Captiol News from The Assembly Minority Conference
The Assembly Minority Conference

A Tragic Loss Of Life Leaves Community Searching For Answers

Legislative Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay

The heartbreaking death of Jordan Brooks has left our community reeling, and has raised serious questions about how services for the disability community are administered in Oswego County. Brooks, who was wheelchair bound and suffered from cerebral palsy, was 17 years old at the time of his death. His parents, Anthony and Lisa Waldron, were arrested and charged with negligent homicide, among several other related charges.

There are no words to capture the tragedy of what happened to Jordan. According to investigators, because Jordan was sedentary in his wheelchair he developed infected bedsores so extreme his bones were exposed. He was grossly malnourished and septic, which was determined to be the ultimate cause of his death. The conditions surrounding Jordan’s death are horrifying, and no one should ever be forced to endure such neglect.

There are a number of questions that need to be answered with respect to this tragedy. How was Jordan’s condition allowed to deteriorate like this? Did Oswego County Department of Social Services do everything in its power to address Jordan’s condition, and if not, why? The list goes on. The county has announced its intention to conduct an investigation, led by an outside entity. That’s an appropriate first step, and one that must ultimately result in corrective action and accountability.

Sadly, this case shares many similarities with that of Erin Maxwell, of Palermo, who was found living in deplorable conditions and was eventually killed by her stepbrother in 2008. After that tragedy, local officials promised changes in protective service procedures to prevent something like that from happening in the future. Clearly, there were critical, systemic issues that were not adequately addressed. Again, why?

In the wake of Erin Maxwell’s death, I proposed new requirements to strengthen protections for children in abusive situations and make endangering the welfare of a child a class D violent felony. Now, I am again calling for action. It is clear this matter will require a third-party investigation into exactly what happened, why and when. Answers to these questions are critical to ensuring this never happens to another child or individual with a disability moving forward.

Lastly, as we enter the final leg of budget negotiations for next year’s spending plan, I urge Gov. Hochul to reconsider her proposal to cut $1.2 billion in funding to the Office of Children and Family Services. New York state is looking at its largest spending plan in history, with money distributed in seemingly every direction. There is no reason that a spending plan of this magnitude cannot accommodate these services. At a time when health care, both mental and physical, has never been more necessary, there must be a way to restore this proposed cut.

Everything about Jordan Brooks’ death is unspeakably upsetting. We are a community in mourning, and I will continue to push for changes to address obvious flaws in a system that failed this young man. New York state and its local governments offer protective services for a reason, and if they cannot prevent egregious failures like the one that led to Jordan Brooks’ death, I have serious concerns about what else is falling through the cracks. These concerns must be addressed now, and in their entirety.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 19 Canalview Mall, Fulton, NY 13069 and by email at