prosecuting attorney - as required - for 50 percent of reviewed investigations.
"A lot of it has to do with training our workers and making sure our workers know all the policies as far as what steps need to be completed in the investigation," Wheaton said. "We've been making upgrades to the computer system that we use for tracking those protective services cases. That system has improved greatly over the last several years - we did have issues with that system that were identified and we've been fixing."
CPS came under fire for failing to protect the children in some highly publicized cases from that time period of the audit - the case of Mitchell Blair accused of severely abusing all four of her children - killing two of them and hiding their bodies in a freezer.
There was also the murder of 3-year-old Jamila Smith for which her mother and her mother's boyfriend are now in prison.
"We certainly recognize that we can do better and there's some corrective actions that need to be taken," Wheaton said. "But we also believe that we have workers who really care about children and are passionate about doing right by these children."
In a statement Gov. Rick Snyder acknowledged the good people trying to protect children but called the findings unacceptable and said he is committed to making improvements that will help DHHS focus on Michigan's kids.