Following the death of an 8-year-old Center Moriches boy, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is launching a “top-to-bottom” review of how the Department of Social Services handled the case.
Thomas Valva was found dead in the driveway of his home at 11 Bittersweet Lane, in Center Moriches, around 9:40 a.m., Friday, Jan. 17. His father told officers he had fallen in the driveway.
It was later determined that the child was allegedly banished to the garage overnight when the temperatures dipped below 19 degrees.
His father, Michael Valva, 40, and his fiancée Angela Pollina, 42, have been charged with his murder.
His mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, said she has been fighting for two years to regain custody of Thomas and two other sons, but the Department of Social Services took no action on her claims of abuse.
"As a parent, I am horrified by what happened to this beautiful boy," Bellone said. "As county executive, I want to know if there’s anything else that could have been done under existing law to prevent this from happening. Beyond that, I want to know if anything, in this case, suggests that changes should be made to existing policy or law."
Bellone said an internal review of the case will be overseen by the new Suffolk County Department of Social Services Commissioner, Frances Pierre, who will examine departmental procedures and actions in the Valva case.
In addition, the county will also work with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services as they conduct an independent review of the case, as well as the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office who is handling the ongoing criminal prosecution.
At the same time, Bellone said an external task force, co-chaired by Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn and Deputy County Executive Jon Kaimam, will review all policies and procedures as they relate to children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Thomas was said to be on the autism spectrum.
Michael Valva and Angela Pollina have pleaded not guilty in the case.
Justyna Zubko-Valva has regained custody of her other two sons.
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