Children and Youth Services leaders explain the organization’s role | News, Sports, Jobs
When most people think of child and youth services, perhaps the most immediate thought is to speculate on the agency as the one that removes children from abusive homes.
But this is a flawed assumption that sells the hard work of those working with children and youth under wraps. It also misrepresents the actual competence of the organization, as executive director Matt Salvatori and clinical director Matthew Wood explain.
The main goal of Lycoming County Children and Youth is to prevent child abuse and neglect, or at least to improve a family’s situation, if necessary.
“We like to lead from behind. It is their family and their solutions. We are here to be a support and a guide,” said Wood.
Lycoming County is considered one of the most proactive and effective counties in preventing abuse, according to Matt Salvatori, executive director of Lycoming County Children and Youth.
“Half the service is made up of prevention services”, Salvatori said. “Big brothers/big sisters. Sensitization. We have social workers in every school district. »
Salvatori said there are programs available for the community without ever being involved with children and young people. This is a voluntary service allowing families to obtain additional help in caring for children.
“We want to continue to educate the public about the importance of working together, to recognize the importance of family and to be prepared to speak up when concerns are identified,” Salvatori said.
“They really know what they need, but you have to reach out and see what they need,” said Wood. “We want to strengthen and empower families – to strengthen them to the point where they no longer need us.”
However, sometimes preventive measures are not enough to adequately help a child.
When children and young people receive a report of child abuse, they are required to respond to that report immediately, Salvatori said. Children and young people send a social worker to the home to check on the safety of the child involved, according to Salvatori. If the child is safe, workers then assess the needs of the family. This happens a few hours after the incident, but no more than 24 hours, the two said.
“If we feel they need more, we give them more,” Salvatori said.
Depending on the family’s needs, children and youth can assess the family over a period of time like one or two months to see if follow-up is needed, according to Wood. These assessments can be as frequent as necessary.
But Children and Youth has no jurisdiction to remove children from homes, Salvatori said. Salvatori said the agency follows a state-mandated process of assessing situations with security assessment tools to determine how to move forward. If a child is in danger, Children and Youth travels immediately to prepare a case to advocate for the removal of a child from a judge.
“Only a judge can remove a child from the custody of his parents”, Salvatori said. “We can go to court and explain the situation.”
“These are allegations, and allegations are not evidence,” said Wood. “You have the right to have your children. We are aware of this.
Wood explained that due process comes into effect after Children and Youth petition a judge.
“The tragedy is that we find out after the fact”, said Wood. “Ninety-nine percent of the roughly 2,200 annual cases, the public never hears about.”
Changes in laws over the years have strengthened and supported child and youth services across Pennsylvania, according to Wood — particularly in 2014, when the Child Welfare Task Force Former Gov. Tom Corbett has released his review of state laws and procedures governing child protection and child abuse reporting in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Subsequently, several laws have adopted the task force’s recommendations, including child protection information systems. The CWIS is a state database that connects related law enforcement agencies to each other. State police, local police, and children and youth may all receive the same report, although a response is only required from one party.
“This has led to many collaborations and partnerships,” said Wood.
According to Salvatori, reports have more than doubled since the adoption of these changes – which is a good thing, he said.
In addition to this collaboration, Children and Youth works with the children’s advocacy center and involves them in monthly meetings. In situations of child abuse, the child advocacy centre, not the children and young people, will conduct an independent interview to try to consider the needs of the child and the healthiest way to help them .
Wood said he believes these laws sufficiently support children and young people in carrying out their duties. He said children and young people, however, remain committed to constant improvement and growth.
“We are very critical of our own work”, said Wood.
To that end, Salvatori commended the 73 employees of Children and Youth Services, including the 40 social workers and supervisors.
“We want to praise their courage, their passion and their knowledge. They find themselves in difficult situations, sometimes without cell service and they do not carry weapons,” Salvatori said. “This is a 24/7 operation. We always have staff here to support the community. There can never be a day off. On Christmas morning there is always someone one who works.
Wood said the level of seniority in child and youth services puts Lycoming County ahead of other parts of Pennsylvania.
“We are so lucky. We hear about turnover elsewhere, and we have a stable workforce with people who have a lot of experience,” said Wood.
According to Salvatori, some counties have employees who stay six months to a year before changing jobs. However, Salvatori said he has worked for children and young people for 25 years and Wood has been employed for 20 years.
“Forty percent of the staff have been here for more than 20 years,” Salvatori said.
Toward the end of growth, Salvatori said he wanted the agency to continue to raise awareness about the importance of working together, recognizing the importance of family and being willing to speak up when concerns arise. are identified.
“It’s the public who knows” Salvatori said.
However, on the other hand, Salvatori said the last thing children and young people want to see is a police state of neighbors watching and confronting neighbors.
“Employed journalists should not investigate – they should report”, Salvatori said.
Childline of Pennsylvania collects reports of child welfare issues and forwards this information to law enforcement agencies.
Anyone can call the Childline at 1-800-932-0313, and commissioned reporters can submit reports electronically at compass.state.pa.us/cwis.