It seems that Children and Youth Services of Pennsylvania have been under severe scrutiny as of late. Over the years, countless news articles have been done depicting uninvestigated child abuse, fatalities of children, and the lack of response to child lines being made. Sadly, Beaver county CYS has been facing the most recent allegations of nonchalance when it comes to the safety of local children.
Just one month ago, WTAE Pittsburgh Action News conducted a special investigation into several local CYS agencies, one of which was Beaver county. The report showed that had CYS responded to child lines that were conducted, several children in the county would still be alive to this day. And whereas the other agencies sent spokesmen to make a statement, Beaver county refused to reply to the story.
The CYS Bench book, which is the reigning guidelines to be followed by each employee of the agency, states this on page 11: “All children have the right: to be happy, thriving, self-actualized, educated, healthy, and content; to have the opportunity to reach their full potential as individuals capable of healthy relationships and productive lives; and to have a fair chance in life with opportunities for healthy, balanced, and well-rounded development.”
If this is the case, then why is CYS ignoring reports made from doctors, police, therapists, teachers, guidance counselors, eye witnesses, and the children themselves? If all children have the right to safety, then why are these children dying? Why are they allowed to remain in homes where they fear daily for their safety? Where they watch domestic violence and are exposed to drug deals, prostitution, and gross negligence?
And just as important, why are the higher powers turning a blind eye?
STATS from the PA Child Protective Services Annual Report of 2015 (which is the most recent) and the PA Partnerships Annual Report of 2015:
· In 2015, only 10.4% of abuses reported in PA were substantiated by CYS (meaning they were looked into and abuse or neglect was proven).
· Out of the 10.4% substantiated, 2.2% of those ended in fatality (34 cases) or near fatality (58 cases).
· Of the 34 cases that ended in fatality, 58% of those families already had CYS involvement or the case had been closed “successfully”.
· Of the 58 cases that ended in near fatality, 55% percent of these children had CYS involvement or the case had already been closed “successfully”.
· Of the fatalities in PA, 27% of the children had been removed from foster care and given back to biological parents. Of near fatalities, 19% of children had been reunified with parents and removed from foster care.
· 1 fatality occurred in Beaver county in 2015 – the family was known to CYS through multiple abuse reports. This mother had threatened the week prior to murder her children and then herself. Her children were not removed from her care until the 2-month old was killed.
· 1 near fatality (19-month-old that now has traumatic brain injury) also occurred in Beaver county – No charges have been filed and no parenting or anger management classes were completed.
· Out of the 40,590 reports of abuse and neglect, 35,313 (87%) were made by mandated reporters – people trained in the symptoms of abuse and neglect; people that are mandated to report their sightings; therapists, foster parents, drug and alcohol counselors, psychiatrists, law enforcement, etc. And yet only 10% were deemed actual abuse by CYS caseworkers (an occupation with a turn-over rate of an average of 2-years, many straight from college and in any field of study).
· In 2015, PA law enforcers reported 12,608 crimes against children where the adults didn’t qualify as a “perpetrator” to CYS. All of these crimes were then forwarded to the District Attorney’s office instead of CYS and the children remained in their homes.
· In 2015 - 181,371 children received in-home services provided through CYS.
· In 2015 – 22,980 children entered foster care or remained in foster care from the previous year.
· In 2015 – 2,544 children re-entered foster care after having already been reunited with a parent previously during their lifetime.
· In 2015 – 24.1% (a quarter) of all biological family reunifications failed.
Not in the CPS Report:
· According to the Beaver Falls police department, so far multiple young children have died in Beaver County at the hands of their parents – no charges have been filed, CYS was aware of complaints made against the families, and the siblings of the deceased children remain in these homes. The police department also stated that CYS is not sending all of the child lines to them, as stated in the protocol. And according to the Franklin Twp. Police department in Beaver County, if they get the reports at all, they are multiple weeks after the date of the report, and they have already been cast aside by CYS.
· After a conversation in 2016 with a CYS caseworker, I was informed that if a guardian is a “functioning addict” and “there are no broken bones”, there is no way that CYS will step in and assist the children.
· Even as recent as this week, after well over a dozen reports from professionals AND the children themselves made to CYS regarding a particular case of abuse, neglect, domestic violence, neglect, drug abuse, and drug dealing – CYS talked to the suspected abuser about those involved in making the child lines and asked if the guardian would agree to a Drug and Alcohol Evaluation. When the father vehemently refused, CYS said that they couldn’t mandate it. And then they left the children in the home.
Following the Money:
· In 2015, the state of PA received $344 million dollars in federal funds for child welfare, $1.036 billion dollars from the state, and $388 dollars from their local funds (on average) – totaling $1.769 billion dollars statewide for child welfare purposes.
· Of that total, $43.5 million dollars were used for investigating child abuse. That left $1.726 billion dollars for salaries, trainings, and child abuse clearances.
· Of that $43.5 million, $2.3 million was used for Beaver, Butler, and Lawrence county investigations of abuse and neglect.
· If the average county has 50 caseworkers (what I was informed was the average number) that average $35,000 per year (what I was told was the average pay) in all 67 counties, that would add up to $117,250,000 dollars.
· Child abuse clearance costs totaled $6.017 million for the state of PA in 2015.
· MAXIMUM foster care subsidies given out in 2015 was $138 million dollars.
· The state’s total amount of estimated caseworker salaries, child abuse investigations, foster care subsidies, and child abuse clearances equals $304,767,000.
· Minus that from the $1.769 billion dollars given to PA for child welfare and you have a remaining balance of $1.464 billion dollars – WHERE IS IT GOING? (I realize that the state is paying for caseworkers to go to college, facilities and their utilities, trainings, etc. But obviously the actual functions of the agency are being used so sparingly in comparison the $1.5 billion used elsewhere.)
· According to the State of PA’s government salary reports, The Beaver County Director of CYS made $104,000 in 2014 while she complained that they were understaffed. This amount is more than double that of what any of the surrounding county CYS directors made in the same year or since.)
· According to two previous CYS caseworker in the local counties, both were told on multiple occasions NOT to remove children until the end of the fiscal year… if they remove more or less than the allotted amount, the county would get less funding for the following year.
· According to a current CYS caseworker, she has been forced to close out cases that still needed child welfare assistance because the case could currently be closed “successfully”, whereas if they waited another month, the family could “blow up” and throw off their numbers of successful reunifications.
It’s important to note that these are just the reports for BEAVER COUNTY. Children are dying and being severely abused in all of our surrounding counties, including Lawrence County. Also in this county are caseworkers who are committing fraud - writing up reports about visiting children in their biological or foster homes monthly, even though they haven’t been to the home in a year or more. And when these are reported to the supervisors, nothing is done. In fact, foster parents are threatened to never receive future foster children, be banned from all potential adoptions, and even told that their current children can be taken from them if they continue to advocate “too much” for the foster children in their care.
Due to this statewide abuse of power in the system, there is a yearly drop in quality foster families. Good people who provide love, support, and safety for these children in need are being forced out of the system due to the horrific treatment by the agencies sworn to help these very kids. And when the counties can say “we would help more children if we had any foster homes to put them in!”, we know the truth. If it weren’t for CYS supervisors, County Commissioners, District Attorneys, and crooked police focusing so much on lining their own pockets and following their own political agendas, we may have more people willing to step up to the plate for these dying children.
And until that happens, we will continue to live in a society where money, power, and corruption trump the lives and well-being of the very children that we see in our schools, our parks, and our streets. Because when it comes right down to it, our local counties have decided that some children are only SOME children have the right: to be happy, thriving, self-actualized, educated, healthy, and content; to have the opportunity to reach their full potential as individuals capable of healthy relationships and productive lives; and to have a fair chance in life with opportunities for healthy, balanced, and well-rounded development.