OLEAN, N.Y. — Cattaraugus County Commissioner of Social Services, Anthony Turano tells 2 On Your Side that he's asking county legislators to approve the hiring of three new caseworkers to investigate escalating child abuse reports. They currently have 15 caseworkers on staff. 

Turano says they need the additional field investigators to meet the demands created by the drug epidemic...and they say that it's not just opioids, "In 2018 we saw quite a shift in petitions filed and reports received that involved meth. I talk with commissioners in other parts of the state that are feeling the same pressure. More and more of the reports I do receive are related to the drug epidemic, as well."

For this reason, the Social Services Commissioner admits the agency is now training their caseworkers about the dangers associated with meth. A number of recent explosions and fires in the county have caseworkers on edge.

"It certainly creates things like worker safety issues," admits Turano, "and other concerns for our folks who have to go into these homes."

Turano says this drug use is contributing to a huge increase in reports of child abuse...nearly 14% over the last two years.

He worries it's not showing signs of slowing down, "Whether it's domestic violence and drugs, or a lack of supervision of children and drugs, or inappropriate people in the home around children, unsafe unsanitary living conditions...the drugs have been just a constant underlyer."

When Social Services receive a report about child abuse or neglect, the agency is required by state law to begin their investigation in 24 hours and to complete that investigation in 60 days.

"We've done a lot internally to manage the shift in the workload, to try and build in some better efficiencies, and still meet our mandates...keep families safe," said Turano. "But sometimes you need to just add people."

Turano says the local investment for these three positions is about $95,000.

The Cattaraugus County Legislature will vote on this request on Wednesday, February 27.