Department Of Human Services, Blair County Announce Intention To Continue Working Together On Long-Term Solution To Improve The County’s Office Of Children, Youth, And Families

DHS, Blair Leadership Affirm Shared Commitment To Helping County Respond To Reports Of Child Maltreatment Amidst Expiration Of Fourth Provisional License

Harrisburg, PA – Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh today announced that DHS and Blair County are continuing their partnership to improve operations at Blair County Children, Youth and Families (BCCYF) after DHS revoked the license of BCCYF, in accordance with state law. The revocation follows the expiration of the county's fourth provisional license – the final provisional allowable by law.  Blair County has appealed the decision, and the parties are negotiating a settlement agreement to develop a long-term plan to improve operations. During the appeal, Blair County remains responsible for responding to reports of child abuse and neglect, and intervening, when necessary, to support families and protect children.

The Shapiro Administration is committed to continuing its work with Blair County and BCCYF leadership, and DHS will continue supporting BCCYF with enhanced on-site assistance through its state operations manager and the Office of Children, Youth, and Families' (OCYF) Central Regional Office (CRO).

The appointment of a state operations manager in December 2023 was extraordinary and unique to BCCYF's circumstances, specifically the volume of overdue investigations into reports of potential abuse and neglect. BCCYF staff, following the suggestions of the state operations manager and CRO staff, are making progress in their efforts to improve investigation processes and timelines, implement best practices of child welfare operations and management, and improve staff recruitment, training, and morale. BCCYF has undergone significant restructuring of their intake functions, went nine weeks in a row without any new late child protective services investigation outcomes and hired additional part time staff to assist in beginning to work through the backlog of overdue cases. However, more time and continued attention to leadership, management, recruitment and retention, and training is necessary to ensure BCCYF is on a stable path forward for both the caseworkers committed to this work and the communities and families the organization serves.

"As a former County Commissioner, I know first-hand how difficult this work can be. I appreciate the willingness of Blair County leadership and the staff at BCCYF – especially caseworkers who are newer to this system but committed to this work and want to make a difference in their community -- for their willingness to work with and learn from our state operations manager and CRO staff," said Secretary Arkoosh. "The settlement agreement being negotiated will continue the extraordinary state-county partnership we have with Blair County and the progress we've made together thus far to achieve necessary stability."

"Blair County and the Department of Human Services are working closely together as partners in this process, and this procedural step is necessary to allow us to move to the next phase in improving the services we are providing to the residents of this County," said Commissioner David Kessling, Chairman of the Blair County Board of Commissioners. "We are committed to this partnership, and we will continue our work to restore this license and show real progress on these important issues. I want to thank DHS for its continued partnership with us, and I look forward to sharing the positive news about next steps."

In May 2022, DHS issued a first provisional license to BCCYF following multiple violations documented over the prior 12 months in the areas of assessing child safety and risk, timeliness of assessments, supervisory oversight and conducting thorough assessments.  A second provisional license was issued in November 2022 because DHS's inspections revealed, again, multiple repeat citations for the same areas identified during the first provisional license.  A third provisional license was issued in May 2023.  The following month, June 2023, the Department's OCYF CRO began providing enhanced technical support to BCCYF, with multiple OCYF staff on-site full-time to support Blair County staff with backlogged reports of potential child abuse or neglect and assisting BCCYF with staff recruitment and development. DHS issued a fourth provisional license on November 15, 2023 that expired on May 5, 2024; a fifth provisional license is not allowable under state law.

Counties in Pennsylvania are responsible for all day-to-day child welfare functions, including investigation and assessments of reports of child abuse and neglect. DHS licenses county agencies to provide essential child welfare operations, which includes case management services, investigations of potential abuse and neglect, foster care coordination and monitoring, and other supportive services. When a county is unable to or is inadequately supporting these operations or is non-compliant with laws like the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL), DHS issues a six-month provisional license that requires a plan of correction and ongoing monitoring to ensure the plan is being followed.  State statute and regulations prevent DHS from issuing more than four provisional licenses.  

DHS Media Contact Details

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Department of Human Services 717-425-7606
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Ali Fogarty

Communications Director Department of Human Director 717-425-7606
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Brandon Cwalina

Press Secretary Department of Human Services 717-425-7606
Department of Human Services Media