2/10/14: County Child Protective Services, Health Care Providers Join Forces

Modified: January 23, 2015 2:58pm

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County Reaches Agreements with Kaleida, Catholic Health to Locate CPS Workers at Women & Children’s, Sisters of Charity Hospitals

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and Erie County Commissioner of Social Services Carol Dankert-Maurer announced agreements with Kaleida Health and Catholic Health to allow Child Protective Services (“CPS”) employees to be stationed at Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo and Sisters of Charity Hospital. Under the new partnerships, CPS employees assigned to these hospitals will investigate allegations of abuse and neglect that originate from those facilities, providing hospital staff faster access to CPS expertise while streamlining and expediting the investigation process.

“Everyone in our community has an important role to play in protecting our children. With these agreements, my administration is expanding that protection through new partnerships with those who are often the first responders to cases of abuse,” said Poloncarz. “Medical providers are an invaluable community partner in this endeavor, as they are often the first to suspect a child may be injured due to abuse or neglect. By joining Erie County in this critical collaboration, Catholic Health and Kaleida Health are reaffirming their strong commitment to families in our community.”

Under the agreements, Kaleida and Catholic Health will provide space, furniture and equipment for the CPS employees at no cost to Erie County taxpayers. Two full-time CPS case workers will be on-site at the two hospitals Monday-Friday during normal business hours, providing real-time access to CPS expertise for staff after a report has been made to the State Child Abuse Hotline and a case number has been issued.

Commissioner of Social Services Carol Dankert-Maurer added, “There are approximately 1,000 allegations of abuse and neglect made from these medical facilities each year. Allegations made by mandated reporters, such as medical providers, are more likely than other allegations to result in a determination that there is credible evidence that the child was abused or neglected. Placing CPS employees in hospitals will improve investigations by allowing employees immediate access to medical records after receiving the referral from the State Child Abuse Hotline.”

Case workers will be employees of Erie County limited to working on referred reports of abuse and neglect stemming from cases occurring in the county, and cannot assist in cases with reports not assigned to Erie County. The Erie County Department of Social Services will provide an emergency contact for situations when the CPS worker is not on-site, and will ensure that all applicable screening processes for each health care partner are completed satisfactorily by the assigned CPS workers.

“As a community, we all share the responsibility to protect area children from abuse and neglect,” said Peter Bergmann, President & CEO of Sisters of Charity Hospital. “We welcome Child Protective Services to Sisters Hospital and thank Erie County for providing this valuable resource to our physicians and staff.”

Dr. Paula Mazur, Emergency Room Physician at Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo and Associate Professor of Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Child Abuse Pediatrics, University of Buffalo said, "The addition of a Child Protection Worker to our staff at the Women & Children's Hospital is testament to Erie County's commitment to the safety and well-being of our children in Western New York.  Close collaboration between CPS and Children's Hospital is the key to a successful outcome of a child abuse investigation."                   

The new agreement with Kaleida Health and Catholic Health is the latest step on a continuum as Erie County continues to work to better protect children and families, and follows a number of ways the county has acted in recent months to proactively address the issue of child abuse in the community. A reorganization of the Department of Social Services that included hiring more CPS workers took place in 2013 and increased the focus on protecting children. The department has also improved its child protection training, revamped its quality-control procedures and equipped its employees with enhanced technology. Additionally, an agreement in 2013 with Say Yes Buffalo and other partners placed Social Services’ and Mental Health staff in Buffalo Public Schools to make vital services more easily available to students and families.

"Society has a duty to protect all children. Every child deserves to grow and thrive in an environment free from trauma so that their development starting from birth can be nurtured to the fullest. Having a CPS worker dedicated to WCHOB will strengthen the relationship between physicians, the healthcare community and CPS by providing for an intense collaborative relationship where critical information can be shared confidentially,” added Dr. Stephen Turkovich, Pediatric Hospitalist, Quality & Patient Safety Medical Officer, & Co-Medical Director Newborn Nursery, Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo and Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, University of Buffalo. “Together we will make every investigation more robust and complete. Ultimately this will ensure that children are placed in an environment that will maximize their potential, keep them safe, and provide the necessary supports for both them and their caregivers."