Auditor General calls Pa.'s child welfare system 'simply broken'

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Sep 14, 2017 1:05 PM

Photo by PA Internet News Service

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale speaks in Harrisburg, while former Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas looks on.

(Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania's auditor general says the state of child welfare in the commonwealth is "absolutely appalling."

After a scathing report on the state's child abuse reporting hotline found 58,000 phone calls went unanswered between 2015 and 2016 due to staffing shortages, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale launched a year-long investigation of child welfare in 13 focus counties, including Dauphin and York.

Just last year, 46 children died and 79 nearly died from abuse and neglect, before they could be helped by Children and Youth Services.

"We're giving you the numbers we know," DePasquale said. "Obviously, there are things that happen across Pennsylvania that people do not know."

About half of the children's families were already known to CYS.

The report notes counties are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain caseworkers.

DePasquale says in York County, the caseworker turnover reached 90 percent in a two year period.

"How do you have any chance to maintain continuity of care for these vulnerable kids and families when you have 90 percent turnover? The answer is: you don't," he said.

DePasquale says caseworkers in Pennsylvania are not paid well, nor are they sufficiently trained to enter hostile situations.

Pennsylvania spent nearly $2 billion in state and federal funds in 2016 with the goal of protecting children. But caseloads have been increasing, due to changes in child abuse reporting laws and the opioid epidemic.

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