Suffolk County announces child protective services reform in the wake of 8-year-old Thomas Valva’s death

Long Island
Thomas Valva

Thomas Valva, 8, died after an incident at his Center Moriches home in 2020. Photo credit: Justyna Zubko-Valva/ Thomas Valva’s mother

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SUFFOLK COUNTY — Measures to protect children in Suffolk County will be strengthened in the wake of 8-year-old Thomas Valva’s death,officials said Wednesday.

Valva froze to death in his father’s garage on Jan. 17. The new plan involves reforming Child Protective Services, an agency that failed Valva, according to his mother. The reforms ensure CPS will “never operate in the same way again,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

“At the very least, it is our obligation to make sure that we are doing everything that we can to prevent such a terrible tragedy,” Bellone said. “We can’t stop someone from being evil, but we can make sure that the systems in place to protect children are operating as efficiently and effectively as possible. The legislation and reforms that we propose today are going to help us do exactly that.”

Bellone had working with Presiding Officer Rob Calarco to establish an External Task Force to review all Child Protective Services policies and procedures as they relate to children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Valva had autism.

The CPS Transformation Act has six bills designed to target problems with the system:

  • Create CPS Specialized Unit Involving Children with Special Needs
  • Establish New Training Requirements for all CPS Caseworkers
  • Enhance Scrutiny of Reports from School Officials
  • Establish Criminal Penalties for Failure to Attest to Electronic Surveillance
  • Adopt New Caseload Standards
  • More Transparency with Caseload and Staffing Levels

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