Pennsylvania Child Protection News For March & April 2016

May 1, 2016 in Adoption, Child Death, education, Health and Mental Health, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, Resources, The States by Mike Tikkanen

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The following stories and articles about child abuse and child protection in Pennsylvania have been gathered from April and March 2016 by Krista Neuner

For broken families, all the comforts of home (Includes video)
Morning Call – March 28, 2016
The atmosphere in the South Whitehall Township cottage, a project of the Lehigh County Office of Children and Youth Services and The Salvation Army Children’s Services, was carefully cultivated to encourage children and parents to relax. That’s because the families who meet there are broken and need a calm place to piece themselves back together.

Legislators say PA adoption law is “archaic” (Includes video)
FOX 43 – March 23, 2016
Under the current state law a parent can claim their child back 20 days after they sign their rights away. Petri wants to change that to 96 hours.

Innovative program aims to mend broken lives of foster kids (Video)
Public Broadcasting Service – March 22, 2016
For kids growing up in foster care, personal traumas and frequent moves from home-to-home and school-to-school have led to grim educational outcomes. Only about half finish high school, and of that group only 20 percent go on to college. The NewsHour’s April Brown reports from Pittsburgh on one effort to improve lives and opportunities for children in the system.

Can an innovative Pittsburgh program help repair the broken lives of foster kids? (Includes video)
PBS Newshour – March 22, 2016
For kids growing up in foster care, personal traumas and frequent moves from home-to-home and school-to-school have led to grim educational outcomes. Only about half finish high school and of that group, only 20 percent go on to college. The NewsHour’s April Brown reports from Pittsburgh on one effort to improve lives and opportunities for children in the system.

Can big data save these children?
PBS Newshour – March 22, 2016
Cherna brought to Allegheny County a culture of transparency and openness, said David Sanders, who oversees systems improvement for Casey Family Programs, one of the nation’s largest foster care organizations. He embraced data and encouraged staff to do the same, he added, laying the groundwork for more evidence-based decision-making. Still, Cherna says he’s only scratched the surface when it comes to improving the foster care system. The next critical step, he believes, relies on a concept known as predictive analytics: using data to anticipate trouble before it happens. Also: Can technology help prevent child welfare tragedies? (Includes video):

Child Welfare Funding Crisis Drags On
Chronicle of Social Change – March 21, 2016
Child welfare funding may have been blue-lined in December, but organizations across Pennsylvania are still in the red. “Releasing the funds is putting a Band-Aid on a problem that’s not quite sticking on both sides. It’s a very tentative, very temporary fix,” said Deborah Schilling Wolfe, executive director of the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice, and Research at the University of Pennsylvania.

Hotline staff haunted by clergy child sex abuse calls
Associated Press – March 19, 2016
Restricted by weak laws, the clerks and counselors who staffed the hotline could do little to help the callers or the possible victims. All they could do was to alert local law enforcement officials — the very people who, according to a recent state grand jury report, often ignored or colluded with church officials to hide the abuse.

Local church leaders accused of enabling child abuse
Daily Commercial – March 16, 2016
A Catholic priest in Mount Dora was charged in western Pennsylvania on Tuesday with conspiracy and child endangerment after he reportedly helped provide jobs to a friar who was a known sexual predator. The jobs included a position as a high school athletic trainer, which enabled the friar to molest more than 100 children, according to an Associated Press story.

Pa. school districts borrow and borrow as Wolf plans another budget veto
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – March 16, 2016
The latest budget proposal is an approximately $6 billion spending plan that Republicans say is designed to complete a $30 billion spending package. It calls for the use of about $260 million in reserves while the state forgoes a $305 million payment it regularly makes for school construction projects and delays more than $200 million in Social Security payments to school employees and reimbursements to counties for child welfare costs.

New drop-in center for homeless youths to be dedicated today
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – March 16, 2016
The 412 Youth Zone is operated by McKeesport-based Auberle with $2 million in funding from the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. It is being dedicated this afternoon during a ceremony that will include Bishop David Zubik of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Here is how ChildLine hotline failed to help victims of clergy sex abuse
Penn Live – March 14, 2016
Scores — if not hundreds — of parents and individuals in the state’s Catholic Church communities called Pennsylvania’s ChildLine hotline throughout those years to report that they suspected a priest of molesting a child, according to former Childline staffers.

Children and youth funding requests tentatively approved
Times News – March 12, 2016
Carbon County’s Children and Youth program has been notified that its state funding requests are tentatively approved for 2016-17. On Thursday, the commissioners discussed a piece of correspondence from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare regarding Carbon County Children and Youth’s allocations in the amount of $4.68 million.

Human service cuts roil commissioners
Daily Local News – March 13, 2016
On Thursday, the three-member board voted unanimously to adopt a resolution calling for, among other items, full statewide participation in human service block grant funding, restoration of funding for the services cut in previous years, and a rejection of an accounting “rebalancing” of funds that would leave counties short.

Drug crisis hinders state effort to keep kids together
CNHI Harrisburg Bureau – March 11, 2016
Effects of the drug crisis are widespread and are now blocking efforts to help some of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens – children in foster care. The number of children in foster care in Pennsylvania was dropping for a decade. Until last year.

Lawmakers push to expand prosecution limits on child abuse cases
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – March 09, 2016
A Pennsylvania legislator on Wednesday implied that inaction on child abuse legislation might be linked to an allegation of abuse against a priest related to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin County.

Quality service review – A shout out (Opinion)
Gettysburg Times – March 09, 2016
There is something new afoot at Adams County Children & Youth Services (ACCYS). It is a Quality Service Review (QSR). Information Gateway resource: Child and Family Services Reviews: State and Local Examples:

‘Sealed’ adoptees deserve the truth (Opinion)
Sun Journal – March 06, 2016
To this day in many states, adoptees do not have access to their original birth records and they have to petition a court to find out any basic information about their existence. Considering the fact that my biological mother died of some form of cancer at age 62, one can certainly see why I would be seriously concerned. Information Gateway resource: Access to Adoption Records:
With change in law, counties see big jump in child abuse reports
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – March 05, 2016
If you see something, say something. Those six words are the philosophy behind a flurry of state laws passed in the aftermath of the 2011 Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal requiring more people — from school officials and day-care workers to ministers and medical professionals — to report suspected child abuse when they see it.

 Clergy abuse hotline getting scores of calls after AG report
Associated Press – March 04, 2016
A hotline Attorney General Kathleen Kane created to solicit information about additional victims has gotten more than 100 calls since she issued her 147-report based on secret diocesan archives and other sources on Tuesday.

New Facility Helping Former Foster Children Transition Into Adulthood
WESA – March 07, 2016
“One of the important aspects of the Youth Zone is this opportunity to have a place where you belong, a place where you can come and you’re welcome, where you can just sit down and study. You can take a break and watch TV. It isn’t all about services,” said John Lydon, CEO of Auberle, the McKeesport nonprofit organization that runs the Youth Zone.

Bishop pledges transparency in dealing with abuse reports:
Catholic Spirit – March 04, 2016
Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of Altoona-Johnstown committed the Pennsylvania diocese to be transparent in its efforts related to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and to make public the names of all priests found to have a credible allegation of abuse against them and the status of each man within the diocese.

Child abuse bill would add hearsay exception (Includes video)
WHSV – March 03, 2016
If passed, it would allow statements from children younger than 13, made to another person, to be used in court. The bill would also also allow the teacher, or whomever the child speaks with, to testify in court potentially on the victim’s behalf.–370976151.html

 Pennsylvania bishop promises reforms after abuse report
Associated Press – March 03, 2016
The bishop of a central Pennsylvania diocese has apologized and promised reforms after the state attorney general released a scathing report on clergy sex abuse of children and created a hotline seeking more accusations.

Inside the Mechanicsburg training center that trains child welfare caseworkers (Includes video)
WHTM – March 02, 2016
“Imagine what it feels like to be separated from your families and your friends,” a soothing-voiced teacher tells a dozen 20-something students, who have closed their eyes and are imagining themselves as children taken from their homes by the child welfare system.

Job seekers flagged for past child abuse case on the rise
Associated Press – March 02, 2016
The number of adults in Pennsylvania who sought a child abuse clearance last year almost tripled after a new law took effect in response to the Jerry Sandusky and clergy child sexual abuse scandals.

Reports of child abuse swamp police under updated Pennsylvania law
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – March 02, 2016
Although no one is questioning the push for greater awareness of possible abuse, the surge has created a crushing workload for police officers who say they can’t keep up with the reports.

Advocate doubts latest clergy-abuse report will effect change, Pa. Catholic Conference backs current statute of limitations – March 01, 2016
But as of now, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference backs a task force recommendation made in 2012 that no changes should be made to the state’s current statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases, which their report says is adequate.

Central Pa. diocese covered up widespread child abuse for decades: AG Kane
Metro – March 01, 2016
After a two year investigation, Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced that she discovered cases of hundreds of young victims being abused by priests in the Altoona-Johsntown diocese – but cannot bring criminal charges against any of the alleged predators. Also: Grand jury: 2 bishops hid sex abuse of hundreds of children: Information Gateway Resource: Clergy as Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect:—tFYGVY7TjWP3U/

Meet Phila.’s first female prisons chief
The Philadelphia Inquirer – April 26, 2016
“I knew, working with children in foster care– sometimes they’re in loving homes, but there’s always that separation issue,” she said, “and I thought, well, what are we doing for the parents?” Carney, 45, is Philadelphia’s new prisons commissioner. During 21 years spent working in the system, she supervised and expanded educational, vocational, and parenting programming, and helped set up the city’s first all-female prison, Riverside Correctional Facility.
Advocacy in a Dynamic Child Welfare System (Requires free registration)
Legal Intelligencer – April 24, 2016
Since 2012, the Philadelphia child welfare system has been transitioning to a new model of service delivery using Community Umbrella Agencies (CUA) to work with families through an Improving Outcomes for Children (IOC) initiative. IOC has moved responsibility for foster care and in-home family services to 10 CUAs that are based in local communities so that families and providers can build familiarity with each other.

Dauphin County child welfare agency’s second downgraded license shows strides, repeat violations
PENN Live – April 22, 2016
Dauphin County Children and Youth Administrator Annmarie Kaiser said in a statement that her agency wouldn’t appeal the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services’ ruling. “While the agency has shown marked improvement,” Kaiser said, “additional work to ensure compliance with state regulations must be done.”

County social services recruit new hires, honor longtime employees at courthouse event
Times Leader – April 22, 2016
Joanne Van Saun, Children & Youth director, said both aspects of the event, the recruitment and the honoring of longtime employees, underscore the importance of doing a job that is sometimes thankless, often difficult and always necessary. “It’s true that sometimes we don’t know what challenges lie beyond the front door of a family home,” she said. “But we do know that there is a child inside who may need our help, who needs us to be their voice.”

Our view: Give child abuse victims path to justice (Opinion)
Go Erie – April 22, 2016
The state House of Representative–spurred by the litany of horrors contained in the state grand jury report on child sex abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown–with overwhelming support advanced legislation that would allow victims of such abuse to reach deep into the past to seek civil damages for harm they suffered.

Experts question practices in Allegheny County contested adoption case
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – April 20, 2016
Monique Richards, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, said CYF agencies are expected to complete criminal records checks for foster and adoptive parents, as well as complete “comprehensive home studies of prospective adoptive parents prior to approving them for adoption.”

No winners among child abuse victims (Opinion)
Bucks County Courier Times – April 20, 2016
Unless we face some uncomfortable truths, the Legislature will end up creating two classes of child victims in the name of emotional expedience. It will financially penalize innocent families — members of churches and parish communities – who had nothing to do with past evil actions by a criminal few.

DePasquale to take closer look at York County child welfare office
York Dispatch – April 18, 2016
The state’s top fiscal watchdog will take a closer look at the York County Office of Children, Youth & Families during an upcoming scheduled financial review on the heels of the office receiving its third consecutive provisional license.

Why DA Seth Williams is wrong about criminalizing truancy (Opinion)
News Works – April 15, 2016
Such sanctions fail to re-engage students and families in school. Instead, they push families further away and increase distrust of schools — while failing to address the underlying root causes of the child?s truancy. It is because of such research and experience that there are only three states nationwide that still criminalize truancy. For example, a report on truancy in Texas by the National Center for School Engagement found that criminalizing conduct, imposing hefty fines, or withholding learning only alienated families and students. A study in Los Angeles disclosed that the use of punitive measures was similarly ineffective because they failed to address the root causes of attendance problems.
‘Almost unheard of’: York County child welfare agency receives third downgraded license
PennLive – April 14, 2016
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services recently gave York County’s Office of Children, Youth and Families its third consecutive provisional license, which runs from March 14 through May 15. The agency has a couple more chances to improve its license before it faces a state takeover. Copy of Provisional License:

Child abuse awareness critical as case numbers skyrocket
Sunbury Daily Item – April 12, 2016
The drastic increase in reports has affected local CYS agencies in a number of ways. In Montour County, the CYS agency employs one director and three caseworkers. In January 2014, the staff handled three numbered abuse investigations. That number jumped to seven in January 2015 and doubled to 14 this past January alone.

Wolf Administration Recognizes Child Abuse Prevention Efforts (Press release)
PR Newswire – April 12, 2016
In partnership with counties, schools, and community organizations, the department is promoting evidence-based programs that give parents the skills and supports, both formal and informal, that they need to prevent child abuse and neglect. By working together and relying on natural supports like family members and neighbors, we can improve outcomes for families and protect our children.

Kinship eases foster child placement across Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh Tribune Review – April 09, 2016
It’s a concept being embraced throughout Pennsylvania, where 24 percent more at-risk children were placed in the homes of friends and relatives instead of strangers between 2012 and 2014, according to data from the Office of Children and Families in the Courts.

Advocacy Center raising awareness of child abuse
The Lebanon Reporter – April 08, 2016
Sixty-eight pinwheels whirl in the wind outside the Boone County Child Advocacy Center on East Washington Street in Lebanon this month, representing the number of child abuse cases so far investigated there, in observation of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

State seeing more heroin-addicted babies, abused children of addicted parents
Penn Live – April 08, 2016
A group of child welfare advocates is asking Pennsylvania leaders for a task force to address issues including ensuring proper care for babies born addicted to drugs including heroin, and protecting children being raised by addicted parents.

Child abuse prevention: Raising awareness and reporting within community
WJAC Johnstown – April 05, 2016
The Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance is urging those in the community to step up and be vigilant in the role of protecting kids.

Philadelphia’s Child Welfare Reform Suffers Growing Pains
CBS Philly – April 05, 2016
Philadelphia’s child welfare system is suffering from overloaded case workers, who often lack the tools and training they need to protect children, according to advocates and officials inside and outside the system.

Child welfare system at a ‘breaking point and will soon be in crisis,’ caseworker says
Penn Live – April 04, 2016
The combination of paperwork, long hours, high stress levels, mounting caseloads, and a lack of pertinent training are making it harder to find and keep caseworkers to staff child welfare agencies.
Group makes call to change child welfare system after deaths of local children
Fox43 – April 04, 2016
“It’s a very tangled and broken system that wasn’t broken overnight,” alliance member Cindy Weesner said, “And the death of Jared Tutko and now Ciara Meyer have really put it into the forefront.”

Pennsylvania one of lowest reported child abuse rates in country (Includes video)
WHAG – March 31, 2016
Advocacy groups allege Pennsylvania has developed a culture of cover-ups. High-profiles cases like in Altoona-Johnstown, where a grand jury found Diocese members abused hundreds of children, and a similar scenario involving Penn State’s football coach Jerry Sandusky highlight the issue.

York County CASA: Child Abuse/Neglect Advocacy (Includes video)
ABC27 – March 31, 2016
In recognition of the collaboration needed to help prevent child abuse and neglect, the York County CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates, program will be holding a public film screening of the documentaries Removed parts I and II on Friday April 1, 2016. These films were created with the intent of bringing to light the often unknown subjects of foster care and child abuse/neglect.

Pa. House discusses child safety; Perry County CYS makes cringe-worthy misstep

ABC27 – April 4, 2016

The House Children and Youth Committee heard testimony Monday from caseworkers on the front lines of child abuse and neglect. It wasn’t pretty.“We’re oftentimes called numerous names or threatened,” said Shiloh Hagerty, a caseworker from Cumberland County CYS. Hagerty testified that since two dozen new laws took effect in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse trial, caseloads, stress and paperwork have increased significantly while pay and staffing levels have stayed stagnant; conditions, she said, that are chasing away good people.