An overhaul of the state's Child Protective Services law is being proposed by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. He says the county has taken steps to improve its procedures -- but New York's current law hasn't changed much since it was enacted more than 40 years ago.
Poloncarz says children in New York deserve a system that's protecting them for the 21st Century. Since October alone there have been 150 serious abuse cases reported across the state -- and he says the proposed reforms will prevent child abuse.
"That's not what the system does today. The system is reactive," Poloncarz said. "We need reform that is going to be proactive to protect against child abuse as well as to ensure if abuse appears to have occurred that Child Protective Services has the tools at its disposal to identify the abusers and put them in jail."
The proposed legislation includes making endangering the welfare of a child a felony, punishable with seven years in jail.
CPS workers could presume neglect in cases of excessive corporal punishment. And the penalty would increase for making false allegations.
Social Services Commissioner Carol Dankert-Maurer says there's a big spike every Monday in cases related to custodial battles.
"My staff informed me that we received 45 of those reports over the weekend. That's a pretty big number," Dankert-Maurer said. "Two-thirds of the cases that we investigate are in fact unfounded. So a significant number of the cases that we investigate show no credible evidence of abuse or neglect. "
State Senator Timothy Kennedy and Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes already submitted their own package of reforms in Albany. The lawmakers say they appreciate the county's effort and will review the proposal.