PHOENIX — Arizona's Department of Child Services is having to answer tough questions after the murder of an 18-year-old at a group home on Mountain View Road, operated by North Star on Sept. 1.
Days before the fatal shooting, police removed drugs and confiscated nine guns from the facility.
Records show that six residents were detained by police during the search. One resident, T'revonsay Sales, was taken into custody on an outstanding warrant and released a short time later.
Less than three days later, Sales was shot and killed at the facility.
On Thursday, state lawmakers held a hearing to get answers about what happened at the facility and what is going on with DCS
It isn't all about North Star
Arizona lawmakers heard from Caroline Lautt-Owens, who oversees the Foster Care Review Board.
She says some records to track kids in foster care have errors or missing information.
“About 32 percent we had no available or no accurate information for the placement of caregivers," Lautt-Owens said.
The records are vital to help groups provide an independent review of DCS. Faust is still working out why this has happened and says the system should be better.
Problems at North Star go beyond the murder
Arizona DCS director Mike Faust told state lawmakers that there are hundreds of reports of problems at the facility. Since 2017, police have been called to the block more than 1,000 times.
"This is a larger provider, and there were challenges,” Faust said.
Employees report drugs and weapons were too common on campus. 12News has requested records on the different reports at the facility.
DCS released a limited amount of records, including one incident where an “AR-15 may have been brought” to the facility.
North Star is staying open ... for now
Despite the problems, pressure from lawmakers and the recent murder, North Star is still operational today.
“I could have walked in and said shut them down, done. But does that help the kids?” Faust asked.
While some lawmakers want the facility shut down, Faust redirected many questions to what he calls systemic issues. He said DCS is not designed to handle kids who have escalating criminal behavior.
He reiterated after the hearing to 12News that he believes the residents are safe for now.
“I am at the moment because there is a super high level of vigilance and watching to make sure we are engaging with them. The key is, is that sustainable?” Faust said.
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