Oswego County Legislature launches investigation into Department of Social and Child Protective Services | Family and relationships

OSWEGO COUNTY — The County Legislature paid $75,000 for a $146,300 outside investigation into the Department of Social Services and its Child Protective Services Unit at a specially called meeting April 1 in response to the death of Jordan Brooks, 17.

Additionally, Legislative Speaker James Weatherup reached out to the New York State Attorney General’s office saying he would also welcome their investigation into the matter.

The Bonadio Group, a large accounting and consulting firm with 10 offices in New York, Texas and Vermont and more than 800 employees, has been repeatedly recommended to the legislature, according to Weatherup, as the only firm of its kind. type trained by the New York State Office of Child and Family Services in the intricacies and regulations of county social service departments. Bonadio will conduct a study of the Oswego County Department of Social Services, particularly as it relates to its Child Protective Services Division, and make recommendations to the Legislature on how to improve the department. Their consulting fees for this study are $115,000.

The Legislature also retained Saratoga Springs attorney Scott Iseman to investigate the county’s handling of referrals to the state’s Central Registry regarding the case and the death of Jordan Brooks. Iseman’s fee for such an investigation is $31,300. Its report is due within 120 days.

Neither the Bonadio Group nor Scott Iseman would comment on anything related to their study or investigation.

Laura Meyers, Bonadio Group Senior Director of Corporate Communications, said: “As part of our professional standard, we are unable to comment on customer questions.”

Scott Iseman only said, “I won’t be able to answer questions about things for you at this point, even about my role. Things are too preliminary at this point for me to answer questions. Iseman confirmed that he was hired by the county.

According to Republican Legislative Majority Leader Nate Emmons, the state will reimburse the county for about 62% of the cost of the Bonadio study.

Emmons said he sees no problem with the Bonadio group investigating a social services department under the auspices of the state Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) that trained Bonadio. .

Commenting on the enormity and complexity of the state regulations drafted by the OCFS, Emmons defended the hiring of Bonadio saying:

“You have to have people who are trained to be able to look through this and work with this. It’s just not a simple legal document. As a lay person, there would probably be some things I could understand and there would be a lot of things I wouldn’t. We are not here to dictate whether OCFS rules are good or bad. We are here to understand what we have done based on these regulations and to determine if there are areas for improvement that we need.

Emmons also noted that the Bonadio Group is currently doing a study of the St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services.

The day’s meeting began with a statement from President Weatherup regarding the purpose of the meeting and what to expect from it. The following is taken from that statement:

“Hello,” Weatherup began. “I want to start by updating you on the steps we have taken to date. Out of respect for the necessary integrity of the criminal investigation, we weren’t able to say much before its conclusion, but that doesn’t mean we sat idle. This is the second special meeting in a month to learn and initiate action regarding this tragedy. We take a deliberative and responsible path to acquire all the facts to guide our decisions in the future.

“A plan of action has been planned,” Weatherup continued, “which begins today with the passing of today’s resolutions. I have also advised the State Attorney General’s Office of Investigations that we are starting and I have invited the GA to conduct his own if he thinks it is justified.

“As I have said before, Oswego County is committed to thoroughly reviewing the tragic death of Jordan Brooks…without trial…and with transparency. This is accomplished through a series of impartial investigations which will provide the Legislature with a full account of what transpired in this matter.The first was an investigation by the Sheriff’s Department which led to the arrest of the mother and stepfather of Jordan and their charges of criminally negligent homicide, second degree manslaughter and first degree endangerment of the welfare of an incompetent or physically handicapped person.This investigation led to no one d other is charged or held liable.

“Today the Legislative Assembly will take two important steps to uncover the truth about this tragedy. We are hiring an investigative attorney to thoroughly investigate the Jordan Brooks case. This will provide us with a complete picture of what happened and an analysis of the actions or inactions of the CPS and all other organizations involved in this matter. This investigator will have complete autonomy and will work at their own direction, not ours. We will let this investigation take us where it takes us. For To ensure impartiality, great efforts have been made to identify a qualified investigative attorney with no prior connection to Oswego County, personal or professional.To ensure that this investigation does not interfere with the District Attorney’s efforts in the Waldron case (parents of Jordan Brooks), it will begin once the prosecution is over.

“In addition, we are hiring a highly qualified firm to analyze our child protection and prevention services divisions. The firm is experienced in reviewing social service systems and their operating procedures and practices. This will identify strengths and areas where improvements can be made. This analysis will begin immediately.

“The Legislature recognizes its obligation to manage this situation responsibly to ensure the best possible outcome for the children of our community. Our job is not to make hasty judgments or decisions based on incomplete information. We’re not going to scapegoat anyone. It doesn’t solve anything. Decisions about liability will only be made once we have all the facts.

“Since the death of Jordan Brooks, our DSS has convinced the state to develop training for social workers on how to work effectively with physically disabled children. This training was not available before. The DSS has also changed its practices and now automatically assigns any file involving a child with a physical disability to its multidisciplinary team, made up of our most experienced workers.

“Like employers everywhere during this so-called ‘Great Resignation’, we are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit staff, including social workers. We cannot force people to apply, but we can remove the paperwork administrative issues in our hiring process Next week I will ask our Finance and Personnel Committee to waive our vacancy review process to allow the Commissioner to immediately hire for all budgeted vacancies that perform a child protection work.

“We hope that the investigations and analyzes we are launching will reveal even more improvements we can make to keep children safe.

“We in the Legislative Assembly understand and feel the emotions that Jordan’s death has caused in our community. We all want answers and we understand the urge to blame quickly. But we need true and complete answers in order to take responsible action. It’s going to take time to do that. So we ask the public and the press not to rush to judge. We ask for your patience as we complete this critical work.

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