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Arizona child welfare investigators fired for wearing ‘Professional kidnappers’ t-shirts during work hours

The t-shirts were an attempt to mock critics who have long condemned investigators of being biased against parents, alleging that the department removes children from families too easily, with some even accusing it of kidnapping
(Stock Photo/ Getty Images)
(Stock Photo/ Getty Images)

PRESCOTT, ARIZONA: A t-shirt led to the mass firing of several staff members at a child welfare center in Arizona. The mass firing reportedly happened in June at the Department of Child Safety office in Prescott when several of its workers wore pink T-shirts that read “Professional kidnapper” while the message on the back read: “Do you know where your children are?"

The t-shirts were reportedly worn by the employees during work hours that led to the firing. One former staffer who was involved in the incident confirmed the news but declined to reveal their identity. Due to the firing, the department is now reportedly left with only one investigator to handle complaints of child neglect and abuse. According to reports, the t-shirts were an attempt to mock critics' portrayal of DCS. The critics of the agency have long condemned its employees of being biased against parents; they have also alleged that the department removes children from families too easily, with some even accusing it of kidnapping.

But Christina Sanders, a former DCS unit supervisor, did not appreciate the move by the fired workers as she blamed their supervisors for tolerating and even encouraging the behavior. "They think they're so untouchable, they don't think they can get caught," Sanders said. She has also seen the photo of the workers posing in the pink t-shirts and confirmed it shows some of her former co-workers.

One photo, reportedly taken in the parking lot of the DCS Prescott office, showed a number of employees facing the camera while a few others have their backs turned to show the messages on both sides of the T-shirt. All the workers in the snap were wearing face masks given the coronavirus situation; one staffer was also wearing her work badge dangling from her t-shirt.

Claire Louge, executive director of Prescott-based Prevent Child Abuse Arizona, deemed the message on the t-shirts disturbing. “It really illuminates that people in the system are biased against parents,” she said as the message was just opposite to the message that DCS, and groups such as hers, are trying to communicate to the public. Meanwhile, a woman whose child was removed from the family by one of the fired staffers said that the photo left her infuriated. But she did not reveal her identity fearing that it would affect her ongoing case in juvenile court.

In another incident, a former caseworker at Families First Network was given six years in prison for having a sexual relationship with her teenage adopted son. The woman identified as Lauren Michelle Myres helped the nonprofit child protective services agency based in Pensacola and decided to foster the 17-year-old victim, but later adopted him. “After the adoption was finalized, it was discovered that Myres had been having sex with the victim,” First Judicial Circuit State Attorney William Eddins said.

Okaloosa County Chief Assistant State Attorney Bill Bishop said: “Our office recommended a sentence of eight years followed by probation. Ultimately, it was up to the court and that was the sentencing imposed by Judge Jeff Brown. I think based on the facts and circumstances, it was an appropriate sentencing.”