It’s time to reform CPS before more children die - The Buffalo News

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It’s time to reform CPS before more children die

The question is simple yet profound: How many kids have to die before things change?

These are children. Not human sacrifices. Not martyrs to a cause.

They lived in situations so horrible that other people – usually relatives – knew what was going on. Those people called for help. Their cries were largely ignored by those paid to protect kids from abusive adults.

That has to change. The Child Protection system has to open its eyes, get dragged into the 21st century, be ruled by common sense instead of by bureaucratic double-think.

It has to change, before another kid dies.

Add a third name to the horrific roll call.

Abdi. Eain. And now, Mayouna.

Three-year-old Mayouna Smith is the third child killed in this county since 2012, despite calls for help to CPS.

The Amherst girl was beaten to death last week. She had previously been physically and sexually abused. An abuse complaint was placed last summer against the child’s mother, The News reported.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz issued a statement Saturday that no complaint about child abuse concerning Mayouna had been filed with Child Protective Services. But four sources with knowledge of the case told The News that the agency had been notified.

The woman’s live-in boyfriend, Lamare Daniels, was reportedly the subject of a separate child abuse complaint, not involving Mayouna.

The red flags should have been flying, particularly in the wake of the beating deaths of Abdi Mohamud, 10, and Eain Brooks, 5. CPS officials were going to look harder at recent and upcoming cases, state CPS head Gladys Carrion vowed last September. It looks like they overlooked this one.

“It’s not just extremely frustrating, it’s extremely disturbing,” said Tim Kennedy, the state senator from Buffalo pushing a CPS-reform bill. “Children have died because the system is not built around common sense.”

The boyfriend of Eain Brooks’ mother was putting out cigarettes on the poor kid’s face. Matt Kuzdzal, the loser boyfriend, claimed it was a chemical burn from a busted ice pack. The CPS caseworker asked Eain about it, with Kuzdzal – who’s now facing a murder charge – sitting in the room! This is the sort of routine idiocy that passes for policy with CPS. The kid knew if he told the truth he would get pounded when the caseworker left. So he said, yeah, the burn was from an ice pack. The gullible caseworker swallowed the story. Months later, Eain was dead.

Kennedy’s bill, co-sponsored with Buffalo Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, would end the institutional idiocy. Children would be interviewed privately, without the accused abuser in the room. Multiple complaints of abuse would be red-flagged. Caseworkers would photograph the alleged victim on every visit. Anyone reporting abuse would be kept in the loop, not kicked to the curb.

I suspect that, at this point, you are thinking: Isn’t this stuff already done? The answer, incredibly, is no. For whatever reason – ineptitude, a reluctance to take kids from a biological parent, bureaucratic blindness – CPS lacks a keen sense of the obvious.

“These tragedies are preventable,” said Kennedy, who is “confident” the CPS reform bill will be passed this session. “The system designed to protect our kids, the safety net, is failing.”

I know that CPS workers are overloaded, and abusers manipulate. But when it comes to kids, there’s no margin for error. Ask Abdi. Eain. Or, now, Mayouna.


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