By Bonnie L. Glazer and Judith G. Olin
Our community is in crisis due to the unprecedented number of recent child abuse fatalities. Erie County Commissioner Carol Dankert-Maurer and Deputy County Executive Richard Tobe gave a persuasive presentation at a recent Erie County legislative hearing.
Dankert-Maurer and Tobe asked the Legislature for additional funding to hire 37 new Child Protective Services workers to assist with what everyone agrees are case loads well above the 15-per-worker recommended by the state. The commissioner explained that a recent audit of CPS resulted in a great deal of extra work for CPS workers.
With more time spent per case, and the constant flow of new cases – about 1,000 per month – CPS workers are buried. Imagine your workload doubling and tripling in the course of several months; even with manageable case loads, CPS work is some of the most difficult, stressful work out there. The toll this has taken on the workers is enormous, and morale is suffering greatly.
We all agree that accountability is crucial; notwithstanding, we need to give extra praise and kudos to these warriors, and not point fingers at them for a community problem that is way larger than CPS. Of the 37 new workers proposed, 12 will be part-time police investigator positions. Using retired law enforcement to assist CPS is a practice that has been successfully used in New York City. Due to their background and training, law officers can bring skills to CPS investigative work that will help enhance the safety of children.
While our economy is improving in Erie County, let us not forget that Buffalo continues to be classified as the fourth-poorest city of its type in the country. Domestic violence continues to be a huge problem, as evidenced by the recent murder/suicide in Alden.
As part of their presentation to the Legislature, Tobe and Dankert-Maurer requested $400,000 in additional funding for preventive services that are provided to high-risk families by private human services agencies. We all know the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true in this arena. High-risk families benefit greatly from services such as subsidized day care, in-home wrap services, parenting classes and more that will help support families with challenges to provide appropriate care and support for their children.
This is a crisis not just for the Department of Social Services, but for every one of us who calls Erie County home. The ball is now in the court of the Erie County Legislature. Call your legislator today and ask him or her to support the proposal to add 37 new workers and $400,000 in preventive services to help prevent future cases of child abuse and neglect.
Bonnie L. Glazer is president of Child & Adolescent Treatment Services. Judith G. Olin is director of the Lee Gross Anthone Child Advocacy Center.