Wolf issues executive order aimed at improving Pa.’s ‘outdated’ human services

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a campaign rally for Pennsylvania candidates in Philadelphia, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a campaign rally for Pennsylvania candidates in Philadelphia, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

After a series of incidents in which people have been harmed while in state or county human services care, Gov. Tom Wolf said the system isn’t working.

He issued an executive order Wednesday that — among other things — aims to figure out what’s going wrong.

Explaining his decision, Wolf pointed to a reform school for boys that was shut down after a Philadelphia Inquirer investigation uncovered ongoing abuse.

There have been reports of elderly people being harmed in nursing homes. And in 2016, a 14-year-old girl was brutally murdered by her foster parents, after caseworkers overlooked signs of abuse.

“Today we’re being honest that the decades-in-the-making, outdated, rigid, convoluted system is not working for too many Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said.

The order will create a new Office of Advocacy and Reform within the governor’s office and a council on reform.

They’ll be tasked with studying best practices for vulnerable people, coordinating with counties, and recommending changes.

“For too long, we have viewed the role of the state as one of just administration and oversight, and our systems have been built to prioritize the institution over the human being,” Wolf said.

Many of Pennsylvania’s human services functions are carried out by counties. Wolf noted, he can’t force them to change anything. But the Association of County Commissioners has indicated it’s onboard.

Wolf will appoint an executive director for his new advocacy office, plus a child advocate.

He’ll also appoint members to the reform council, which will include department heads as well.

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