Thu October 10, 2013
CPS workers disciplined for mishandling case of beaten 5-year-old boy
Several employees in Erie County's Child Protective Services division have been disciplined over their handling of abuse complaints against a man accused of killing a 5-year-old Buffalo boy.
Following an internal investigation, two CPS case workers have been fired, as of Monday. Two supervisors have been suspended without pay and employees in what are described as leadership positions have been reassigned within the Department of Social Services, including Administrative Director Robert Dietz.
Matthew Kuzdal, 26, is accused of second-degree murder in the beating death of 5-year-old Eain Brooks. Kuzdal is the boy's mother's boyfriend. Brooks was found badly injured at a home on Buffalo's West side September 15. He died at Women and Children's Hospital two days later.
Family members said they contacted Child Protective Services several times with concerns regarding Kuzdal's treatment Brooks. But CPS investigations cleared Kuzdal of any wrongdoing.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says there are good people in CPS, but there must be accountability.
"What happened this week is not an indictment on the hard-working men and women of Child Protective Services. There are individuals in Child Protective Services who are very experienced, very diligent, who work hard every day to protect children in this community. I don't people to assume that because actions were taken earlier this week that means every Child Protective Service worker is not good, because that is not the case," Poloncarz said Wednesday afternoon.
Poloncarz says state law limits what he can say about the investigation and why the workers were fired. He says Albany is in here looking at CPS handling of 900 cases and now an additional 200 others.
The changes come a year after five CPS caseworkers and staff were fired following a probe of the beating death of a young man, Abdi Mohamud, at the hands of his stepfather.
"We will terminate someone if you do not do a good job," Poloncarz said. "You will be held accountable if you make mistakes. It's as simple as that. That message has been sent clear to the people of Erie County government."
The county executive says seven additional CPS workers are being hired and trained right now, although it will be weeks before completion of a state training program and they move into handling cases.
The following statement was issued Wednesday by the Poloncarz administration.
“On Monday, October 7, Erie County Department of Social Services Commissioner Carol Dankert-Maurer informed County Executive Mark Poloncarz that as a result of the comprehensive internal audit of casework activity, four (4) Erie County Child Protective Services’ employees have been disciplined. Two (2) of the persons were separated from service effective October 7 and two (2) others received suspensions without pay beginning Tuesday, October 8. In addition, also effective October 7, Commissioner Dankert-Maurer reassigned the leadership of Child Protective Services and Children’s Services divisions within the Erie County Department of Social Services to better match the strengths of our leaders and address the needs of the community.”
Erie County Legislature