York County Commissioners on Wednesday hired a former York County resident to take the helm of the York County Office of Children, Youth, and Families.

Cumberland County resident Kim James, who most recently served as a practice improvement specialist at the University of Pittsburgh's Child Welfare Resource Center, will become the agency's new director on July 1.

Formerly York County Children & Youth Services, the agency that handles issues such as child abuse and foster care started the move to a new model under director Deb Chronister, who retired earlier this year.

That shift in thinking included the name change in 2010, and reflected more focus on a family-oriented approach to focus on keeping children in their homes or with family if possible, as well as the philosophy that foster care is meant to be a temporary intervention.

James said she's a strong believer in the agency's focus on working with families to improve the outcomes for children being served by the system.

"It's important the community feel comfortable calling our office if they believe a child or family needs help," she said. "More often than not, we are able to work with a family to address any challenges without the child leaving its care."

According to county data, there has been a 46 percent drop in the number of children placed outside of their home since 2006.

The overall number of children in placement at the end of 2012 totaled 335, compared to 623 at the end of 2006.

Background: In her most recent role with the University of Pittsburgh, James worked with county offices of Children, Youth and Families to improve service delivery and cost effectiveness.

James is a licensed social worker with about 20 years of experience with child welfare and adoption-related agencies.

She has a bachelor's degree in social work from Bloomsburg University and master's degree in social work from Temple University.

Vice president Commissioner Doug Hoke said James' "wealth of experience, personality and long-established relationships within York County make her the perfect fit," and she "brings to the table a keen understanding of the child welfare system that will further strengthen of the agency."

- Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.