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The Erie County Department of Social Services and the University at Buffalo are teaming up to identify patterns of chronic neglect among the roughly 1,000 cases that are reported to the state’s Child Abuse Hotline each month.

Chronic neglect is consistently the primary reason why many families become involved with the child welfare system, according to Social Services Commissioner Carol Dankert-Maurer.

An audit of the county’s Child Protective Services cases by the state Office of Children and Family Services last September found that 72 percent of such cases logged into the State Central Register had been the subject of at least four prior reports. She said 24 percent had five or more previous reports.

“This is an incredible opportunity to really dig into those numbers, to look not only into the data but to do some case review and read some case records that we hopefully will be able to identify are there any patterns,” Dankert-Maurer said.

She said past interventions by Child Protective Services have met with limited success, despite the fact that services were offered and accepted by the families with multiple cases of child neglect. Still, the needs of the children in those families were not met, largely because their families continued to face challenges in the form of poverty, medical issues, mental illness and substance abuse.

Dankert-Maurer said the unprecedented study by the UB School of Social Work will help her agency develop a stronger approach to assisting families.

“For example, it will help us determine if are there any particular communities where we might be able to launch an educational campaign to look at the service array that is available for families that might interrupt that cycle of repeat … reports,” she said.

The County Legislature allocated funding for a study of chronic child neglect in Erie County in the 2014 budget. That allowed Social Services earlier this year to solicit proposals for the study. After reviewing numerous proposals, the UB School of Social Work was selected to perform the study.

“We got a significant response, but we really found that the UB School of Social Work was the best one for us. In fact, one of the folks that’s working on that proposal from UB actually was a previous CPS worker, so she has great insight around the complexities of the work,” said Dankert-Maurer.

“I hope this is the first of many collaborative efforts between the school and the Department of Social Services,” she added.

email: hmcneil@buffnews.com