It’s a common misconception among suburban voters that just because they don’t use social services that they aren’t necessary.

Think again.

DSS is not adequately doing the job they are supposed to do because the “King” himself, Erie County executive Chris Collins continues to gut their department to its core. As of last count hundreds of  jobs were slashed out of the department and more are on their way, if King Collins is elected on Tuesday.

The proposed budget cuts would trim the department’s payroll by 10 percent and reduce the overall department budget from $109.7 million to $101.7 million.

The Erie County Department of Social Services see some very serious cases of neglect and abuse regularly. While the case I mention below may seem a bit mild compared to some, it’s not a story of a poor urban family living on gang ridden streets on the east side. It is the story of a middle class family from an affluent WNY suburb and  it is an all too common situation that should always be met with the same outcome as those more serious:

GET AN INNOCENT CHILD OUT OF HARMS WAY!

In July, I had my first experience with the Department of Social Services. Some ongoing parental neglect issues involving a 7 year old boy had been brought to my attention.

For background, the boy is just about 7 years old with special needs. He needs to be administered daily medication which is not only needed for his well being, but to control some of his ongoing health concerns.

For months prior, there had been a laundry list of questionable neglect and safety concerns while the boy was in his “fathers” (And I use that term loosely) care. Unexplained cuts and bruises, being left unattended to play with matches (see picture below), improperly secured firearms in the house, Letting a 7 year old shoot guns unattended, failure to dispense needed medicine and inadequate supervision when the boy was found wandering in the woods behind his house. Just to name a few.

People were told, some even saw it with their own eyes, but no one was taking it seriously enough for his mother, who would cry herself to sleep at night when she had to hand over the boy a couple times a week to a then, suspected, child abuser.

The boiling point came late this summer when  the boy  told his doctor that his latest burn came from his “father” who had burned him on the chest with a hot bullet shell…

While the pictures don’t necessarily do the situation justice,  it is a very serious situation. A few days later the mother was informed that Erie County Department of Social Services wanted to come and speak to the boy.

The first sign that the cuts to Social Services would affect the outcome of the case was when the CPS worker informed his mother that she didn’t have a cell phone and couldn’t be reach immediately if new safety concerns came up. She didn’t even have a camera. Pictures of the boy’s burns were taken and emailed to her.

After due process, like 60 days, the report became “indicated” against the boys “father” after he admitted to his gross negligence and mistreatment of his son. The boy’s mother thought there was no question that something positive was about to be done to make sure of the boy’s safety.

Nothing!

While his father is now labeled a child abuser on a state registry, that’s all Erie County DSS was able to do.

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Proper protocol of an indicated child abuser could mean a number of things. It could of been sent to the courts and a court “menu” would be issued, which he would of been mandated to follow or he would face losing custody of his child.  Preventive services like supervised visits, weekly visits from a social worker, or hell, even parenting classes are usually issued. But nothing.

The most frustrating part is that DSS washed their hands of the entire situation. No further actions will be taken to ensure the boys safety when in the care of his father. No follow through. No punishment. Just a label that apparently means practically nothing.

It was determined that because of the extreme lack of resources, time and personnel at the Department of Social Services, the “indication” was not considered serious enough to properly follow through with preventive services which would further monitor the situation.

Do you think that’s good enough for his mother? Now, twice a week, she has to continue handing her son off to a now registered child abuser instead of just a suspected one.

Most people think of DSS as a place where people just suck off the system.  Others, like the mother above thought of DSS as a safety net, where any suburban or urban parent is supposed to turn when they find themselves in a similar helpless situation and have nowhere to turn for help.

Under Chris Collins, the safety net now has a big hole in it and it’s getting bigger by the year.

on Tuesday, you won’t just be voting for Erie County Executive. Your vote can also help restore vital services back into the Department of Social Services.

 

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