Weekly Feature

2013-10-24 / Editorials

Protecting children needs to remain priority for all

State Senator

I n September, Western New York was once again rocked by the tragic loss of a young child. Five-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks suffered repeated, brutal beatings allegedly at the hands of his mother’s live-in boyfriend. Eain’s life was taken as a result of this senseless abuse.

As the father of three young children, I was deeply saddened by Eain’s death. Our entire community has mourned his loss, and I cannot imagine the immense pain that Eain’s family has endured. My thoughts and prayers remain with them. Eain’s death is an intolerable and heartbreaking tragedy, and we must do all we can to prevent anything like this from ever happening again. Unfortunately, that is an all too common refrain. Clearly, the system is susceptible to improvement. We can do better. We must.

In Western New York alone, during the past several months, 10-year-old Abdifatah Mohamud, 3-year-old Gage Seneca, 1-year-old Austin Smith and now 5-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks were brutally beaten and murdered by individuals entrusted with their care. The circumstances surrounding each of their deaths are different, but together, the loss of these children call into question whether or not our county and state are meeting their obligations to protect the safety and well-being of all children. That’s why we called in the New York State Office of Children and Family Services and asked them to investigate the practices and procedures of Erie County Child Protective Services.

The state’s investigative review is under way, and efforts are being made to ensure there is accountability within child protective services in Erie County and across the state. The review process is ongoing, and we will ensure that the community is informed as we learn more. We know the system needs to change. The state’s review will help shed light on any gaps in the system and present opportunities to reform Child Protective Services.

In the meantime, we have already begun working to draft legislation that will help ensure that all children are kept safe from harm. We want accountability, transparency and efficiency within Child Protective Services locally and throughout the state, and we are committed to pursuing legislative reform to ensure that happens as quickly as possible. As a community, we worked relentlessly to get Jay J’s Law finally passed into law this year. It toughens penalties for repeat child abuse, and it ensures that children, especially those who have become victims of child abuse, have enhanced protections against their violent abusers.

We, as a community, need to remain diligent in our efforts to stop child abuse and neglect. Eain’s family has formed a group called Eain’s Echo, which will help raise awareness of child abuse and aims to ramp up prevention efforts. After suffering an unimaginable tragedy, they are channeling their immense grief into positive action to prevent other families from experiencing what they’ve endured. Amid all of their pain, they are working hard to inspire the community to help them prevent child abuse and neglect.

Let’s remain steadfast and resolute in our ongoing work to end child abuse, once and for all. Children in Western New York and across New York State are depending on us.

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