Letter to the Editor: Child Welfare & Juvenile Justice Must Be Part of Governor’s Essential Services.

Today, I called on Governor Wolf to name Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice part of his list of Essential Services under the health, safety, and welfare exemption outlined by his Administration.

In fact, Governor Wolf’s Administration continues to fund state parks and other less essential services while funding for court-mandated child welfare and juvenile justice placement services is not dispersed due to the governor’s decision to withhold funding during the current budget impasse.

The governor is the only one who can designate certain funds to be released under the umbrella of health and safety. Directives from the Governor’s office indicate that during the budget impasse the “Commonwealth will continue to make payments and continue operations in all areas that affect the health, safety, and protection of Pennsylvanians or as required under Federal Law, state court decisions or the Pennsylvania Constitution”. Children and youth involved in the child welfare system and youth served through the juvenile justice system are directly related to the health and safety of abused, neglected and at-risk dependent and delinquent populations in the Commonwealth. Such services are prescribed in federal and state law and supported by federal, state and local dollars. Many children and youth are placed in out-of-home settings by court directive to ensure their safety or that of their communities.

The challenges created by disruption of the flow of state dollars for these services has direct impact on the hundreds of private agencies that contract with the counties to provide a wide array of services. This broad range of interventions includes prevention, community-based and in-home services, foster and kinship family care and community and campus based residential and residential treatment services. Behavioral health (including drug and alcohol) and educational services are often incorporated into their array of services and supports offered by these voluntary private agencies to address the needs of the children served. They are acting as agents of the counties in this regard and their continued business operations are directly jeopardized by the budget impasse.

Thus, I am requesting consideration of the addition of county child welfare services to the list of critical and essential services and hope Governor Wolf will reconsider his decision and fund these essential services.

Thomas J. McGarrigle
Pennsylvania Senator, 26th District

CONTACT: Alex Charlton acharlton@pasen.gov (610) 853-4100