Mayouna Smith’s relatives told News 4 there was at least one report of neglect made with CPS. But county officials won’t confirm or deny it, pointing at very strict state laws.
After a child dies at a home that has been visited by Child Protective Services, it can be extremely difficult to scrutinize the agency. New York State Social Services Law has a long and complicated section concerning disclosure.
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The Erie County CPS commissioner has a certain amount of discretion. Carol Dankert-Maurer can withhold information if she believes it would be “contrary to the best interest of the child, the child’s siblings or other children in the household.”
But many state leaders believe CPS should be more transparent than it currently is.
“We believe under the standards that currently exist in the law, local counties should be willing to take steps to share information with the community when it comes to the safety and well-being of children in our community,” says Democratic State Senator Tim Kennedy.
“It’s ironic that the privacy laws surrounding cases involving child abuse or child protection are what’s standing between us being able to know if Erie County CPS acted properly in these recent cases,” said Republican State Senator Pat Gallivan
If certain factors are met, such as a child’s death or serious injury, or an adult named in the report is charged, then Social Services Law allows the county to release information.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has said CPS never received a report of “abuse” in the case of 3-year-old Mayouna Smith, who was killed earlier this month.
But what about a report of neglect? Poloncarz’ spokesman now says, Social Services Law prevents them from confirming or denying.
The State Office of Children and Family Services is preparing a fatality report for Mayouna, which will be completed within six months. When it’s ready, lawmakers are hoping it will be made public.
So far, no one has been charged in the death of Mayouna Smith, although her death has been ruled a homicide.