Oswego County steps up child protection services after Maxwell murder

Erin Maxwell

It was a death that shocked Central New York.

Now, a committee formed in Oswego County after Erin Maxwell's death is looking at ways the county's Department of Social Services (DSS) can better protect children.

Erin Maxwell was found dead in her Palermo home in August of 2008. Her stepbrother, Alan Jones, was found guilty of strangling her.

State police say the 11-year-old girl was living in "deplorable conditions." During the investigation, State Troopers found dozens of animals, feces and piles of garbage in their Palermo home. Maxwell's parents were convicted on child endangerment charges. Alan Jones was sentenced to the maximum penalty.

Investigators with the Oswego County Department of Social Services visited Maxwell's home several times before her death but no action was taken to remove her from the home.

In the wake of the Erin Maxwell case, Oswego County formed a child protection advisory council.

The council held one of its monthly meetings Thursday morning. DSS commissioner Greg Heffner says that since Maxwell's death, DSS has doubled the number of investigators and increased their training and supervision.

Heffner said, â??It's been very successful that really helps us to fully assess cases and recognize the risks when they do indeed occur and gives us the opportunity to react much more quickly."

Heffner says the DSS has also improved its communications with other agencies. The Oswego County Child Protection Advisory Council meets again at the beginning of March.