Welcome to the Department of Social Services
Rath County Office Building
95 Franklin Street
Buffalo, NY 14202
Carol Dankert-Maurer, Commissioner of Social Services
HEAP is Now Open
To Apply online go to www.mybenefits.ny.gov
Any Erie County resident without utility service must apply in person
Assistance with electricity that is not the main heating source is not available until January 2, 2014
Questions about the Erie County HEAP program may be directed to the HEAP hotline at 858-7644
There are a number of HEAP Outreach Sites scheduled throughout the County. Click the link below for dates, times and
Mandated Reporting Information
ECDSS is complying with new regulations set forth as part of the NYS Protection of People with Special Needs Act. These rules were made effective June 30 and impact the areas of Youth Detention, Child Welfare, Adult Protective Services, and Foster and Adoptive care. Youth Detention workers must sign a Code of Conduct annually.
The newly created Justice Center for the Protection of Persons with Special Needs is responsible for all investigations involving abuse and neglect in state-licensed facilities. If wrongdoing occurs and is observed at such sites, Mandated Reporters must notify the Vulnerable Persons Central Register (VPCR) by calling 1-855-373-2122 or complete a form on the Justice Center website at http://www.governor.ny.gov/Justice4SpecialNeeds/home. For more information on the Justice Center, call 1-518-549-0200.
Additionally, suspected mistreatment of children in foster or day care- as well as in family or boarding homes- must be reported to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment by calling 1-800-635-1522. All reports must be made within 24 hours of the incident occurring.
Click here to view ECDSS Informational Handbook
Initiative: Addressing Human Trafficking of Minors
The Erie County Department of Social Services has partnered with the International Institute of Buffalo (IIB) through a New York State Office of Children and Family Services initiative called the Safe Harbor Plan. The initiative is designed to build a localized response to child trafficking under the state-wide “Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act” that was passed by the NYS Legislature in 2008 to redirect exploited children from the criminal or juvenile justice systems to the family courts. Once there, the children and their families can receive support and services from the child welfare system.
In addition, as part of the plan, services will be provided to victims of sex trafficking. Such items include case management, emergency temporary housing, health care, mental health counseling, language interpretation and translation services, job training, and services to assist in establishing a permanent residence. Erie County was one of five counties in NYS to receive funding for related services and was awarded a grant of $124,444 to use toward identified service components. Elements of the grant include enhancing community awareness, training and identification, housing, case management and advocacy.
Over the next several months, a campaign across Erie County will promote public awareness of sexual exploitation and human trafficking, with information being posted on billboards, buses, subways and bus shelters. ECDSS will work collaboratively with IIB as well as the International Office For Adolescents (IOFA) to conduct training for staff and external partners in Erie County. The IIB will create a brief training video to be utilized by all new DSS caseworkers as part of employment Orientation.
Human trafficking is described as a form of modern slavery in which perpetrators profit monetarily through the exploitation of others. Victims of human trafficking include individuals who are male or female, U.S. citizens or foreign born, and victimized through labor or sexual exploitation. Any individual under the age of 18 whose story reveals one or more of the following indicators may be a trafficked minor and therefore will benefit from a thorough screening:
- Having no access to identification documents
- Being involved in an abusive relationship with an older partner
- Having no cohesive story of the whereabouts of their parents or guardians
- Being a run-away
- Displaying signs of trauma
- Not knowing the address of where they live or work
- Lacking detail regarding their immigration to the U.S.
The recruiting or moving stage typically starts the human trafficking process, followed by the captivity stage in which a victim encounters force, fraud or coercion. The “End” portion of the process includes the victim being monetarily exploited through means of involuntary servitude, debt bondage or sex trade.
Places of human trafficking of minors can include:
- Commercial Sex Industry
- Bars and Cantinas
- Private Properties
- On the Streets, through peddling or prostitution
For more information regarding the issue of human trafficking of minors, or to report a case of possible exploitation, call the International Institute of Buffalo’s Trafficking Victim Services at (716) 883-1900, extension 323.
We envision a community where children, adults and families are healthy and safe and enjoy a quality life. As a responsive and efficient organization, we seek to continually engage the community in defining the role of Social Services.
To engage people in need and provide a broad range of efficient and effective assistance and services with community partners to facilitate a brighter future for the people of Erie County.
Most Frequently Requested Telephone Numbers
Report Welfare Fraud
Guide to Applying for Benefits