Family of six children sue county and state welfare systems as well as children’s school system.
In February of this year, in Schenectady, New York, a tragic scene unfolded. Emergency 911 first responders had been called to a home at 1121 McClellan Street because someone was in cardiac arrest. What they were expecting to see when they entered the home and what they found were two different things entirely. They discovered a tragic scene that seemingly pointed to the systemic failure of the child welfare system.
When they walked inside, they found a filthy home covered with feces, garbage, mold, and even padlocks on the outside of the bedroom doors. Amongst this chaos and mess was Jennifer Hoch, eventually pronounced dead at the scene, and her six children—some of which had special needs. It is unclear whether she went into cardiac arrest and one of the children called or what else may have led up to the initial phone call.
Now that exactly what had happened has come to light, the grandparents of the children, Patricia, and Joseph Conroy, are filing a lawsuit against the county and state welfare agencies and school district in Schenectady. They claimed in their lawsuit that these entities failed to notice the signs of neglect and abuse that was going on in the Hoch household. The ultimate goal of the lawsuit is to seek damages for the suffering their grandchildren faced during the time they lived with their mother.
Some of the abuse and neglect included black mold growing in the house, human waste thrown around the entire premise, lack of food, lack of clothing, and just an overall environment that seven people (especially six children) should not have been living in. According to the lawsuit, the kids often missed school as well, which should have been a clear sign that something was wrong.
The mother had a history of neglect and abuse going all the way back to 2013. During the years of 2013 and 2022, there were five visits from child welfare workers. However, every time their children remained in Jennifer’s care. The state failed to do anything to help the situation, the lawsuit contends.
Such issues with the child welfare system are, unfortunately, common. In fact, they have become the norm. According to an article published by the Public News Service, there are a lot of staffing shortages and this is not unique to just one state. Due to these shortages, social workers find themselves with extreme caseloads and this can lead to people falling through the cracks.
All the children of Jennifer Hoch are victims of this a broken system. One can say the same thing about teachers and school officials. While they are mandated reporters—meaning they have to report suspected abuse to the authorities—there is a huge teacher shortage in the U.S. currently. This causes classrooms to be packed to the brim with children and this, too, can lead to abuse and neglect falling through the cracks.
Patricia and Joseph Conroy allege someone should have noticed. The lawsuit isn’t seeking a specific amount of money, just an amount the grandparents (who are now the guardians of their grandchildren) can use to ease some of their grandchildren’s pain and suffering.