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Changes proposed for foster care system

Mike Desmond/WBFO

There are almost 1,000 children in Erie County's foster care system every day and the system is being criticized for not working all that well.

Advocates say the problem is getting worse because of the opioid epidemic and because Catholic Charities has pulled out of foster care.

"A foster parent, step-parent, grandparent or birth parent can relate to the frustration when you want to advocate for a child that you love but your voice isn't heard and you don't have a place to go to," said Rachel Schneiter.

With 165 certified foster homes in the county, the numbers don't add up. Too many kids with needs, not enough places for them to live safely.

Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke suggests an ombudsman could mediate "when there is a dispute, there is a process for the foster care parent, in many cases, to dispute when a child is going to be removed from their care and placed back in either a different foster care parent's home or back with a family member."

Burke would like to see the position added to the Social Services Department.

During yesterday's press conference, Rachel Schneiter said foster parents are special people.

"They want the best for children in need and many foster parents feel that the way that the courts are set up and the way that the system works and the time line that you work on isn't child centered, but subject to a system that's bogged down with too many cases."


Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.