Harrisburg, PA – Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Val Arkoosh today announced the Department will appoint a State Operations Manager to lead Blair County’s Office of Children, Youth and Families (BCCYF), with the goal of offering additional intensive operational support to lead daily responsibilities for the office, assist staff and county leadership, and help ensure Blair County is meeting its responsibility under state and federal law to support families and protect children. The Shapiro Administration is committed to supporting county child welfare partners, and this action is intended to help stabilize this critical function and responsibility of county government.
In early December 2023, DHS will appoint a State Operations Manager who will be assigned to Blair County. The State Operations Manager will immediately begin reviewing BCCYF’s operations, including its organizational structure, staffing assignments, policies, procedures, best practices, and budgeting. The State Operations Manager will also direct courses of action and institute changes to BCCYF’s general operations in order to help swiftly improve its operations, support families, and protect children. Blair County will be expected to fully cooperate with the State Operations Manager to achieve sustainable, satisfactory statutory and regulatory compliance, including directing the deployment of BCCYF staff and implementing an organizational restructuring, if deemed necessary.
DHS will also continue the in-person technical assistance established earlier this year. Since June, staff from DHS’ Office of Children, Youth, and Families (OCYF) have provided daily, in-person support to Blair County. Although the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) prevents Commonwealth staff from conducting child abuse investigations or performing other county casework functions, DHS staff can and do provide BCCYF with technical assistance and support to improve processes to address outstanding reports of potential child abuse or neglect, recruit and retain staff, and successfully administer this essential community resource.
Today, Secretary Arkoosh also announced the issuance of a fourth provisional license to BCCYF, which allows Blair County to continue operating while the additional state oversight is put in place.
“Child welfare and family supports are an essential function of government, and we must be sure that our county partners have the support they need to perform this critical work in a way that both meets their core responsibilities and also builds capacity for preventive support that helps uplift families and keep children safe when assistance is needed,” said Arkoosh. “Today’s actions increase the support available to current and incoming county leadership so we may all remain acutely focused on what is necessary to achieve stability for the children and families of Blair County.”
Blair County has had an extraordinary and unprecedented volume of uncompleted and delinquent reports. The county’s number of uncompleted child safety assessments for calendar year 2022 was published in the 2022 Annual Child Protective Services Report, which provides statewide and county-level data on government efforts to protect and help children who were reported as victims of suspected abuse and neglect. Continued support is necessary to help Blair County meet its responsibilities as a county child welfare agency.
Pennsylvania is a state-supervised, county administered child welfare system. DHS licenses county agencies to provide essential child welfare operations, which includes case management services, investigations of potential abuse and neglect, foster care coordination and monitoring, and other supportive services. When a county is unable to or is inadequately supporting these operations, or is non-compliant with laws like the CPSL, DHS issues a six-month provisional license that requires a plan of correction and ongoing monitoring to ensure the plan is being followed. This fourth provisional license will remain in place for six months, and additional action will be determined as necessary.
Blair County received its first provisional license in May 2022. In June 2023, after issuing a third provisional license, DHS provided the county with enhanced technical assistance focused on administrative and supervisory oversight, addressing the backlog of Child Protective Service (CPS) and General Protective (GPS) referrals and outcomes not submitted, case planning, and visitation.
For more information on DHS and child welfare services in Pennsylvania, visit www.dhs.pa.gov and www.keepkidssafe.pa.gov.
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