Philly Council looks into downgrade of Human Services license

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A Pennsylvania audit found 84 times in 2015 when children spent the night at Department of Human Services headquarters because no suitable housing could be found. (<a href=

A Pennsylvania audit found 84 times in 2015 when children spent the night at Department of Human Services headquarters because no suitable housing could be found. (

The license of Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services has been downgraded, and City Council held a hearing to find out why. 

Acting DHS Commissioner Jessica Shapiro said the department is attempting to end its practice of using an office room for displaced kids to stay overnight. Instead, the staff is placing children, no matter when they come in at night.

“Our staff is working so hard, calling providers, transferring kids,” she told Council members. “If police bring them in at midnight, we are transporting kids at midnight, at three in the morning.  We are making extra diligent efforts.”

Vanessa Fields, vice president of the union representing DHS workers, said the license downgrade stemmed from the privatization of some services.

The city’s turnover of child services to community umbrella agencies began in 2012, said Eva Gladstein, deputy managing director for the department, last month. The transition has been rocky, with case backlogs and slow responses amid increased demand.

A state audit blamed most of the serious violations of state welfare laws on the private case management services.

Shapiro said the department has received a provisional certificate before, back in 2008, and that carried it through for a year.  Three Pennsylvania counties — York, Dauphin and Luzerne — also operate with provisional licenses.

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