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Protest of Child Protective Services in Belmont asks for accountablity


A small group of protested in Belmont at the county courthouse

By Andrew Harris,

A Wellsville man led a peaceful protest Monday at the Allegany County courthouse which demanded more accountability within the Department of Social Services, specifically the office of Child Protective Services(CPS.)

Organizer Marshall Green and all of those in attendance during my visit voiced the same basic complaint: Child Protective Services used extra-judicial tactics and are an unaccountable arm of county government that needs reform.

Everyone in attendance explained that they were involved in a CPS case which they felt the system failed them and caused lots of collateral damage. Some in the group called for the immediate firing of certain members of CPS staff, others held handmade signs which decried CPS actions and impact on families.

Allegany County has not responded to our request for a statement, and for good reason. The organizer of the protest, Marshall Green, has repeatedly threatened further legal actions. Whether or not grounds exist for such action, that threat of action almost always creates a ‘no comment’ policy. Green made this statement recently:

“Before I move forward with formally retaining my lawyer and filing a lawsuit against the County, I would like to give the County an opportunity to set this wrong right without involving the courts.”

Green and his fellow protestors have plenty to say and we discussed the subject at length. At the end of that discussion, the question was posed to the group: What long term change are you hoping to achieve?

The group agreed that two systemic changes would help future “clients” of Child Protective Services, especially those that have difficulties.

First, the group feels that a “CPS accountablity board,” should be formed for the county to hear testimony and review case files brought to the board, or panel, with qualifying complaints. That board or panel, should be a mix of county leaders and community leaders, to provide a venue for the average citizen to be heard.

The second is for Allegany County to establish a formal complaint system which provides citizens with a means to both file a complaint, and track the status of the complaint. Ideas such as an online database that is in the public realm, or at least accessible by the complaintant would be an agreeable outcome for the protestors.

While county and non-profit leaders have all refused to make a formal comment or statement, the off-the-record conversations all echo the same sentiment.

To paraphrase those conversations:

Read our previous reporting on why Green has decided to hold these public protests and launch the website,

The complaints that have been made and these are not uncommon in the realm of Child Protective Services, this is a very unpleasant business for almost everyone who has dealings with CPS. Almost every parent or guardian who is the subject of a CPS investigation or action, is very unhappy about the situation. The entire nature of the beast is extremely contentious and the circumstances heartbreaking. That will never change. Because of that, New York State offers a independent mechanism to make formal complaints, To create a seperate, county based, review board or complaint system would be an expensive duplication of services. Such a board would be useless because of existing privacy laws which are in place to protect children and families.

Again that is to paraphrase the voices of many stakeholders, but should offer some insight into a nearly impossible situation.

Marshall Green has clearly stated that he will not stop holding regular protests until demands for increased accountability are met.

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