Monroe County ends use of alternative child protective services program

After an expert review of an alternative child protective services program, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo has chosen to end it indefinitely. (Logo: Monroe County)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - After an expert review of an alternative child protective services program, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo has chosen to end it indefinitely.

Family Assessment Response is New York State’s Child Protective response to some reports of child maltreatment, and is an alternative approach to providing protection to children by engaging families in an assessment of child safety and of family needs.

On April 6, 2018, the state ordered the county to temporarily suspend its use of the FAR program, days after the stabbing death of 7-year-old Abraham Cardenas in the Town of Sweden. His mother is accused of the brutal killing.

Several days later, Dinolfo ordered the expert review and asked that a report be presented for her review within 45 days.

"As the report lays bare, the theoretical benefits of the State’s FAR model are greatly outweighed by its pragmatic limitations," said Dinolfo in a statement released Thursday. "I am confident that local children and families will be best served by our dedicated CPS unit working as one team moving forward.”

Current cases being overseen by Monroe County will continue to go through.

The review was conducted by Deputy County Executive and retired Supreme Court Justice Thomas VanStrydonck, Commissioner of Human Services Corinda Crossdale, Mary Whittier, the founding Executive Director of the Bivona Child Advocacy Center, and Thomas Corbett, Special Assistant to the Commissioner of Human Services.

"Just the model in itself makes the assumption that tradition CPS does not partner with the family, does not look at family strengths and we know that's not true," Crossdale said. "So it doesn't make any sense to keep two models that diverge from each other in place."

In recommending that MCDHS discontinue its use of the FAR program, the review panel offered several findings:

  1. 1. It has not been shown that the children who are the subject of the referrals assigned to FAR are safer because of this assignment.
  2. 2. The promise of the benefits of the FAR program are more theoretical than actual.
  3. 3. FAR’s principles are equally available to CPS Investigative teams, as are the solutions to be provided to the families.
  4. 4. Dollars and time spent training staff on FAR principles can be better spent training all CPS workers.
  5. 5. Assignment to FAR prohibits investigation into the “specific allegations of abuse or maltreatment,” one of the main tenets of FAR – this approach is of questionable value to the determination of the safety of the child(ren) involved.
  6. 6. [The FAR approach of] not investigating the original complaint prevents any finding concerning the allegations from being made – the wisdom of making no finding as to the appropriateness of the initial referral is questionable.

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