Ex-director of child welfare agency sentenced to probation

The Associated Press
A judge's gavel rests on a book of law. (Dreamstime/TNS)

HARRISBURG — The former director of a county welfare agency in northeastern Pennsylvania was sentenced Wednesday to probation and house arrest after previously pleading guilty to endangering the welfare of children when she concealed abuse allegations to cut down a backlog of cases.

A Dauphin County judge sentenced Joanne Van Saun, 59, to 34 months of probation with the first nine months on house arrest, The Citizens' Voice reported.

Van Saun was arrested and fired in July. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of child endangerment in October after she was accused of falsely closing files on allegations of child abuse after public reports of an accumulation of cases.

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The attorney general's office said that the backlog started as far back as 2017. Charges against Van Saun stated she told employees to close 217 uninvestigated claims, the newspaper reported.

Luzerne County's backlog accounted for “at least 80% of the Commonwealth’s outstanding ChildLine referrals,” prosecutors said.

Van Saun's attorney, Suzanne Conaboy, said Van Saun was remorseful for her actions and suffers from lupus, which would put her at a higher risk to contract COVID-19 if she was imprisoned.

Judge Scott Evans said this case “is representative of a systemic problem we have.”