Legislator wants better protection for at-risk kids in aftermath of Thomas Valva's death
The death of Thomas Valva has led to calls for new legislation to make sure that at-risk children are properly protected.
The 8-year-old's father, Michael Valva, and Angela Pollina were both found guilty of second-degree murder and child endangerment in separate trials.
Some experts say that organizations such as Child Protective Services are also partially at fault for Thomas Valva's death.
"Somewhere, some entity and individuals failed because CPS was contacted numerous times," says Crime Victims Center Executive Director Laura Ahearn.
Staff members from the East Moriches Elementary School testified that both Thomas Valva and his brother Anthony Valva were starving - even eating crumbs off the school floor. They also said that both boys came to schools with bruises and were always cold.
By law, school staff members are "mandatory reporters." They testified in court that they made multiple calls to CPS about the brothers before Thomas Valva died - even flooding the state hotline after Suffolk CPS initially said the reports were unfounded.
Legislator Kara Hahn was put on an external task forced created by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and helped create the CPS Transformation Act that passed in the summer of 2020.
Now, she is hoping to address lingering concerns she has about the system in place.
"I would like to see the appeals process, if the appeal is granted, the case would remain open and CPS would continue to work with the family," Hahn says.
Hahn says an independent entity is needed as to provide another level of protection for victims or original cases are determined to be unfounded.
It is unclear if the changes will need to be made at the state or local level. Hahn says they are working with both to determine the next steps.