Luzerne County Children and Youth license downgrade continued

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -

The state is keeping Luzerne County’s Children and Youth agency on a downgraded provisional license through Sept. 16, records show.

The agency’s license had been reduced to provisional status from September 2015 to March 16, 2016, after a review stemming from the death of a child and other inspections that found “some serious concerns regarding agency practice as well as regulatory violations.”

According to a report the state Department of Human Services posted online this week:

The decision to keep the agency on provisional status was based on two February inspections to investigate complaints and three interim licensing inspections in late February and early March.

These reviews found the agency did not comply with certain regulations or a corrective plan.

State law allows a maximum four consecutive provisional certificates, the state warned. Failure to implement a corrective plan could result in the loss of a license, it said.

The inspection reports point to a case in which two children under three had been injured by the father of the youngest. The mother was pregnant and due to give birth in February. The agency’s records on the case were missing but produced four days later. However, the file did not provide clarification justifying why this case was closed.

In another case alleging the sexual abuse of a child received by the agency on Sept. 2, the first supervisory review was not documented until Oct. 22, even though such reviews are required every 10 days. The case was closed without conducting required closing safety and risk assessments, the state said.

The state also questioned missing supportive documentation in case files while noting “significant improvement” in the agency’s emergency caregiver assessments.

County Children and Youth Director Joanne Van Saun, a 30-year agency employee who was promoted to the head post in March, informed the county council about the second provisional license earlier this week.

“The Licensing Inspection Summary (LIS) cites issues with paperwork and complaints. Children’s safety was never an issue with this LIS,” she wrote in her email to the council.

The agency has been working on hiring additional employees to address staffing shortages and training both new employees and current staff, she said.

Van Saun also said she is trying to “correct these past issues” and “reorganize to establish a better working environment for staff.”

“We have reduced paperwork and established time each morning for workers to catch up on paperwork. This will free up workers to have more contact with their families in the field,” she wrote.

Acting county Manager C. David Pedri told the council Friday the administration has made “great strides” correcting findings and will continue focusing on “this important matter.” The subject will be discussed at Tuesday’s council meeting, he said.

A total 483 children were removed from their homes for safety reasons in 2015, requiring caseworkers and supervisors to attend more than 4,500 hearings, the county said. The agency also provided services to 4,131 families last year.

The state received 150 complaints about the county agency in 2015, the county said.

Van Saun said that number includes multiple complaints from single sources. The agency quickly resolved some of this criticism and will implement additional protocol if necessary, she said.

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

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