York County child services issued second provisional license


The York County Office of Children, Youth & Families has been issued its second provisional license within a year after inspections found multiple violations.

The state Department of Human Services issued one provisional license last November, then found numerous violations — some of which were repeated — earlier this year.

An Aug. 20 report the state sent to the county office outlines the violations, many of which were clerical errors.

But in one case, a foster family was approved by the office before a person living in the house received an FBI background-check clearance, according to the Department of Human Services.

Terry Clark, who became head of the county office in April and wasn't in charge at the time of the inspections, acknowledged the errors and said officials are working to ensure they don't happen again.

"Sometimes I think what happens is caseworkers aren't focusing on the paperwork because they are so focused on the people side of things," he said.

Clark noted improvement, saying one previous violation — failure to see a child within 24 hours of a report of suspected child abuse — wasn't found during the latest round of inspections.

Corrective measures: The office is taking measures to correct the issues laid out in a summary of violations.

A new director of continuing quality improvement will ensure all paperwork is completed, Clark said.

The office also is creating a screening unit, slated to be up and running in early October, of five caseworkers who will field calls.

Some people call the office seeking help with issues — such as housing — that are outside the purview of the office. The screening unit will refer those callers to agencies that can help, freeing up caseworkers, Clark said.

Legitimate reports of suspected child abuse or neglect will be directed to intake caseworkers, Clark said.

No more than four consecutive provisional licenses can be issued, and the office will resume its full license after implementing a corrective plan, according to the Department of Human Services.

Understaffed: Some of the issues stem from the office being understaffed, Clark said.

During any given month, the office has about 10 vacant caseworker positions that need to be filled to handle the growing and, at times, overwhelming case load, he said.

"I've been around child welfare for 23 years and it (the vacancy rate) has always been an issue," Clark said, adding it's an issue agencies face across the nation.

Through August, the office conducted 3,044 investigations into suspected child abuse and neglect, a roughly 75 percent increase from the 1,735 investigated for the same period last year, according to the county.

Some caseworkers are "feeling overwhelmed and stressed by the number of reports coming in," Clark said, adding they are "just trying to stay afloat."

"It's just one of those difficult jobs to do," he said.

The office employs about 160 people, including support staff such as clerical workers, he said.

More staff needed: The office is requesting the state provide added funding for the 2016-17 fiscal year to hire additional staff, including six new caseworkers and a caseworker supervisor.

The office is asking for $48.6 million, up from the $44.1 million it received this fiscal year. The increase would cover cost of living increases for employees as well as projected cost increases for contracted services, said Meredith Schreffler, the office's fiscal officer.

Commissioners at their weekly meeting on Wednesday approved submitting the request.

But even the six new positions won't fully meet the needs of the office.

"We really felt like the true need is 12 caseworkers," Schreffler said, adding the office asked the state to fund six new caseworkers last year but was denied.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.