- County Executive Steve Levy
will recognize the Suffolk Department of Social Services (DSS) for successfully managing neglected and abused children cases while simultaneously reducing the departmental caseload and generating $5 million in 2009 savings, on Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 12:30 p.m., at the 12th Floor Conference Room at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge.
Despite a steadily rising rate of incidents, the Child Protective & Preventive Services Bureau (CPPSB) of DSS has effectively reduced the number of children placed in institutional and foster care settings, placing children more often with screened and approved relatives. As a result, fewer children have entered the foster care system, and the county has had to pay $5 million less than anticipated to provide foster care services in 2009.
"It is tragic when children must be removed from their parents' care," said Levy. "However, by placing youngsters with family members whom they know and love, we mitigate the impact on these children, avoid costly foster care services and save taxpayers millions of dollars."
To accomplish this, CPPSB introduced a series of steps over recent years and redistributed staffing accordingly. This enabled the unit, which provides voluntary preventive services to families, to heighten its level of attention on cases involving children who had been removed from their homes. These and other initiatives resulted in a 26 percent reduction in caseload between 2007 and July 2009.
DSS Commissioner Greg Blass said, "We are proud of the work by our child protective workers. The Suffolk Police Department deserves credit also for working with us to expedite the review and approval process for prospective caregivers - what used to take several days has now been cut, typically, to only one or two days."
CPPSB worked with the police department to develop an innovative computer system that speeds law enforcement background clearances for prospective relative resources. These expedited clearances help ensure the safety of homes where children can be placed, thereby reducing the need for temporary foster care placement.
Today, only 1.1 of every 1,000 children now enters foster care in Suffolk County. This is the eighth lowest ranking for first-time foster care placements among all counties in the state and the second-lowest ranking among New York's largest counties. Suffolk's rate is less that half that of the statewide average rate of 2.3 placements per 1,000 children.
County Executive Levy has announced that a portion of the $5 million in savings will be used to create a new preventive services team in CPPSB. The new unit will identify additional steps that can be taken to reduce costs, improve services to families and children, and capitalize on state funding sources for staffing.