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The York County Office of Children, Youth and Families was on par with statewide child abuse reporting trends last year, according to a report released May 9.

CYF received 2,098 reports of child abuse in 2018, 176 of which were substantiated, according to the state's Annual Childhood Protective Services Report created by the Department of Human Services.

"In general, York County’s child abuse reporting statistics remain consistent with state trends since Pennsylvania amended the Child Protective Services Law in 2014 to increase the number of mandated reporters and added additional persons who could be identified as perpetrators of child abuse," said DHS spokeswoman Erin James.

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York County saw a 4.4% decrease in total child abuse reports and a 6.9% decrease in substantiated reports — most of which were sexual abuse — compared to 2017. The 176 substantiated reports still rank fifth in the state.

There were two deaths and two near-deaths.

Despite a decrease in child abuse cases, there was an increasein general protective service reports — totaling 7,553 last year — which cover parental substance abuse, placing children at risk and other scenarios. 

Staffing: When combined, CYF is busier than ever. But, unlike in former years, staffing levels are better equipped to handle the caseload. 

The office is now averaging 10 caseworker vacancies per month, compared to last year when vacancies spiked and reached as high as 29, causing concerns about caseloads.

Roughly 95 caseworkers are budgeted by the department.

Staffing issues improved when the county began using a merit-based hiring system rather than the state-run NeoGov program, which proved especially problematic last year when it first launched.

Under NeoGov, applicants have to apply online, takes tests in Harrisburg and eventually get approved to be on an employment list.

But the state stopped populating the civil service employment lists from which counties used to hire in January 2018, before the switch. It then purged those lists entirely on April 23, 2018, when the NeoGov system went online, making counties wait for the list to be repopulated.

"We're seeing a steady flow of applicants from through the merit hire process," Clark said. "We're not experiencing any lack of people applying for the job. But we're still challenged by keeping caseworkers here."

New positions: To help relieve caseloads and burdened workers, the office has received approval to hire six case supervisor positions; five caseworker aid positions; four program specialists to mentor caseworkers; two interns; and some clerk typists.

Such positions can prove especially beneficial for those working on intake cases, Clark said, which could help retain employees going forward.

The casework supervisors are also integral, as the state is working to change the mandatory caseworker-supervisor ratio from 5:1 to 4:1. With this approval, the office is able to get ahead of the curve.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.

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