BLAIR COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — A staggering report from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) says over 300 children in Blair County who are victims of abuse or neglect are waiting for help from the county’s Children Youth and Family Services (BCCYF).
The DHS is issuing its third-straight provisional certificate of compliance citing that the BCCYF is way behind on its schedule. According to the department, some requests to help children go back as far as last October.
The state is, by law, supposed to take over the agency after the next provision. Even if the state takes over the agency, there’s no sign they have an answer either.
“We are in constant meetings with both our regional representation and the secretary of human services at this point to talk about what happens if we aren’t able to address those cases,” Blair County Commissioner Laura Burke said.
Like with many other government agencies, Burke said the heap of excess cases comes down to a worker shortage. The good news is, she said they’re in better shape than when the provisional certificate was issued earlier in May.
“We’re working on some new strategies for hiring additional part-time or temporary people to come in and address those cases,” Burke said.
Burke added the agency just hired three new full-time case workers and has interviews lined up for three more. On Thursday, commissioners approved ten new part-time positions. Three of the eight current part-time jobs are vacant.
So where will they find more workers, and how? Burke said they’re doing a deep search of past employees and networking with senior care workers. They’re also partnering with Pitt’s Child Welfare Resource Center to expedite the job training process to attract more applicants.
“The new people who have just come in with us are going to be trained in a much shorter period of time and be able to go out and independently handle cases faster,” Burke said.
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Even with a $4,000 sign-on bonus for those who are already trained, is the hourly wage of just over $17 enough? State Representative Jim Gregory said it’s not just about a larger staff. Unsure if the state has the capacity either, he said it comes down to parents themselves.
“I also argue that the level of the intensity of the cases they’re dealing with is at a level that we’ve never seen before. The only thing I can offer isn’t as a legislator. But as a parent myself, I wasn’t perfect either,” Gregory said. “We need to recognize the parents in our community can do better. Lots of people are failing the young people of our county, and I would just ask for all of us to look in the mirror, myself included.”
According to Burke, they’re continuing discussions with the state to partner regardless of the provision and they have a meeting next week with senior care groups for more networking opportunities.