Image via WikipediaFirst of all let me explain that Erin Maxwell was a young girl who died by hanging in her room, in a house that had the filthiest conditions imaginable. The conditions she lived in were reported several times to DSS, but they failed to act. People have been told that her case is unique and that DSS did all that they could under NYS (New York State) law. The real story is that DSS has very wide powers under the law and is required to investigate a report of neglect or abuse involving a child on each occasion that a report is made.
The fact is that someone is lying in this case and some people may be guilty of violating NYS law. The Law says that a school and every employee in it must report any suspicion of child neglect or abuse to the school social worker and that the social worker must investigate and determine whether the claim has merit. If the claim has merit the school social worker must inform dss or the authorities.
In Erin's case the teacher's were providing Erin with clean clothes when she arrived at school because her clothes smelled of urine. She was seen eating out of trash cans also and there were probably other signs of neglect. This would have to be reported under the law on every occasion that it occurred and it would have to be documented by the school in writing. So far there is no record of this being done and if it was done and reported to DSS in Oswego County the County would have to investigate the claims thoroughly after each incident.
Erin's case with DSS in Oswego county had been closed and no one was investigating her living conditions. Point blank, someone here either lied or violated New York State Law, because DSS has stated that they had no reports about Erin in the year before her death. In any case people who knew Erin from outside the school have said that they reported her situation to DSS. The bottom line is that under the law DSS was obligated to investigate under NYS law if anything was reported by the school or people who had knowledge of Erin.
A S>U> professor has weighed in and said that Erin's case is out of the ordinary. An aberration in the system. It is true that Erin's living conditions were an isolated case, becasuse of the severity, but I know that children are regularly kept in their homes in Onondaga County when their living conditions are not appropriate. I worked for the City school district for many years and know that there were many occasions where reports were made to the social worker and DSS. The bottom line is that children are living in unacceptable conditions right now and, because these cases aren't allowed to be made public children suffer every day.
This is the states dirty little secret and it will never be addressed until it is brought out into the open. DSS should not be allowed to monitor itself. Everycase should be reviewed by an independent source to determine if appropriate action has been taken.
As for Erin's death, their is a definite possibility that she killed herself, because she was trapped in the living conditions she was exposed to and locked in her room from the outside on a regular basis. I have been involved with children who have tried to kill themselves as young as 9 years old and it is not as rare as some may think. Erin must have known that many people knew about her living conditions and she also must have known that no one was helping to change them. Imagine being locked in a room in a house filled with animal feces from wall to wall. A house where there were hundreds of cats and animals routinely died. Imagine that some of those animal were in the freezer. Is it hard to imagine that someone caught in this situation might consider suicide. Imagine how hopeless she must have been. I think that suicide is not a factor that can be ignored in this case. My belief is that the state police did not want the attention that her suicide would bring, so they charged her brother on very little or no evidence at all. No DNA or anything else that would connect him to her death, except that he was in the house when it occurred.
As to the premise that people who are suicidal speak about it, this is a total misconception. The majority of suicides are unexpected and come with no signs at all that the person was going to kill themselves. I know several people who killed themselves and it always came as a surprise. Most people who really want to die don't advertise, because they don't want to be stopped. This is a fact that most psychiatrist can tell you.