The recent report showing that Erie County Child Protective Services caseworkers often performed only the minimum amount of work required to investigate child abuse and neglect cases is both heartbreaking and infuriating.
Heartbreaking to think of the children left in the hands of abusers. And infuriating because the system that was set up to protect children was willfully lax in its response. Strong and immediate corrective action should follow the state Office of Children and Family Services’ report. No excuses accepted.
The report follows the slayings of two young boys: 5-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks, who was beaten to death in September. His mother’s live-in boyfriend, Matthew W. Kuzdzal, has been charged with second-degree murder and sexual assault of the boy.
And there was the killing of 10-year-old Abdifatah Mohamud 16 months earlier. Abdifatah was struck more than 70 times over the head with a baker’s rolling pin by his stepfather, Ali-Mohamed Mohamud, in the basement of their East Side home. Mohamud was convicted of second-degree murder and is serving 25 years to life in prison.
The system set up to help save these boys failed them. Eain’s family notified Child Protective Services multiple times that the boy was being abused. Abdifatah himself made two calls to 911.
The state report on CPS depicts an agency in crisis. Now the state is requiring Erie County to submit a “corrective action plan” to the state by Dec. 21. The directives include implementing procedures CPS should have been following in the first place. The changes have the potential to help save lives, stop abuse and offer families the type of intervention and help they need. None of that was in place for Eain and Abdifatah, and for who knows how many other children out there who have been lucky enough so far to survive.
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz’s administration intends to continue working closely with the state to make improvements. Some of the directives have already been addressed. The county added more caseworkers and supervisors in the aftermath of Eain’s death.
But Poloncarz makes a good point when he says the statewide guidelines for child protective operations are outdated.
The state should implement the best practices that make sense for today’s realities. But that also should include requiring employees who are specifically trained in child welfare issues.
The state’s report should be a wakeup call to the county and especially CPS. The lives of children are at stake.