Buffalo, NY (WBEN) Erie County Child Protective Services has put in a new policy allowing investigators to access social media like Facebook and Twitter.
The social-media policy, believed to be one of the first instituted by a child protective agency in New York State, is being used in cases with an increased safety risk to the child.
“Many times alleged perpetrators of child abuse have information on a social media site which would indicate their children are not being well cared for,” says Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “Designated CPS staff now has a directive that allows them to search for this type of information and use this information in their investigation, possibly leading to a court action. This policy provides CPS staff specific criteria for accessing social media sites for information pertinent to the investigation. The volume of information contained on social media sites is vast and growing every day so these criteria will be used to target our searches. As with any new policy, it will be evaluated to determine its level of effectiveness.”
CPS is only allowed to search social media outlets for information in which the individual has made no attempt to limit access to the data and the data is able to be accessed by the general public without the authorization of the creator.
“Enactment of this social-media policy is just one example of the numerous initiatives the Department of Social Services has implemented to strengthen CPS practice in the last several months,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Carol Dankert-Maurer. “There have been 18 positions added to CPS, caseworkers have been placed in area hospitals, and we have partnered with Central Police Services to improve caseworkers’ interviewing skills. In addition, we have recently requested the Legislature allow the temporary hiring of six retired child protective workers as part-time employees, and reestablish the Erie County Community Coordinating Council on Children and Families. We continue to remain vigilant on behalf of our community’s children.”