York CYF granted more positions, but vacancies persist

David Weissman
York Dispatch
Terry Clark, director of York County Children, Youth & Families, speaks during a meeting at the York Dispatch Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. Bill Kalina photo

The state has granted the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families more positions, but a lack of office space and high turnover have kept those positions vacant.

Meredith Schreffler, the agency's fiscal officer, said the state Department of Human Services approved 22 additional positions in March, though the agency had asked for 37.

The agency's state-approved complement is now 181 positions.

The additional employees were a key portion of the improvement plan the agency submitted to the department last year when it received its full license.

More:York CYF anxiously watching state budget negotiations

The child-welfare agency had received four consecutive provisional licenses before then and was one failed inspection away from having its day-to-day operations taken over by the state.

The full license expires in November, and Schreffler said the agency still has 26 vacancies. She noted that as many as 16 of those vacancies may be filled by Aug. 14.

The agency is actively trying to fill its vacancies, Schreffler said, but they don't have the necessary space to keep adding employees.

York CYF's offices are on the second floor of the county Human Services Center building, at 100 W. Market St., though the agency recently was allowed to expand onto the first floor with the county's Veteran Affairs operations moving into the administration building.

More:Faces of child abuse in York County

County commissioners recently approved spending more than $75,000 for the agency to furnish the additional space.

One way the agency plans to deal with space limitations is by having about 25 of its caseworkers go mobile, meaning most of their work is done on the road with smaller in-office space.

Schreffler said part of the money granted by commissioners will go toward creating 16 mobile work stations in the office.

Another reason for the continued vacancies is high staff turnover, which has been detailed as a major issue in the department's inspection reports.

Terry Clark, who has served as the agency's director since April 2015, has said he thinks he remembers maybe one full day where they were operating without vacancies.

More:York CYF fully licensed, but 'long road ahead'

"I remember hearing over the intercom that we were operating at full staff," Clark said, "and the next day, we received three resignations."

High staff turnover, which is common among child-welfare agencies, leads to constant vacancies and inexperienced caseworkers still in training, which leads to higher workloads for trained caseworkers, which ultimately leads to more turnover, Clark explained.

Clark said a well-regarded national child welfare organization suggests agencies employ a ratio of 12 active cases per caseworker, but his agency's caseworkers have as many as 30 cases at a time, which is the maximum allowed under state law.

That number might even understate the issue, as Clark said the state doesn't specify whether a case means one child or one family, which means a caseworker could be working on cases involving 30 multi-child families.

More:Auditor General: York CYF owes state $578,000

Though the agency is pleased the state approved 22 additional positions, Schreffler said they asked for 37 because that is what they feel they truly need, so they will continue asking for more positions next year.

When the state approves positions, it funds about 80 percent of the employees' salaries, while the county covers the other 20 percent.

Schreffler said the agency hasn't yet considered asking for the county to cover the full costs of adding employees.

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