Child abuse and neglect cases fell 28% in Lancaster County in 2020, but the number of substantiated cases reached the highest level in five years, according to a new report from Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
In 2020, 14.1% of the cases investigated were substantiated in Lancaster County. In 2019, the justification rate was 9.2%.
âYou’ve had a big jump in the warranted rate,â said Rachel Miller, the partnership’s policy director, of Lancaster County’s percentage of proven cases.
Statewide, the drop in reports last year was 22%, with 14% of reports substantiated by investigators.
âWhile substantiation rates have increased, data from 2021 will be important in seeing how trends evolve as schools resume in-person teaching,â said Kari King, the organization’s president and CEO, in A press release. “Subsequently, there was more interaction between commissioned reporters, such as teachers, with children and families.”
The organization predicts that 2021 data will show an increase in abuse and neglect referrals and, most likely, a decrease in the number of investigators corroborating these cases.
The 12th Annual Report provides a five-year analysis and includes data trends on the safety, placement and permanence of children in the foster care system.
The working hypothesis as to why reports have declined as the number of investigations held to be true has increased in the event of a pandemic is twofold: First, with school closings, children have had less face-to-face interactions with the mandated journalists and secondly, the references could have been more serious.
âI don’t think it has to be one or the other,â Miller said. “I think it’s a bit of both.”
Among the discoveries:
As of 2020, 532 children in Lancaster County were served by the foster care system. In 2018, the most recent date for which there is data, 766 children were served in the county.
Statewide, 21,689 children were taken into the foster care system in 2020, down 12% from the previous year.
The percentage of children reunited with their parents or a family member rose in the county from 20.2% in 2019 to 21.7% last year.
The report also highlighted several policy recommendations, including continued investment in prevention services aimed at mitigating non-abuse factors to keep families together; expanding the possibilities of placing children with parents and increasing the data sets that counties are required to report, among other things.
The recruitment and retention of staff – who had suffered from high turnover rates even before the pandemic – is seen as a critical step in effectively delivering services to children in the social protection system.
In Lancaster County, the annual staff turnover rate was around 15-20%. It now stands at 38%, according to Lancaster County data on children and youth.
To attract and keep the right talent, Children and Youth is offering a registration bonus of $ 5,500 to new recruits. And, depending on seniority, current employees will receive between $ 4,500 and $ 7,000.
Bonuses are paid using federal bailout dollars linked to COVID-19.
âIt was very difficult getting people in,â said Crystal Natan, executive director of Lancaster County Children and Youth.
Natan added: “We certainly don’t get people out the door as quickly as we lose them.”
Since the Pennsylvania Department of Social Services does not provide real-time data, the impact on child abuse and neglect with returning to class this year is unlikely to be known until 2022.
Formed in 1992, the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is a nonprofit organization focused on child welfare, early childhood education, and maternal and child health.
To read the full report, visit https://www.papartnerships.org/resources-publications/reports/.