Number of open CPS investigations moves below 3,000 for first time since November 2013
In an encouraging sign, the Erie County Department of Social Services' monthly report to the Erie County Legislature for April shows a substantial decrease in both the total Child Protective Services caseload size across the department as well as in the number of cases carried by individual caseworkers.
At the end of April, there were a total of 2,866 open CPS cases in Erie County, down nearly 2,000 from a high of 4,918 in May 2014. Significantly, this marks the first time since November 2013 the number of open CPS investigations has fallen below 3,000. In addition, the average number of cases per CPS worker had diminished to 25 by April 30, falling from a high of 51 (or twice the current number) just one year ago.
"The Department of Social Services is proud of the progress made in our Child Protective Unit," said Department of Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger, Ph.D. "Due to the hard work of our dedicated employees, caseloads are half of what they were less than a year ago. This gives workers more time to perform investigations and ultimately help children and families in need."
In addition to the decreases in caseloads, the report also shows more than 800 cases were closed in the month of April, and overdue investigations (those taking longer than seven days to complete following an initial complaint) also significantly decreased from a high of 3,296 at the end of May 2014 to less than half that, or 1,532, by the end of April.
The report was submitted to the Legislature Monday.
Under the leadership of the Poloncarz administration, Erie County has embarked on a long-term course of action to proactively address the issues of child abuse, neglect and poverty in the community. The addition of new CPS workers with investigative skills, a reorganization of the department of social services to more closely monitor issues and assets, and a new collaboration with the Buffalo Public Schools and the Say Yes Foundation to provide students with mental health and other services have already been completed, as have agreements with local hospitals to station CPS workers there.
In addition, the Poloncarz administration authored and presented 19 reform proposals, which are currently in the hands of the Western New York delegation of the New York State Legislature, designed to improve the function of the CPS system statewide. The 19 reforms fall into five categories: increasing CPS powers to help children; improving the quality of reporting to the statewide central register; punishing abusers and protecting children; modernizing the child welfare system; and other critical reforms.
The petition to reform CPS statewide can be viewed and signed here.