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Citing historically high referral and call numbers, York County Children, Youth and Families director Terry Clark is seeking approval to hire six additional employees, for now.

Clark pleaded his case in front of the county commissioners during Monday morning's public work session meeting.

The office is operating on its fourth downgraded provisional license, a rarity in the state. If the agency doesn't correct insufficiencies by its next inspection, the state Department of Human Services will take over day-to-day operations.

Clark's request was for five additional caseworkers and one supervisor for the department's intake unit, which has been dealing with an influx of calls that has resulted in a 122 percent increase in referrals this year over 2014, he said.

York's CYF has been receiving 1,100-1,200 calls per month this year, and Clark said the department accepted 444 referrals in June, 111 percent more than June 2014.

"(These numbers) continue to surprise us," Clark said during the meeting, adding that call volume usually decreases during the summer. "We thought they'd level down a year after (the state rewrote its child protection laws)."

Change in law: The state's rewritten laws, which took effect at the beginning of 2015, redefined child abuse, expanded the list of mandatory reporters and streamlined the reporting process, among other changes, which led to the dramatic bump in referrals.

Clark noted that York County's numbers, which he believes trail only Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the state, are particularly "crazy."

Clark told commissioners that a well-regarded national child welfare organization has suggested departments employ a ratio of 12 active cases per caseworker, but York's CYF caseworkers have as many as 30 active cases at a time.

The department is in the process of analysis for its needs-based budget proposal to the state, which will be submitted in August, and Clark said he's confident he will be asking for more than six additional employees, but the current office wouldn't fit more than six.

All approved CYF employees are funded 80 percent by the state and 20 percent by the county, but since Clark's request is coming before the department submits a proposal to the state, the county would need to fund the six additional employees until state approval, "unless state officials get creative," Commissioner Doug Hoke said.

Vacancies: County controller Robb Green asked Clark what his office was doing to fulfill currently vacant positions.

High employee turnover at York County CYF has been noted in each provisional license issued. The agency hired 64 new caseworkers over the past 16 months, but 21 of the positions have already been vacated, the county wrote in the comment portion of the state report.

Clark said the department moves as quickly as it can to fill vacancies, but he noted that the civil service system used to make hires can be slow at times.

Clark added that the office is in the process of creating internal committees to take staff input and find out what administrators can do to help them do their jobs better.

President Commissioner Susan Byrnes closed by thanking Clark and reiterating that the county will do what it takes to help CYF succeed.

Last week, the commissioners agreed to pay $60,000 through the end of the year for Bev Mackereth, the former head of the state Department of Public Welfare, to serve as a consultant to the agency.

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

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the 122 percent increase in referrals this year and 111 percent increase in June were compared to 2015 numbers instead of 2014.

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