Suburban school districts join forces with Erie County to protect children
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz today announced an initiative to increase collaboration between the Erie County Department of Social Services and local suburban school districts. Under the new partnerships, Child Protective Services employees will be assigned to local schools several days per week, providing district staff faster access to child welfare expertise while streamlining and expediting the investigation process.
"Local schools are the largest source of reports of child abuse and neglect, which are investigated by CPS," County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said. "Teachers and school social workers are often the first to recognize the challenges a child is facing at home, and then make a referral to CPS to investigate the child's situation. This new, first-of-its-kind partnership will open the door for communication between DSS staff and school personnel before a report is made, and that communication will continue throughout the investigative process."
Under the agreement with the school districts, the school will provide an office to a CPS worker, who will investigate reports involving children attending the school and in the surrounding area. Social services' staff also will provide expertise and guidance in preventive and children's services, which is expected to reduce the need for a CPS referral.
"Local schools are one of our most valuable partners, and this expanded relationship will enable our child protective staff to work more closely with school-based personnel and obtain necessary information to complete thorough investigations. This collaboration will leverage the strengths of both the child welfare and education systems, resulting in better outcomes for children," Department of Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger said.
School districts that have verbally agreed to a partnership with the Department of Social Services include Akron, Alden, Amherst, Cheektowaga, Cheektowaga-Maryvale Union Free, Cheektowaga-Sloan Union Free, Clarence, Cleveland Hill Union Free, Depew Union Free, East Aurora Union Free, Eden, Evans-Brant, Frontier, Grand Island, Hamburg, Holland, Iroquois, Kenmore-Tonawanda Union Free, Lackawanna city schools, Lancaster, North Collins, Orchard Park, Randolph Academy, Springville-Griffith Institute, Sweet Home, Tonawanda city schools West Seneca and the Williamsville Central School District.
"Orchard Park schools are looking forward to a close partnership with the Department of Social Services, and to further opening the lines of communication to support all of our students in difficult times," said Matthew McGarrity, superintendent of Orchard Park Central School District.
Anne Spadone, superintendent of the Lackawanna City school district, added, "Lackawanna Public Schools is very excited to be part of this pilot program. Having a CPS worker housed within our district will add a new dimension as we directly link our students with the very critical services needed."
Due to the existing partnership between Say Yes Buffalo and Erie County, the Buffalo Public Schools were not targeted for this initiative. Family support specialists, who identify individual barriers to student achievement and then connect students with services to overcome those barriers, will be in 29 Buffalo public schools at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, expanding to 43 on Jan. 1.
For more information on the Erie County Department of Social Services, visit http://www2.erie.gov/socialservices/.