Goodell, Young Weigh In On Child Abuse Bills

Two bills regarding protections from child abuse have passed the New York State Senate and are currently being reviewed by a State Assembly committee.

Bill s137, sponsored by state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, also known as Kayleigh Mae’s Law, would require hair follicle testing of an infant or toddler under the age of three who in the vicinity of a parent or guardian who is arrested on a drug charge. The bill is named after Kayleigh Mae, a 13-month-old child in Washington County who passed away in 2015 after being given heroin and cocaine for 10 months after her birth.

Testing the hair follicles of young children would allow child protective investigations to determine if illegal drug exposure is a risk to the child’s health.

Another bill, s3146, sponsored by State Sen. Martin J. Golden, R-Brooklyn, would establish a statewide standard of no more than 15 cases per month per full-time child protective caseworker.

State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, said Kayleigh’s Law is important to protect the children in her district.

“The drug epidemic is decimating our community, and its victims span all ages. The Senate passed Kayleigh Mae’s law, which I supported, in the wake of a tragic case in Washington County where an infant died after being given heroin and cocaine for 10 months after birth,” Young said. ” It is heartbreaking that such a bill is even needed, but we must to be proactive in protecting those who cannot speak for themselves. Locally, in Western New York, we have seen a startling rise in the number of newborns born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), which indicates the exposure to opioids and narcotics. Today, the birthrate for babies born with a drug-related diagnosis is more than twice the statewide average.

“To address this disturbing trend, I have sponsored legislation that would require facilities to screen newborns for NAS through a toxicological screening. Each of these steps ensures that every newborn is given the best chance to have a better quality of life.”

State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, said both bills have been introduced in the Assembly and are currently under review by the children and families committee. The idea of Kayleigh Mae’s Law is to help those who are unable to speak up for themselves about situations they might be in, he said.

“The child under the age of three is not in a good position to speak for themselves,” Goodell said. “Everyone hopes the instances of our young children being given (drugs) is very low, but you don’t know that without doing the testing.”

He said he believes Child Protective Services should have the authority to seek a drug test when the child is in danger. If the parents of the child are arrested, it is likely CPS or social services will get involved in the situation.

“In those situations, I believe CPS should be involved from the beginning because we know the children are at risk,” Goodell said.

 

The bill regarding the workload of social workers is a different matter, he said. While it is a good idea to have adequate staffing for social work cases, Goodell said this bill does not provide funding for what it attempts to do. Rather, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the counties. Instead of a state mandate on social workers’ case loads, Goodell said he believes there should be some flexibility involved.

The counties should be able to have an increased amount of staffing for serious cases, but should not be required to have as much staffing for cases that might not be as serious, he said.

“The staffing should be very flexible and should stay within the control of the county government,” Goodell said.

However, he said he supports the intent of the bill, which is to have adequate social work staffing.

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