BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - The murder of 5-year-old Eain Brooks and other recent cases has many politicians calling for changes at Child Protective Services in Erie County.
County Executive Mark Poloncarz has been out front in calling for full investigations into CPS, specifically how the Brooks' case was handled.
Poloncarz said, “A 5-year-old boy is dead and as much as I'd like to jump into a time machine and bring him back, I can't do that because it's impossible. But what I can do, is make sure we're providing the best care and service for the children in this community because the children come first.”
Police say Brooks was killed by his mother's boyfriend, 26-year-old Matthew Kuzdzall. Brooks' family said they called their CPS caseworkers 10 times in a two month period, but nothing was done.
After receiving a letter from Senator Tim Kennedy, the New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) is responding by investigating Erie County CPS. Commissioner Gladys Carrion said OCFS is, “Conducting an immediate safety assessment on all open CPS cases to make sure proper protections are in place.”
They will review the next 200 cases done by Erie County CPS before allowing them to be closed, to make sure an investigation was done properly.
Poloncarz says it's a good start, but reviewing the next 200 cases isn't as large as it seems.
Poloncarz said, “200 is probably the current case load, which will get them through one week. So it's not as large as people think. Remember, in 2012, there were over 9,800 children that CPS had involvement with.”
The state is also suspending the Family Assessment Response (FAR) program. For the past five years, CPS has contracted with an organization called New Directions in Amherst. Three case workers would take around 100 cases a year involving children not showing up for school and speak to families in a less intimidating way.
The FAR program has no unannounced visits.
"The use of it has been flawed here in Erie County," Sen. Kennedy said. "It ensures that the family is interviewed first, so that the child is potentially manipulated by the family."
The original mission of the FAR program was to reduce the workload of CPS workers by diverting non-violent, school-related cases to the FAR program.
Poloncarz said, "But after the Abdi matter, we decided we wanted to get out of the FAR program. So we started reducing the number of cases that were in FAR to the point now where I believe there are only nine cases [left]."
The county executive adds the program has been removed from next year's budget.
Poloncarz also warns caseworkers will be held more accountable going forward.
“If a Child Protective Services worker missed something, they need to be held accountable, which means they need to be terminated. I don't want that person working in county government,” said Poloncarz.
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