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Troubled midstate child welfare office seeks more caseworkers

Written by Angie Mason/York Daily Record | Jul 12, 2016 1:22 PM
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York County Administrative building (Photo: Jason Plotkin, York Daily Record)

The York County Office of Children, Youth and Families is working to avoid being taken over by the state

(York) -- The York County Office of Children, Youth and Families, which is working to avoid being taken over by the state, is asking the county for five additional caseworkers and a supervisor for reasons including skyrocketing numbers of referrals for child abuse and neglect.

"We are seeing some crazy numbers in this county," Terry Clark, director of the office, told the county salary board on Monday, as he made the request.

The county office is on its fourth provisional operating license from the state Department of Human Services, putting it at risk of being taken over by the state. The office has faced difficulty with staff turnover and mandatory paperwork.

Clark told the salary board that in addition to being on that provisional license, which lasts until November, the office continues to see increasing numbers of referrals.

In June 2016, the office saw 444 referrals, a 111 percent increase from two years prior. The numbers, which reflect accepted referrals and not total calls, first skyrocketed in 2015, when new child abuse laws took effect in the state.

"They continue to surprise us," Clark said, saying there was some expectation that the numbers would trend down once a year with the new child abuse laws had gone by.

Clark said he thinks the department continues to rank third in referrals in the state, behind Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. "Why that is we don't know, but we know we're trying to respond to that with the caseworkers that we have."

He indicated the office is preparing a needs-based budget for the state, which would seek even more positions. The six positions being requested in the county would, if the state approved, be reimbursed 80 percent by the state.

The county office lags behind recommendations for staff-to-case ratios from the Child Welfare League of America, he said. For example, the organization recommends 12 active cases per intake caseworker, he said, and the York County office can see up to 30 per caseworker.

The county outpaces recommendations for in-home services workers and placement workers, too.

The county currently has 76 caseworkers. The office recently hired Bev Mackereth, who previously served as the state's human services secretary, to work as a consultant for the office.

"Hopefully we can expedite this, and the state will realize we are in desperate need of workers," said Susan Byrnes, president of the York County commissioners.

Other requests

At the same meeting, other county offices made staffing requests. Those included 15 part-time corrections officers for the prison, which Mary Sabol, warden, said is really putting positions back and would help with "astronomical" overtime.

The probation services department requested the creation of four intake specialist positions, to help complete a unit that was started in January.

The intake specialists complete tasks like the input of data, completion of referral forms and payment agreements, and assigning of cases, among other things, meaning the probation officers can spend more time supervising cases.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

Published in News, York

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