CASE UPDATE: Former Director of Children and Youth Services at Luzerne Pleads Guilty of Obstruction | Crime reports

Harrisburg, Pa .– The former Director of Children and Youth Services for Luzerne County has been found guilty of a guilty plea to one count of endangering the welfare of children and to two counts of obstructing child abuse cases, according to She resigned from her post after her arrest. in July 2021.

Related Reading: Luzerne County Director of Children and Youth Arrested for Endangering Child Welfare

“Joanne Van Saun has turned a blind eye to child abuse and neglect, breaking the law and breaking her duty to protect our most vulnerable. We will continue to do our part to keep children safe in Luzerne County and across the Commonwealth, to ensure that if you call the Pennsylvania ChildLine your report is taken seriously and that we prosecute anyone who fails to meet their responsibilities and our youth at risk.

Investigators learned that in May 2017 Joanne Van Saun, 58, director of Luzerne County Children and Youth Services (LCCYS), ordered employees to end at least 217 reports of child abuse. and neglect of children received from the state ChildLine system. These cases were part of a backlog that was initially reported by the press in May 2017.

Luzerne County had 1,388 pending references at the end of 2016. The number in May 2017 was even higher with 1,698 pending references, which represented at least 80% of the Commonwealth’s outstanding ChildLine references. Under pressure from reports of a large number of backlogged Childline reports, Van Saun proposed a plan to clear the backlog without investigating whether any of the reports required further action to protect the children.

ChildLine is part of a statewide mandated child protection services program. It is designed to receive reports of child abuse and welfare issues, which are then forwarded to an appropriate agency for investigation, typically county-level child and youth service agencies.

Instead of taking the time necessary to assess or investigate every Childline referral, Van Saun instructed his employees to clear the backlog by submitting bogus computer reports to ChildLine that the referrals did not merit investigation (known as “Screen out”). 217 selections were submitted in May 2017 by LCCYS office workers who had neither the legal authority nor the appropriate training to make this decision.

Reports of child abuse should be sent to OAG Safe2Say Something (844) 723-2729 or PA ChildLine 1-800-932-0313.

Dauphin County Judge Scott Evans accepted the plea. The accused will be sentenced at a later date. This case is being pursued by Senior Deputy Attorney General Barney Anderson.

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