New DCS director explains why he left troubled agency in 2018

Matthew Stewart stepped away from his job at DCS after studying of racial disparities impacting Black households in the Valley. Now, he’s again to steer the agency.

PHOENIX — Changes are coming to Arizona’s Department of Child Safety after Governor-elect Katie Hobbs introduced a brand new director for the agency.

Matthew Stewart will turn into the agency’s first Black director and the fourth particular person to go the agency. DCS was created in 2014 to interchange Child Protective Services which was shut down after years of systemic failures.

Stewart spoke to NBC News in a recent investigation inspecting racial disparities affecting Black households in the Valley.

“Our neighborhood is being stripped of its kids,” Stewart mentioned.

Stewart labored for DCS in quite a lot of roles since 2009, however in 2018, he got here throughout an inside spreadsheet outlining the racial disparity.

The National Academy of Sciences published a study projecting that by the point Black kids in Maricopa County flip 18, there’s a 63% likelihood they may see their mother and father investigated by DCS.

“I’m at an agency who I don’t imagine is treating Black households with justice. I used to be ashamed to be trustworthy,” Stewart mentioned.

So he left. Stewart then based “Our Sister Our Brother,” a nonprofit devoted to reuniting households and stopping pointless removals.

“I’m hopeful that can make a change but it surely actually will take that robust message throughout the state to say that is how we’ll deal with households,” Stewart mentioned in his interview with NBC News.

New DCS director is son of well-known pastor and civil rights activist

Stewart comes from a household that’s no stranger to pushing for change. His father is well-known civil rights activist Dr. Warren Stewart St., the pastor and founding father of First Institutional Baptist Church, which is the oldest Black Baptist church in the Valley.

Stewart Sr. performed an integral position in getting Arizona to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official state vacation.

Child fatality report reveals there may be work to be completed

Stewart could have a full plate when he takes over the historically-embattled agency.

This year’s annual fatality report revealed in 2022 confirmed that 160 kids died allegedly as a consequence of abuse or neglect. Of these 160 deaths, 40% of them had at the very least one prior report with DCS involving the sufferer or the suspect.

Earlier this year, present DCS Director Mike Faust needed to answer to lawmakers after numerous experiences of violence and drug use at foster houses owned by North Star Independent Living Services have been ignored. It led to a teenage resident being shot and killed inside one of many houses.

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