Investigators from Erie County’s Child Protective Services will now be assigned to Women & Children’s Hospital and Sisters Hospital to be available for immediate consultation in cases in which hospital staff suspect a child is a victim of abuse or neglect.
The extension of CPS availability comes in the wake of two high-profile cases in which children were beaten to death, one by his mother’s boyfriend, the other by his stepfather, after their suspected abuse was reported to CPS.
Eain Clayton Brooks, 5, died in October 2013, and 10-year-old Abdifatah “Abdi” Mohamud, who had called for help himself, was killed in April 2012.
In a statement announcing the agreements, Poloncarz pointed out that medical providers often are the first to identify when a child has been deliberately injured through abuse or from neglect.
Kaleida and Catholic Health will provide office space and equipment for the CPS employees. Two full-time caseworkers will be assigned each weekday to the two hospitals, which, Dankert-Maurer said, accounted for approximately 1,000 allegations of abuse and neglect each year. The caseworkers will have immediate access to the children’s medical records once the State Child Abuse Hotline has been notified.
Representatives of the hospitals welcomed the arrangement as a way to improve communication between their staff and CPS.
“Having a CPS worker dedicated to (Women & Children’s) will strengthen the relationship between physicians, the health care community and CPS by providing for an intense collaborative relationship where critical information can be shared confidentially,” said Dr. Stephen Turkovich, quality and patient safety medical officer at Women & Children’s Hospital. “Together we will make every investigation more robust and complete. Ultimately, this will ensure that children are placed in an environment that will maximize their potential, keep them safe and provide the necessary supports for both them and their caregivers.”
Poloncarz’s office said the agreement is “the latest step on a continuum as Erie County continues to work to better protect children and families, and follows a number of ways the county has acted in recent months to proactively address the issue of child abuse in the community.”
The executive also noted that the Department of Social Services has hired more CPS workers, upgraded its training and instituted greater oversight on case outcomes.