A new state performance report obtained by 7 Eyewitness News shows Erie County’s Child Protective Services ranks low compared to other counties across the state in several areas.
“The numbers are good but to call them rankings means it's a competition and we're not going to play a game with anyone's life,” Erie County Social Services Commissioner, Al Dirschberger. “We're more concerned about quality of services.”
According to the report, 59 percent of social workers in Erie County currently have more than 15 investigations on their caseload. That ranks the county the 56th worst in the state. Dirschberger doesn't deny the staff is stretched thin. But, he said they continue to improve the workload. He said each worker has an average of 19 investigations compared to close to 30 more than a year ago. “Our caseloads have decreased in the past year. Our staff are doing a great job.”
Next, the report shows 32 percent of cases take longer than the state's 60 day requirement to complete. That puts the county 52nd out of 64 counties. “We’re not going to rush through an assessment just because we rank within the top two within the state,” he explained.
Finally, the county did rank well, 24th in fact, in completing its safety assessments in 7 days.
Dirschberger said these types of reports are nothing new. He said he sees them annually and Erie County continues to move up in the rankings.
Still, child safety advocates like Melanie Blow find the rankings concerning. “It’s very unfortunate. I'm not surprised because in Erie Co. and the rest of the state, we're not doing the things we need to do to prevent children from being abused in the first place,” she said.
Ultimately, Dirschberger understands why the state monitors these areas. But he disagrees with ranking each county, and he said these rankings don't change his department's goal of protecting children. “I'll take a lower ranking over rushing through an investigation. We're not going to play games when it comes to safety.”