Erie County CPS may lay off 11 workers

BUFFALO, NY - The Erie County Department of Social Services is calling on the county legislature to approve more CPS jobs for the department.

The plea for help comes after several children died in separate incidents, while Child Protective Services was investigating their cases.

"It's going to impact the safety of all the children that live in Erie County -- the workers that we currently have it's not enough to take on the caseload sizes that we have," said Sharon Rochelle, the deputy commissioner for the Department of Social Services.

And this problem could grow even further.

Officials with Erie County government say they could lose 11 CPS workers that were hired only on a temporary basis, if a plan before the county legislature to create permanent CPS jobs isn't approved.

The temporary employees are very important, because according to Rochelle they're already trained.

"A lot of it will depend next week on what happens in the legislature, if we end up getting the new positions chances are they will be able to stay and become permanent," Rochelle said.

And there are currently no vacancies in Erie County CPS.

The county legislature is reviewing a plan to add 37 CPS workers to lower the amount of cases each CPS caseworker has. County taxpayers would pay $500,000 for the jobs.

Democrats support the plan, but members of the Republican Caucus say there are still questions about what each employee would do.

"We just feel we don't want to throw money at the situation, we want to look at the department and make sure this money is being spent the most effective possible way," said Ted Morton, a Republican legislator.

County officials say on average, one CPS caseworker handles 50 cases. The average should be 15.

The amount of caseloads has exploded, after the state in 2013 did an audit on Erie County CPS.

That's when according to county officials the county wasn't allowed to close many cases. If the legislature doesn't approve the new positions, then caseloads for current employees that are permanent could rise.

"And, I'm not sure I could say that we're able to keep the children safe and protected without those positions," Rochelle said.

If the added workers are approved, Erie County CPS hopes to get their caseloads under control within a year. At a legislature meeting Thursday, the Republican Caucus decided to delay the CPS hires until a committee meeting next week.


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