CANTON, N.Y. (WWTI) — An investigation into St. Lawrence County’s Child Protective and Preventive Services has concluded, according to a press release from the county’s administrator.

The year-long investigation was handled by Syracuse-based law firm Hancock Estabrook, LLP, following 37 complaints made to the county between mid-2021 and early 2022. The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators was recently presented with the final review and findings of the investigation.

Bonadio Group, a consulting firm, assessed the complaints the county received and identified inadequacies in the performance of the county’s Child Protective and Preventive units.

The complaints, which prompted the review, were made regarding neglect and abuse proceedings, custody proceedings and some with no prior involvement with the Department of Social Services.

The Board of Legislators appointed St. Lawrence County Attorney Stephen Button to oversee the Department of Social Service’s legal unit last year, following the complaints.

The department received 19 recommendations regarding changes to operations, which were used to create a 19-point corrective action plan overseen by Commissioner Joseph Seeber, who was appointed to the role this year.

Seeber recently informed the Board of Legislators that 15 of the 19 points from the corrective action plan have been successfully implemented, according to the county’s administrator.

“As the public should be well aware, the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators has taken the complaints very seriously, working tirelessly to review the operations and implement changes across the spectrum of operations in the Department of Social Services,” St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators Chair William Sheridan said.

“What Commissioner Seeber and his folks at the Department have accomplished is nothing short of spectacular and they should be commended for their outstanding work. What the reports have shown us is that we could do better than we were. With the number of on-time safety reports going to near 100%, a drop of more than 30% of the kids placed in foster care, and a reduction in the overall burden on our staff assignments, we are doing better every day.”

“We appreciate the services of the Bonadio Group and Hancock Estabrook, LLP. Their critical review of thousands of documents and hundreds of cases have helped us to refocus the efforts of our staff as we move forward. It is clear that the changes implemented by the Board of Legislators and Commissioner Seeber have proven to be a success. The numbers demonstrate great progress. The employees of the Department of Social Services should be proud of their efforts as the implemented changes clearly demonstrate a dedication to a better outcomes for all who are served by the Department,” County Administrator Ruth Doyle said.