DePasquale to take closer look at York County child welfare office

Greg Gross

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.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced Monday he hopes to determine possible reasons why Children, Youth & Families hasn't been able to earn a full state license.

The auditor's office will look into what financial problems the office is facing and will compare it to offices in other counties, he said during a phone interview.

"That's what we're hoping to find out," DePasquale said when asked if his office will examine if the county office is receiving adequate state funding.

Provisional license: The county Office of Children, Youth & Families was issued its third consecutive provisional license in March following an inspection in October.

A 21-page department report outlined numerous infractions, some of which were found during previous inspections. One citation notes that a report of suspected sexual abuse wasn't forwarded to law enforcement for more than a week. Caseworkers must notify police of suspected sexual abuse within 24 hours, according to the report.

DePasquale called news of the third downgraded license troubling.

His audit will not directly address the office's job performance, but any shortcomings discovered in the financial review may lead to a deeper review by the Department of Human Services.

"We welcome the auditor general's regularly scheduled audit of the of Office of Children, Youth & Families, as well as any input the (auditor general) may have," said Carl Lindquist, spokesman for the county.

Offices are allowed four consecutive provisional licenses. That leaves the county's Children, Youth & Families with two more chances to correct faults before the state steps in.

Nearby Dauphin County is also operating under a provisional license but could soon have its full license restored.

Caseload: Staff at Children, Youth & Families offices across the state have seen the number of cases reach record highs in the wake of changes in the Child Protective Services Law following the child sex abuse scandal involving former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

The York County office saw a nearly 86 percent increase in reports of suspected abuse, or 2,237 new cases, last year compared to 2014. Lindquist noted the county ranks third in the state in terms of the number of referrals it receives.

Statewide, reports of suspected abuse rose from 29,520 in 2014 to 42,005 last year, a 42 percent increase. Additionally, calls received by the child abuse hotline increased from 165,000 to 188,000 over the same time period, Cathy Utz, the deputy secretary of the state Department of Human Services, said during a recent House Children and Youth Committee public hearing.

The increase in referrals doubled the workload for staff at the York County Office of Children, Youth & Families, which has also been dealing with high employee turnover in recent years, Lindquist said.

The office is requesting the state provide added funding for the 2016-17 fiscal year to cover increased employee and contracted services costs. It operates on a roughly $45 million budget.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.