Murder of boy shows that Erie County has a long way to go in reforming CPS - The Buffalo News

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Murder of boy shows that Erie County has a long way to go in reforming CPS

Add 8-year-old Jacob T. Noe to the list of children whose deaths might have been prevented had officials done their jobs correctly.

Erie County Child Protective Services had been investigating a complaint about Jacob’s welfare, but failed to remove the boy from his home before he was stabbed to death earlier this month. His mother has been charged with killing him.

Jacob isn’t the first child to die at the hands of an adult while those whose job it was to protect them failed to intervene. At least two other deaths followed desperate calls to authorities for help. This time, the agency had been alerted to a potential problem, but somehow the case fell between the cracks. And Jacob is dead.

As reported in The News, a caseworker had been assigned to investigate whether Jacob’s living conditions in the family’s Lovering Avenue apartment in North Buffalo were acceptable, based on concern for his mother’s mental health. A relative said she suffers from bipolar disorder.

But the case languished after the caseworker was suspended in an unrelated matter. The supervisor sought to move the investigation along, but action was not taken in time to save the boy. That’s according to sources who did not want to speak on the record because of social services privacy laws.

The question of how much was done by the supervisor following the caseworker’s suspension is being investigated. It adds up to the same tragic outcome and shameful excuses we’ve seen before.

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz responded forcefully to the previous deaths of children who were either under or should have been under the supervision of Child Protective Services.

There was Eain Clayton Brooks, 5, who died in September 2013 after allegedly being beaten by his mother’s boyfriend. Relatives of Eain said they repeatedly called to complain the boy was in danger. And 10-year-old Abdifatah “Abdi” Mohamud called 911 twice in one day to say he was in danger. He died in April 2012 when his stepfather beat him more than 70 times with a baker’s hardwood rolling pin.

Poloncarz’s administration has worked on improving the intolerable situation. The agency was able to reduce caseloads managed by CPS workers by adding employees. He also offered a package of reforms that will require action by the State Legislature.

The state Office of Children & Family Services has determined that the county was making progress in its handling of CPS cases and its workers have been going above and beyond the minimum. All that progress, however, is far overshadowed by the death of another child.

Social Services Commissioner Carol Dankert-Maurer has been urged to resign by Erie County Legislature Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo and County Legislator Lynne Dixon. More immediately, though, we need to find out where the system failed this time.

Despite all the attention that has been paid to a known problem, sadly, another child has died.

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