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Blair to take CYF challenges to state

Annual report will detail staffing shortages, turnover

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County is preparing to submit an annual plan to the state identifying staff vacancies and high turnover in its Children, Youth & Families office as one of its challenges at a time when it’s also dealing with more complex child welfare cases.

“It has been difficult for us,” CYF supervisor and program specialist Diane Litzinger said Thursday when speaking about the shortage of caseworkers and supervisors during a public meeting on the county’s 2023-24 Needs-Based Plan and Budget for submission to the state Department of Human Services.

The county’s CYF office, which works with families to investigate and address reports of child abuse and neglect, annually prepares a Needs-Based Plan and Budget that reviews current conditions and projects future needs.

It identified four main reasons for youth in the CYF system: substance use of their caregivers, neglect, mental health of the child or parent and truancy.

Because of CYF’s ongoing staff shortage, the report indicates that the office is depending more on local providers for services, including providers who have been managing their own staff shortages during the current economic climate.

While CYF is able to provide families with access to current services and programs, Litzinger said it’s unlikely that any new services will be considered for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

“We probably have what we need … although we may add to existing services,” she said.

Decisions on those pursuits will likely fall to the office’s next administrator, Tiffany Treese, who begins Aug. 29. She will be taking over leadership duties that County Commissioner Laura Burke and County Administrator/Chief Clerk Nicole Hemminger assumed in mid-June when CYF Administrator Paul Bookhamer resigned.

Burke and Hemminger, who addressed portions of the plan during Thursday’s public meeting, spoke of the need to address complex cases involving children and families struggling with a mix of mental health, substance abuse and trauma.

Burke referenced a regional discussion about the need for housing to accommodate those youths.

Litzinger said it’s often difficult to arrange for suitable housing for those youths because they present a risk to others. She said that four times last year her office arranged temporary housing at local motels for youths, adding up to 50 nights.

“If we get to that point, it’s because we’re desperate,” she said.

The report to the state also references efforts the county has made to recruit CYF employees.

While the county regularly lists CYF positions among job openings on its website, it also initiated a radio advertisement campaign for applicants and turned to job placement agencies that could provide temporary employees.

More recently, the commissioners also authorized allowing a talent recruiter, identified to help with searching for candidates for the CYF administrator post, to identify and recruit caseworkers who may be interested in working for Blair County.

CYF Fiscal Officer Amy Wertz, who has until mid-September to compile the fiscal portion of the plan, said Thursday that in each of the last two years, the county has asked the state for $15 million to cover CYF operations. Based on reimbursements set by the state, the county typically covers about 20% of CYF’s operating costs.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.

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