ERIE COUNTY, NY— The Department of Social Services has been working diligently to improve its child protective response. As more has been asked of workers, most have performed very well, while some have not. As a result, a number of workers have not been allowed to pass probationary training, have been reprimanded, suspended and discharged. In the past 12 months, there have been 33 disciplinary actions in Child Protective Services, including five terminations and nine suspensions. County Executive Poloncarz will continue to insist that only those qualified and ready to fully perform their duties be in positions of trust in the Department of Social Services. It is equally important that meaningful solutions be put in place.
A worker involved in a recent case, after having received a number of lesser disciplinary actions, was suspended without pay prior to the death of the child for failing to meet the standards of the department in a large number of cases. That worker’s cases were reassigned to other workers for immediate follow-up. Starting on the first day of the suspension, children were visited. The deceased child was scheduled to be seen on the second day of the worker’s suspension. Tragically the child was murdered by his mother in the early morning hours of the day the visit was scheduled.
As with previous cases, my administration is conducting a thorough review to determine if additional changes are necessary. Making a scapegoat of any single individual will not improve the Department, nor will it better protect children from harm. The loss of any child’s life is a tragedy, especially one taken in a violent manner. Our focus remains on preventing similar tragedies from occurring in the future.