BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie County County Executive Mark Poloncarz is blaming the new majority of the Erie County Legislature for what he calls a delay in the hiring of new case workers for Child Protective Services.
Erie County’s Commissioner of Social Services Carol Dankert Maurer has fired off a letter to the County Legislature Chairman urging that a vote be taken at Thursday afternoon’s meeting to approve a plan to hire eighteen more CPS caseworkers, but the Majority leader plans to send the issue to Committee.
“Any proposal like this would normally go through the committee process,” said Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo, who adds that although there was a hearing about this eight days ago, legislators were handed a 45 page proposal that day that needs a closer look.
“We plan to send it to committee to have further discussion and flesh it out.”
Poloncarz says that will just drag it out a few more weeks.
“Instead of hiring the people as of July first, we’ll push it back to the middle of July, meaning this caseload will continue to grow,” the county executive lamented.
Lorigo says last fall it was his caucus suggesting the county hire more caseworkers and says it was Commissioner Dankert Maurer who insisted seven more was enough.
“Nine months later, Jacob Noe’s dead,” said Lorigo, referring to the 8-year-old boy who was stabbed to death in North Buffalo.
CPS had been investigating a complaint about his mother’s mental health, but had not been to the home before he was killed.
“If Carol Dankert-Maurer is the one that’s training these CPS workers and kids are still dying, maybe we need to change that training program, we need to change the management,” said Lorigo.
Since last fall, Erie County has been getting about a thousand new cases every month. Poloncarz says more case workers can help.
“It’ll help reduce the caseloads, but it won’t necessarily eliminate abuse in public. Unfortunately, CPS workers are like ambulance drivers in which they’re called to respond to an issue, so they’re always responding to issues. It’s not like they’re going out there and preventing it from occurring. Our goal is to prevent issues in the future by addressing the issues that we receive from the past.”
Poloncarz says if he can’t convince Legislators to take a vote on Thursday, the two-week delay will force the 18 case workers to be hired closer to the middle of July.