Social Services Commissioner under fire, suggests new hires

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Each innocent face tells a tragic tale of young lives all taken by violence in Erie County. The case of Jacob Noe is just the latest to make headlines. He was allegedly stabbed to death by his own mother.

Our crews were there as Jessica Murphy was led away by police from their Buffalo home last month. Now the fallout is being felt by the head of Child Protective Services, who fielded tough questions from lawmakers Tuesday. Some of them are calling for her resignation.

“Our babies are dying tragic deaths,” said Legislator Barbara Miller-Willams.

“It’s the most dysfunctional thing I’ve seen in my lifetime,” said Erie County Legislator John Mills.

“There have been five deaths over the past four years, there have been 33 disciplinary actions as a result, five firings, nine suspensions and still we have issues,” said Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon.

Commissioner of Social Services Carol Dankert-Maurer is hoping to resolve some of those issues by adding new positions to Child Protective Services. Three child protective teams would be created with a total of 18 workers and three team leaders. There would also be an addition of three social services team workers and one child protective coordinator along with 12 CPS investigator positions, which will be filled by former police officers to work on high risk cases.

“The law enforcement folks have a lot of the similar training in terms of being able to go into the field and be able to do investigations,” said Dankert-Maurer.

Erie County legislators expressed their concerns, some previously calling for the resignation of the commissioner.

“I get emails on a daily basis, on a daily basis, from employees in the department of social services who say that you’re not doing a great job. That there are problems,” said Erie County Legislator Joseph Lorigo.

New York State’s maximum recommended case levels is 15 per worker. Here in Erie County the commissioner says that average is 50 cases, with some workers seeing upwards of 100.

“Why did it take so long if you were so significantly above New York State maximum level?” said Legislator Ted Morton asked.

Former senior case worker for Child Welfare, Pam Scotch, says she worked alongside Child Protective Services.

“The numbers are off and the numbers are off by a lot. We need way more than 18 workers.”

Scotch also says there needs to be more training.

Now the Legislature must decide whether to approve the report.

“I’m not looking to make someone a scapegoat. I’m looking to prevent the death of another child. What needs to be done to do that?” said Lorigo.

The next step is for the Legislature to approve the new hires. When they do that is up to them, but they recess in a month so time is running out quickly.

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