BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Commissioner of Social Services Carol Dankert-Maurer detailed a package of 19 legislative reforms designed to improve Child Protective Services on Tuesday.
The proposed reforms would increase CPS powers to protect children and modernize the child welfare system. The state’s CPS law was created in the early 1970s and hasn’t seen many changes since. The reforms would also improve the quality of reporting to the Statewide Central Register.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz doesn’t have the power to introduce legislation to change the laws that govern child protective service, but he hopes those who do are listening.
He explained, “The reforms that we introduce today (Tuesday) are vital in bringing new york state CPS into the 21st century and will aid in the investigation and prosecution of suspected abuse.”
CPS came under fire in Erie County after three young children lost their lives to abuse. During his State of the County address, Poloncarz said right now it takes CPS workers weeks to find out if someone has a criminal background inside a home. The proposed reforms would immediately help investigators prosecute suspected abuse in Erie County and across New York State.
Among the proposals:
- create a new felony crime of endangering the welfare of a child, boosting the current misdemeanor penalty from one year in jail to up to seven years in jail if there are aggravating circumstances;
- increase CPS powers to help children by creating a presumption of neglect if there is an incident of excessive corporal punishment, which will make it easier for child protection agencies to make a finding of abuse that will allow Family Court to take appropriate action to protect a child, up to removing a child when a guardian poses a risk to the child;
- create a presumption of neglect against a parent when a child is born with a positive toxicology for controlled substances;
- allow the Department of Social Services to subpoena records held by private entities (such as hospitals) for use in any investigation of any report received from the State Central Register relating to abuse or neglect and require state and local agencies including the state police and the state division of criminal justice services to provide information contained in their databases within 72 hours of a request about locations and persons alleged to have been involved in abuse or neglect of a child. This will allow for more complete and rapid investigations.
- increase the criminal penalties to a felony for knowingly making false allegations of suspected abuse or neglect of a child and also establish a civil penalty for making false allegations of suspected abuse or neglect of a child;
- require that the technology used by the state be upgraded to allow for the state hotline to receive photographs and other documents in electronic format and to forward them to the county conducting an investigation and to allow each county to upload photographs and documents into the case file;
- require that all calls to the statewide central registry of child abuse and maltreatment be recorded in an audio format and that recording be forwarded to each county CPS at the commencement of an investigation;
- require mandated reporters to receive coursework or training about child abuse and neglect every three years.;
- allow local child protective services district to refuse to contract with informal day care providers when such provider is the subject of an indicated report of child abuse or maltreatment or is a registered sex offender;
- require hospitals and birthing centers to show a video and provide a brochure to the parents of a newborn child about the dangers of unsafe sleeping practices;
- require that civil service exams for all positions within the child protective service be offered by the New York State Civil Service Commission on a priority basis upon a certification by a local personnel commissioner that such immediate action is needed, and;
- make a series of other changes to improve the quality, timeliness and operations of the child protective service.
New York State Senator Senator Tim Kennedy says the ideas add to his legislation already on the table.
He said, “What we’ll be doing is taking what’s being proposed by Erie County and taking it to the legislature and really coming together and building momentum from a statewide perspective.”
Senator Kennedy will join Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes< at a public forum on CPS reform Saturday, April 19. The forum will start at 10 a.m. at the Downtown Central Library auditorium, 1 Lafayette Square in Buffalo.
Individuals interested in testifying at the forum should RSVP by calling Senator Kennedy’s office at 826-2683 or Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes’ office at 897-9714.