Erie County, UB team up to study chronic child neglect

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie County is teaming up with the University at Buffalo for a new study to try to stop the cycle of chronic child neglect.

We are familiar with Western New York’s most notorious cases of child abuse and neglect, which resulted in the deaths of these children.

While the Erie County Social Services Department is now hiring 37 more people to meet a growing caseload, the county is receiving about a thousand cases a month from the state’s Child Abuse Hotline. Many families being reported have a documented history of chronically neglecting their children.

“They tend to be families have multiple challenges, oftentimes poverty, many times mental illness, many times substance abuse,” said Carol Dankert-Maurer, Erie County’s Social Services Commissioner.

Last year, 72 percent of those “hotline” reported families had previous reports documented during the past four years. And 24 percent had five or more previous reports on file.

Alree Daniels, who works with at-risk childen and is part of the Stop the Violence Coalition, notes, “When you have somebody young who’s trying to be a parent, and might have been neglected [as a child], they don’t know all the proper channels in raising a child, or the signs to look for when child abuse is taking place.”

How can this trend be reversed? And can Child Protective Services do a better job in stopping this cycle of neglect? That’s what a new study with the county and the University at Buffalo School of Social Work hopes to find out.

Annette Semanchin-Jones, the study’s principal investigator, questions, “Are there other red flags that we can identify that can be addressed earlier? And where other systems may also come into play?”

Dankert-Maurer welcomes the input, and is looking for answers.

“When we intervened, when was it not able to affect lasting change,” she said. “What happened that brought that family back to us within six months, a year, whatever it turned out to be?”

The study should be completed in six months to a year. Funding for the study was included in the 2014 county budget, and UB’s School of Social Work was picked from a number of proposals.

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