County’s selection to family-building program good … but alarming

Clinton County’s selection as one of seven counties in Pennsylvania to participate in the new “Family Engagement Initiative” is good news … and bad.

It’s bad because the county’s selection means there are a sufficient (and increasing) number of known problems involving kids and families here that we need special help.

Emphasize the “we.”

And make no mistake, trends are often a criteria for such selections.

It’s good because local Children and Youth staff will get more training and resources to help kids and families.

Gerald Rosamilia and Autumn Bower, director and assistant director of county Children and Youth Services, respectively, and their staff have been pretty busy lately … perhaps even overwhelmed.

The caseload of reports of abuse, neglect or other issues that the agency is handling, as reported in this past Saturday’s edition as our top story, are worth repeating:

r From March 2014 to March 2017, the number of Child Protective Services reports in the county increased from 6 to 20.

r In the same time period, the number of General Protective Services reports in the county increased from 44 to 72.

r In 2015, a total of 65 new cases were opened. Another 65 new cases were opened in 2016, and 46 additional ones have been opened so far this year. Right now, there are 63 open cases.

These investigations can be open for up to 60 days, Bower said, but if the family needs additional time and support from the agency, the report can be opened as an “ongoing case.”

Bower says the Children and Youth Services in this county has a good ratio of caseworkers per families served, but that’s worth monitoring.

“It is critical for caseworkers to be able to assist, support and meet with the family on a regular basis in order to help them address the problem areas and make real change happen,” she told The Express. “You can’t do that if you give them high caseloads.”

In talking to county officials, they use the word “alarming” to describe the increase in reports of neglect or abuse of children here.

And one program will not be the cure-all.

Folks, these problems begin and are solved in the home.

Of course, that’s the problem … too many kids don’t have a real “home.”

Too many kids don’t have two parents who are, themselves, accountable, responsible … willing to sacrifice for their children.

What’s one of the causes of abuse-neglect?

Broken homes, for sure.

Schools also are not able to provide the entire solution, but they are the front line in many cases.

That’s why our schools and Children and Youth and its caseworkers must have the best relationships and communication possible.

It’s clear that as case workers delve more into families — and as police are more active in these issues because of better training while our courts take such problems very seriously — more problems have come to light.

We applaud the county court system, the county and Children and Youth for being proactive.