BUFFALO, NY - Two lawmakers from Western New York propose new reforms to improve child protective services across the state. The proposals come after the deaths of two boys in two separate cases in Buffalo, Abdi Mohamud, 10, and Eain Brooks, 5.
Mohamud was killed by his stepfather two years ago. Ali Mohamed, the man who committed the crime is doing 25 years to life. Brooks was killed last September, allegedly at the hands of his mother's boyfriend, Matthew Kuzdal, who has pled not guilty to the charges.
"We envision a child protective services system that is more responsive accountable, transparent, and effective. These reforms will help make that a reality," said State Sen. Tim Kennedy.
One proposal would require CPS agencies to provide information within 30 days to mandated reporters about possible abuse cases, if the mandated reporters themselves reported the alleged abuse.
"This will allow mandated reports like physicians and teachers to do their job better and help provide support in keeping our children safe," Kennedy said.
CPS workers would also need to document each visit to a home with a photo of the child. Another reform -- CPS would have the ability to interview children one-on-one.
"Current law requires that child protective services must interview the child in front of the parent or guardian, which is sad to say, which is often the accused perpetrator," Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes said.
Plus, CPS caseworkers would be required to have a degree in social work or counseling, rather than the current minimum, which is a Bachelor's degree in any field.
In the meantime, the family of Eain Brooks filed paperwork last month intending to sue Erie County for its handling of Brooks' case.
A notice of claim shows that Brooks' maternal grandmother, Robin Hart claims the county failed to, "properly and adequately investigate" his case, and failed to, "properly train its employees to investigate complaints." The claim seeks monetary damages, but an amount is unknown at this point.
Some of the proposals came from a hearing that was held in City Hall in November on problems within CPS. Kennedy and Peoples-Stokes say they will propose the reforms on Monday in Albany for the start of the legislative session.
Peter Anderson, an Erie County spokesperson says the county has concerns about the proposals.
In a statement Anderson said: "the hiring qualifications in the proposed legislation may be too high; Erie County already has difficulty recruiting for CPS positions due to the difficult jobs these workers perform, and this could affect CPS departments in rural counties even more severely than in Erie County. Also, regarding the proposed required photographing of children during home visits, the legislation does not take into account that parents may not want their children to be photographed, and the case worker will have no authority to compel them to allow it."
Anderson adds, "Erie County welcomes well-founded and carefully researched proposals that will improve the quality of Child Protective Services here and throughout the statewide system. Although the County has significant concerns about aspects of these latest proposals, we remain committed to working with the NYS legislative and executive branches to both improve these bills and to develop other proposals for systemic improvements to protect children and prevent abuse. Erie County has also developed recommendations for potential ways to strengthen CPS services and keep children safe, and we expect that these proposals will be considered as well."