BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Two little boys with tragic stories are fueling calls for change within Child Protective Services. Friday afternoon, two local lawmakers announced their proposals to help reform and strengthen CPS.
State lawmakers will push for the passage of six new bills, to change the way CPS operates. Many of the ideas for these changes came from the community at a hearing last November, following the highly publicized killings of Abdifatah Mohamud and Eain Brooks.
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “If we have systems set up to protect children, then these systems need to work to protect children. And clearly, they are not working in Erie County; if they were, we would not have had the experiences that we have had.”
Under the proposed changes:
- CPS workers and supervisors would be required to have a degree in social work, or a background in human services.
- CPS would need to follow up with mandated reporters, such as teachers or physicians, within 30 days to let them know the outcome of child abuse investigations.
- Excessive corporal punishment would be legally redefined as abuse.
It’s a change the family of Jay-J Bolvin, who was severely beaten by his father as an infant, has been seeking for years.
Jay-J’s great uncle, Kevin Retzer, said, “My nephew had suffered 11 fractured bones. If his perpetrator had done that to an adult, he’d have gotten four times the sentence that he did [for assaulting] a child. Why would we value our children less than an adult?”
Children could no longer be interviewed in front of an adult who has been named in a report of suspected abuse or neglect.
“There should be some opportunities for these children to be interviewed where they don’t have to sit in fear of the person that’s been abusing them,” Peoples-Stokes said.
Other reforms would require the Office of Children and Family Services to monitor the state’s child abuse hotline for repeat cases, and make taking a child’s photograph part of every CPS visit.
Sen. Tim Kennedy said, “These six reforms will absolutely reform the system, make it stronger, make it more accountable, transparent and efficient.”
The state spent eight weeks last fall reviewing nearly 900 open investigations at Erie County’s CPS. Two caseworkers involved with Eain Brooks’ case were subsequently fired and one supervisor was disciplined.
The county has also hired more staff to try to cut down on CPS’ heavy caseload.