The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) has provided several important child welfare system updates. While the state was planning to implement the Family First Prevention Services Act provisions on October 1, a request was made to the Administration for Children and Families for a formal delay due to impacts of COVID-19 and budgetary concerns. The department was granted this request, which will change the implementation date to July 1, 2021. This change aligns with the state fiscal year and will assist the state and counties to adequately plan for policy and procedural changes. Read the official press release from DHS.
DHS also has provided important data on the impacts of COVID-19 on the child welfare system. Specifically, Childline, the state reporting system of child abuse and neglect, has seen a 50% decrease in calls. This is not indicative of a reduction in child abuse, rather, it reflects a decrease in interactions between children and mandated reporters. Because mandated reporters (such as school personnel and medical staff) are having limited access with children and youth, there is less direct recognition of abusive situations to report.
We encourage anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect to call ChildLine toll-free at 1-800-932-0313. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to receive reports of suspected child abuse.
Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and other advocates have been seeking data on positive COVID-19 cases for those involved with the child welfare system. As of May 7, positive cases of COVID-19 include:
- 34 youth and 153 staff in 55 Pa. Code 3800 facilities
- Three youth served in family foster or kinship care
- Eight foster or kinship care providers