U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today will unveil legislation that he hopes will help prevent another case like the death of Erin Maxwell.
Schumer will discuss the “Erin Maxwell Memorial Grant Program” during a stop in Syracuse. He will also be in Oswego today, campaigning at the Port of Oswego with Democratic candidate for Congress Bill Owens.
Maxwell, 11, died in a rundown Palermo farmhouse last year. The home stank of animal wastes, as more than 50 cats lived in the home. Maxwell’s bedroom had two doors and both had locks on the outside. Her father and stepmother, Lindsey and Lynn Maxwell, are serving up to two years in jail after their convictions for endangering the child’s welfare. Erin’s stepbrother, Alan Jones, will soon be sentenced to prison for murdering Erin while the parents were shopping at Walmart.
Schumer’s plan would provide federal grants to social services agencies so they can hire enough caseworkers to handle suspected cases of abuse or neglect. Schumer’s press release notes, “Despite three reports of abuse referred to the Oswego Country Department of Social Services and their knowledge of the deplorable living conditions, no effort was made to remove Erin from her home or adequately monitor her situation.”
Critics charged that the county Social Services department failed to protect Erin from obvious harm. An independent report prepared by Cornell University found no fault with the county but noted that job cuts have left caseworkers handling too many cases. County lawmakers recently approved money to hire more caseworkers. Schumer is expected to say that the hiring of more caseworkers is the right thing to do, but agencies need more help than local taxpayers alone can provide.
Schumer’s measure, to be introduced in Congress as a bill, would require agencies to keep records of all abuse claims and bring the matter to police when two complaints have been made in a six month period. Agencies will have to conduct monthly visits and create a long-term plan for working with community, private and public agencies.