Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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September 19th, 2014

Protecting Children from Violence

During the past week we have been flooded with news headlines involving cases of family and domestic violence within the NFL. It has sparked conversation nationwide including right here in Sullivan County.

Legislator Cora Edwards who heads the Public Safety Committee of the Legislature has fought long and hard to see to it that Sullivan County allocates funds to protect families from such devastating crimes.

During this week’s Public Safety Committee meeting of the legislature, District Attorney James Farrell thanked the Legislature for approving a new investigative position for the Sullivan County Family Violence Prevention Response Team.

The Family Violence Response Team is a co-operative effort between the District Attorney’s office, law enforcement agencies including the New York State Police and Sheriff’s Department, and the Department of Family Services, to address suspected incidences of child abuse.

The Unit was initially formed in 1998 by the former DA Steve Lungen and former Sherriff Dan Hogue as a response to the Christopher Gardner case in which a four-year old child from Bloomingburg was beaten to death by the child’s mother and two of her friends.

The team now consists of two law enforcement officers, a detective from DA’s office and an investigator from State Police, along with four CPS senior case workers and input from supervisors and Commissioner of Family Services Randy Parker.

Farrell told me “The Family Violence Response Team is an extremely important law enforcement initiative that focuses trained investigators and child protective workers on the physical and sexual abuse of children in Sullivan County. It has successfully investigated and prosecuted hundreds of child abuse cases over the last 15 years.”

The framework of the team puts CPS workers and specially trained police officers and the District Attorney’s Office together to investigate calls made to the New York State central hotline and is designed to minimize the continuing trauma to the child victims of these crimes.

Farrell said, “The team has been very successful in the years since its formation and has always had the support of the Sullivan County Legislature, local and state law enforcement and Sullivan County’s Department of Family Services. It is a real example, to be emulated, of various levels of government, working together, toward a common goal – that of protecting children.”

District Attorney Farrell added, “Due to staffing cuts and the budget crisis that Sullivan County experienced over the past four years, in 2010, the team lost one of its two police investigators when the Sheriff’s Department indicated that it could no longer dedicate a full time detective to the unit. This resulted in an increased case load for the remaining police investigator, assigned by the New York State Police. Fortunately, the legislature authorized the filling of this position with an investigator assigned from the DA’s Office. This addition was needed in order to continue the incredibly important mission of the team.”

Health and Family Services Commissioner Parker, commenting on the Family Violence Response Team said, “Everything we have done over the last two years has been in an effort to increase children’s safety with the addition of critical staff. This is demonstrated by the results – we’ve had 50 petitions of child abuse and neglect filed in the last five months compared to 50 per year in total with reduced staff in administrations prior to 2012.”

When questioned about reforms being made at the Department of Family Services, one employee who wished not to be identified told me, “Many of us feel these changes are long overdue. Those that only work for a paycheck or insurance benefits understand there has been a major policy shift and know what is expected of them.”

Parker noted, “We are creating clear protocols with schools, social services, legal counsel to reduce the bureaucratic process that children may encounter when they are interviewed by different parties. The bottom line is that children have never been safer in Sullivan County than now, and I will stake my reputation on it.”

District Attorney Jim Farrell and Commissioner of Health and Family Services Randy Parker have been researching the next step by creating a Sullivan County Children’s Advocacy Center at the Division of Family Services complex in Liberty.

The closest Child Advocacy Centers are in Binghamton, Westchester, and the Bronx.

A Child Advocacy Center in Sullivan County would handle cases which would include a medical component and a standalone site where the child victims of these horrible crimes can feel safe and secure and be treated both with compassion and professionalism.

From the National Children’s Advocacy Center web site: “As a child-focused, multidisciplinary response to child abuse, the Children’s Advocacy Center was established to prevent the re-victimization of sexually abused children by the system’s response to their cases. The “multidisciplinary team approach” involves law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, mental health, medical, family/victim advocacy, and other resources in a model community response to child sexual abuse. Professionals across this nation have recognized that by focusing on abused children, they can work together to achieve better outcomes for young victims and families.”

Farrell said, “Sullivan County has a definitive need for a Child Advocacy Center so that the child victims of these crimes can obtain justice. I am committed to seeking out funding and continuing to work with my law enforcement and DFS partners to make a Child Advocacy Center a reality in Sullivan County.”

Parker noted that Sullivan County has used a child abuse treatment specialist from Westchester to help with their cases. “All these measures taken together are crucial in making Sullivan County children safer. The purpose for a Child Advocacy Center is to have dedicated services all under one roof that is child-friendly and promotes privacy and safety. It is a place where confidential interviews can take place in an environment that reduces the trauma that investigations may cause a child.”

Once Sullivan County opens the dedicated Child Advocacy Center we will house a multi-disciplinary team with forensic pediatric nurses and other trained specialists that help reduce the trauma to children.

Legislator Edwards said “It is critical that we have a fully active team and move toward a proposed Child Advocacy Center to protect abused and neglected children in our County – children who are our most vulnerable and need the fullest protection of the law.”

Edwards said another goal is school involvement.

She pointed out that last spring a group including Legislator Cindy Geiger and Commissioner Randy Parker reached out to the principal and guidance counselor of the Liberty schools in order to improve communications between the school and social services.

“School staff care so much about the children attending school. They know immediately if a child has missed a meal or if they haven’t been properly bathed and clothed. They know immediately if there is neglect or abuse, and they need to be supported when they see something amiss. We hope that stronger communication will go hand in hand with an increased awareness of how we can build healthier communities.”

How to Report Suspected Child Abuse: 1-800-342-3720: Statewide Hotline. Call this number to report an incidence of suspected child abuse. Your call may remain anonymous if you so choose. Your call will be investigated by a New York State Department of Social Services expert. In case of emergency please call 911 with location details.

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself on National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the “MOUTH THAT ROARS” Column in THE SULLIVAN COUNTY POST.


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