By J. Mark Robinson
This has been an extremely tough time for everyone in Erie County and Western New York. There is absolutely nothing more disheartening or senseless than having to come to grips with and accept the senseless loss of a child due to someone’s abuse or neglect.
No one in his right mind would argue that our children are not our most precious assets. They are to be cherished, protected and loved – not harmed or damaged, intentionally or carelessly, by anyone in any way. Yet, it relentlessly continues to happen and each incident hits us just as hard as the one before it.
Fortunately, we share our lives with dedicated, compassionate and highly trained professionals whose top priority is striving to assure the safety of our children and families. There are entire county and state departments and local not-for-profit agencies that are thoroughly committed to providing services to families and children hoping to keep them safe and secure in their increasingly more complex and fragmented lives. There is also a steadily growing team of extremely challenged specialists who are charged with guarding those around us who just might not be in a safe place.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz recently said, “The worst days of my administration were on the days of the death of a child.” Anyone reading the paper or watching television on any of those days still feels the truth in those words. He added, “We have a system that is stacked against children and stacked against CPS [Child Protective Services] workers.”
These tragedies resulted in quick, thorough and decisive reviews of every CPS procedural facet. This analysis was actually embraced through the leadership of Erie County Department of Social Services Commissioner Carol Dankert-Maurer. This intense examination was swiftly followed with solid and practical legislative recommendations by Poloncarz. If implemented, these new laws will improve everyone’s accountability and the overall well-being of our children.
We’ve all heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child – especially today with our families facing greater stressors than perhaps any other time in our nation’s history. It’s not the village that is hurting these kids – we’re all trying our best to stop it from ever occurring again.
On behalf of those of us who are truly dedicated to our children’s safety and well-being, we are proud to share our community with our colleagues at Erie County. Thank you for all you have done, all you are doing and all you are still striving to do.
J. Mark Robinson is executive director and CEO of the Care Management Coalition of Western New York, which is led by Dennis Walczyk, president of the board of directors, Nancy Blaschak, Vito Borrello, LaTosha Bounds, James Coder, Douglas Fabian, Deborah Merrifield and Brenda McDuffie.