County officials responding to the audit disputed the state’s methodology for counting recurrent abuse cases but state auditors recommended CPS case workers should perform follow-up investigations where circumstances such as persistent drug or alcohol use or mental health problems make it more likely abuse will happen again.
“Between March 2008 and September 2012, the county’s average number of indicated cases was 425 with a rate of child abuse and neglect recurrence averaging 14.5 percent,” the comptroller’s report states.
The national average for recurrence is 5.4 percent in child abuse cases, auditors noted.
“We found the county does not track or analyze its recurrence cases,” the audit states. “Doing so could help develop a better understanding of why the recurrence occurred or what historically has or has not worked to prevent recurrence. We encourage the county, when a recurrence occurs, to re-examine the case and the actions taken and consider what might have prevented the recurrence.”
Auditors also noted the county’s CPS department does not track statistics that would help in this effort.
In his response to the audit, Niagara County Manager Jeffrey Glatz said case workers and managers routinely re-examine difficult cases but such work isn’t being properly documented in case files.
“I know in speaking with our director of services, this type of re-examination takes place on a regular basis when subsequent reports involving the same allegations come in on a particular family,” Glatz wrote. “These discussions, generally between a case worker and supervisor, may need to be identified more clearly or labeled in the progress reports.”
Responding to Glatz, auditors said they found “no evidence that re-examinations occurred.”