State downgrades Philadelphia human services license

    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. (

    Pennsylvania has downgraded the license of Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services.

    The provisional status is the result of a newly released audit identifying dozens of child welfare violations, including poor documentation of cases and several instances where kids were kept in the DHS offices overnight because workers could not find any other accommodation.

    “Since we became aware of these issues, we’ve taken a number of short-term steps and also some longer-term efforts to try to continue to improve this system,” said Eva Gladstein, deputy managing director for the department. “But something like this is not something you can turn around in four or five months.”

    Many of the problems stem from the city’s turnover of child services to community umbrella agencies beginning in 2012, Gladstein said. The transition has been rocky, with case backlogs and slow responses amid increased demand.

    Gladstein, who attributed part of that spike to “post-Sandusky” laws enacted in 2014, said the new administration has been dealing with the problems through increased technical assistance and changes to staffing criteria to lessen caseloads.

    When the department also became aware of falsified records last month, it reviewed every case staff had touched, Gladstein added, removing those workers and reassigning the cases.

    For years, especially in the ’90s, Philadelphia’s DHS office was inundated with problems. The system was broken, and the safety of children was in jeopardy, said Frank Cervone, director of the Support Center for Child Advocates. Since then, he said, all involved have been working to improve the situation.

    “Whether it’s moving fast enough and whether it has gotten sufficient resources to respond to the needs are questions for leadership, and I think prevail big on both city and state government to answer,” he said. “We can’t minimize the impact on any one child … we can’t accept even a singular slip up.”

    The last time the department’s license was downgraded to provisional status was in 2009. If it fails future inspections, the department risks losing oversight and funding.

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