September 15, 2008
Oswego County DSS Asks NYS to Review Agency Records
Oswego County Department of Social Services (DSS) Commissioner Frances Lanigan today requested the New York State Office of Children and Family Services to review all records relating to prior investigations of abuse or neglect involving Erin Maxwell.
“This is a very tragic situation and we share the community’s concern,” said Commissioner Lanigan. “Our last involvement with the Maxwell family was more than two years ago. There were no facts in any prior reports that would predict a homicide. I have asked New York State to come in and review any records to make sure that we have taken all the proper steps in this case. The findings and recommendations, if any, will be provided to Oswego County Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann after completion of the review by the Office of Children and Family Services.”
Commissioner Lanigan confirmed that the Oswego County DSS had received and investigated reports regarding Erin Maxwell through the NYS Central Registry Child Abuse Hotline. Following NYS and County DSS protocol, she said, an investigation was initiated within 24 hours of receiving a report in March 2006.
“Our staff is required to initiate an investigation within 24 hours of receiving a complaint. The child’s immediate and impending safety is assessed,” said Commissioner Lanigan. “Each case is screened for safety and risk to the child and appropriate plans are developed with the family. If there is evidence of imminent danger to the child, DSS can take steps to remove the child from the home. Our last involvement with the Maxwell family was more than two years ago. An investigation was conducted, our agency was satisfied that the parents had taken reasonable and necessary steps to rectify the situation, and the case was closed in May 2006.”
Commissioner Lanigan said that before a case is closed, a supervisor reviews the caseworker’s investigation and records. All determinations are subject to review by the state Office of Children and Family Services. Once a case is closed, DSS cannot conduct a new investigation unless a new report is filed with the Child Abuse Hotline. No hotline referrals were received from the state in the Maxwell case since the prior case was closed in May 2006.
Under NYS Law, the county DSS is required to investigate all suspected cases of abuse or neglect that are reported to the state registry. Commissioner Lanigan said more than 2,000 cases are reported annually in Oswego County and all are thoroughly investigated to determine if there is credible evidence of abuse or neglect.
Commissioner Lanigan said her agency continues to fully cooperate with law enforcement agencies in their investigation into Erin Maxwell’s death.
“Regrettably, there was nothing in the prior reports that could have predicted this tragedy,” said Commissioner Lanigan. “The department continues to encourage the public to call into the state Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-342-3720, and be assured that the department will initiate an investigation of every report within 24 hours. Child safety remains our primary concern.”
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