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York County's Office of Children, Youth and Families, which is one failed inspection away from being taken over by the state, is submitting "a big budget" to the Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services as it hopes to hire 37 new employees in the next two years.

York County Commissioners on Wednesday approved the submission of a needs-based plan and budget in excess of $52.5 million for July 2017 through June 2018  on behalf of the local CYF office. That's more than the estimated $45.3 million the agency operated with for the just-ended 2015-16 fiscal year and an increase over the $50.3 million it expects to receive for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

CYF director Terry Clark and fiscal officer Meredith Schreffler spoke to commissioners about the needs driving their long-term budgeting.

Schreffler said the budget, which still needs state approval, includes requests for 25 additional employees in 2016-17 and 12 more employees in 2017-18. The additional employees would include caseworkers, clerical workers, fiscal officers, fiscal supervisors and interns, she said.

Clark told commissioners the larger budget was created by looking at what the agency needs and not what it wants, adding that, if approved, approximately 80 percent of new employee salaries would be covered by the state.

"We need to be more efficient and address out issues, which means lowering case loads for our workers," he said. "To do that, we need to bring on more staff; there's no other way to do it."

Schreffler acknowledged that it's unlikely the state will approve all of the agency's additional employment requests.

The office is working on its fourth consecutive downgraded license, which is in effect until Nov. 15. If the county doesn't receive its full license after the next inspection, it will lose its certification of compliance, and state officials will take over the day-to-day operations.

The state has never had to take over a county's child-protection office because of licensing issues, according to the state Department of Human Services.

Inspection reports have cited high turnover and referral numbers as causes for agency issues, and Clark has previously cited statistics that show a 122 percent increase in referrals since 2014.

Former state Rep. Bev Mackereth, who started as a caseworker in the same agency in the 1980s and served as secretary of the state Department of Public Welfare under Gov. Tom Corbett, has been working as a consultant for York's CYF office since July. Clark said she and other consultants have helped shape a new way of thinking to get the agency on the right track.

Clark said the agency is working to be mindful of costs, including looking into a mobile workforce and other creative ways to utilize their technological resources.

Schreffler added the agency is in the process of seeking an outside provider to help with child placements to provide relief to caseworkers. Additional details were not immediately available.

The agency also is  seeking help from the faith-based community, looking for volunteers to take in children so that they could avoid placement into foster care, which would save the county money, Clark said.

"We spent a lot of time reorganizing our agency," he said. "We're going to keep moving forward to building a strong agency."

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.

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