Grand jury blames Suffolk County CPS in Thomas Valva's death

A grand jury report into the death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva has concluded that Suffolk County Child Protective Services (CPS) failed to protect the boy who ultimately froze to death after being forced to sleep outside in a garage on a cold January night in 2020.

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney demanded change on Thursday to what he calls a "backwards law". 

Valva died of hypothermia in 2020 after he was forced to sleep in an unheated garage with his older brother. His father and his father’s fiancee were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. 

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For years, CPS received abuse reports, but visits were deemed unfounded. Under New York State law, grand juries and even law enforcement officials are shielded from access to unfounded CPS reports. 

The grand jury recommended amending this law. 

"What that means is that my office to this very day has not been able to view Thomas Valva’s CPS reports nor any of the documentary evidence that should be in that file," Tierney said. 

The President of Suffolk AME, the union that represents CPS workers in the County, says the report and its recommendations reaffirm their position that the caseworkers in the Valva case performed their jobs following their training and state law. 

RELATED: Prosecution says no one called 911 until they had to in death of 8-year-old Thomas Valva

Moving forward, the union wants to be part of a comprehensive reform movement, working with unions throughout the state that represent CPS workers and partnering with local and state lawmakers to fix the longstanding problems in the CPS system. 

Joshua Hanson, executive director of The Safe Center LI, says accountability should fall on multiple agencies working together like it does in Nassau County. 

"If we’re serious about keeping children safe we need more CPS workers than less and prosecuting will reduce the number of applicants," he said. "As abuse allegations come in, CPS law enforcement, everyone should respond as a team, not in isolation."

Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine says he has already started to make changes in the department and will be immediately bringing in new leadership.