But it doesn't necessarily mean there was prior CPS knowledge of "physical" abuse
BUFFALO, NY - A well placed source says a 3-year-old-girl, killed in Amherst the week before last, had been the subject of a prior report to Child Protective Services (CPS).
But, according to that same source, that does not necessarily mean she was the subject of any prior reports of "physical" abuse.
Mayouna Smith was found unresponsive in an Allenhurst Road apartment on January 18th, and died from what the medical examiner ruled was blunt force trauma, while also noting evidence of previous physical and sexual abuse against the little girl.
The Buffalo News reported Saturday that Erie County caseworkers investigated a complaint last summer that Mayouna was being "physically "abused, but was not removed from her mother's care.
This prompted a fiery response from the office of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who called the report "erroneous".
In a statement, Poloncarz said, "Erie County emphatically and categorically denies published reports that CPS had received allegations of physical abuse against Mayouna Smith."
However, a source with knowledge on an ongoing investigation and speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirms for WGRZ-TV that while it may not have been for "physical abuse" --reports of "prior CPS involvement regarding the girl would not be wrong".
Our source noted that CPS also investigates complaints of neglect, such as a child being left home alone, not having enough food or clothing, or living in dangerous conditions.
We requested to speak with the County Executive, to ask him to clarify whether Mayouna Smith had been brought to the attention of Erie County CPS for reasons other than "physical abuse" allegations.
His spokesperson denied our request, saying the office stands on its previous statement, and is precluded by law from saying anything more at this time.
A spokesperson for the State Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) , which oversees CPS in counties throughout New York, said she could not, by law, comment on whether or not there were any prior complaints regarding Mayouna Smith, or what they might have entailed.
She did confirm officially, though, that her office would be producing a Child Fatality Report.
This could be another indication, that Mayouna may have been the subject of some sort of prior investigation.
Under the law, they are required to prepare such reports in cases where a child homicide victim was receiving child protective or preventive services, or the child was in foster care.
According to police, Mayouna was not in foster care.
However, even this does not necessarily indicate with certainty that Mayouna Smith was the subject of any prior child abuse claims.
The reason being, that OCFS is also required to investigate child fatalities reported to the Statewide Central Register (SCR) when a death is reported as having involved child abuse or maltreatment.
Based on the medical examiner's findings (and their requirement to report such findings to OCFS), this would mean a child fatality report would be produced , whether Mayouna Smith had been the subject of a previous abuse report or not.
Another source deeply familiar with state and county child protective practices (but who requested anonymity) remarked that it's possible that abuse allegations involving Smith could have been reported to the state's child abuse hotline, but that operators decided the information was not credible enough to order county investigators to open a case.
"The frustration with all of this is we don' t know if county child protective services workers did their job properly or not, simply because of the confidentiality that the law provides," said NYS Sen. Patrick Gallivan (R-59th District). "Nobody other than the oversight bodies can look at these investigations and make recommendations for change. I, as a sitting legislator cannot have access t that information and that's ridiculous," Gallivan said.
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Dooley O'Rourke. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2