More funding sought for Pa. child welfare programs

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene A. DePasquale, speaks after he was sworn in for his second term at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale calls the state's child welfare services "broken," and he's urging more funding to address issues he identified in a report last year. (AP file photo)

Pennsylvania’s Auditor General is urging Gov. Tom Wolf and the General Assembly to pump more money into the commonwealth’s child welfare services.

In the wake of a report his office released on child welfare last year, Eugene DePasquale has repeatedly called the system “broken.”

Now, he has issued his own series of recommendations for addressing a range of issues.

It includes loosening regulations on data filing to make caseworkers’ jobs easier; pumping $90 million into various programs and training; and having the state pay counties upfront to fill caseworker vacancies.

He acknowledged a funding boost will be a hard sell in the spending-averse General Assembly.

“I’m just here to tell you that, if it’s important, they’ll find it,” he said. “The idea that they might feel a little pressure on this is not exactly something that’s going to get me crying at night.”

Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said the administration mostly agrees with DePasquale’s suggestions — though there are some concerns about changing how the state pays county offices.

“We’ve always had a state supervised, county-administered system,” she said. “So, if we’re funding everything, I think it just raises the question, do we still have that system?”

DePasquale’s initial report said one of the system’s biggest problems is caseworkers who are undertrained and stretched too thin, which leads to a backlog of cases.

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