CAMILLUS, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Nearly one year before she was arrested on charges of child abuse, a Camillus woman’s care of her son was formally reported by the boy’s child care provider.
“I promised him that he wasn’t going to go home with her,” says Karen Sweeney, program director at Partners in Parenting in Camillus. “I don’t know if he’s mad at me, and think I lied to him or failed him, but that’s how I feel.”
The boy was enrolled in Sweeney’s program in March of 2021. Right away, the staff noticed his mom’s obsession with how much he could eat and drink and then shifted their focus to marks on his body from injuries he’d find excuses for, at first, they say.
Sweeney remembers, “He felt comfortable with us, very close, and he eventually started to tell us in detail.”
The boy would blame his mom, Susan Orendorf, for the injuries.
Sweeney began discussing with him her plan to call for help. He was reluctant, fearing he’d be separated from his sister, but then agreed.
Sweeney says she filed a complaint with the state’s child abuse hotline in November of 2021.
According to the State Department of Child and Family Services, New York is one of 13 states that have a child welfare system that is state-supervised and county-administered. The Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR) gets the call and relays information to the local district or county for investigation.
The boy admitted to the childcare provider it wouldn’t be the first time he’d do an interview with child protective services.
“I was going to make sure this time they took him seriously,” said Sweeney. “There’s no way after somebody sits through and listens to these allegations… he had to give specific answers. He had to show exactly how he was being grabbed and everything else. It was the most awful interview I’ve sat in because I didn’t feel like they were working for him.”
She doesn’t know what happened next but feels the investigation only agitated the boy’s mother. Orendorf kept custody of her son and pulled him out of the program. The child care program never saw him again.
The program director is now helping police with the criminal investigation.
Orendorf was arrested last week on charges of strangulation, imprisonment, forcible touching, and endangering the welfare of a child. She’s out of jail as a grand jury deliberates the charges.
The boy, and his sister, are now in the custody of the Onondaga County child welfare program.
Sweeney said: “I just want to hug him… I saw a picture of him. He looks happy.”
In a statement to NewsChannel 9, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services writes: “(We are) appalled at these allegations and our hearts go out to this little boy. We are grateful for the support from his teachers and community. OCFS cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.”
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, who oversees the county’s Department of Children and Family Services, has not been willing to discuss the case in response to numerous requests from NewsChannel 9. His spokesperson cites the pending criminal investigation.