Advocates, families rally for child welfare workers
The Pennsylvania Children and Youth Administrators Association and the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services held a news conference in the Pennsylvania Capitol rotunda on Monday, 6/6/22 to mark Child Welfare Professionals Awareness Week and Child Welfare Providers (Capitsl-Star photo by Christina Baker).
In 2016, Rosemary Laroe got a call that her grandchildren had been removed from their parents’ care in Philadelphia.
Jordan Laroe, one of the children, was 11 years old at the time.
“I was a truant, I was homeless, and squatting in a random house with [my parents],” Laroe said. “I may have nothing good to say about Philadelphia system workers, but them removing me was the only thing they did right. For that I am grateful.”
Rosemary Laroe and her husband called Sullivan County’s Children and Youth services and a caseworker immediately came to their home to do an inspection. The next day, Rosemary drove to Philadelphia to pick up the children.
In the following years, Jordan and her siblings became involved in Sullivan County CYS’s independent living program and other community service work. Rosemary has adopted Jordan. And Jordan is now the youth consultant for Sullivan County CYS.
“Sullivan County CYS has always made themselves available for moral guidance, support and advice,” Rosemary Laroe said. “I will be forever grateful that I lived in Sullivan County when the children came to live with us.”
The Laroes told their story Monday at a press conference held by the Pennsylvania Children and Youth Administrators Association and the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services to mark Child Welfare Professionals Awareness Week and Child Welfare Providers Awareness Week.
At the press conference, speakers highlighted the work of child welfare professionals and encouraged anyone interested in the profession to apply.
Justin Walker, a caseworker from Cumberland County CYS, spoke about the opportunities for professional development in the field, such asgetting a master’s degree, taking continued training classes and the variety of positions available.
“You don’t have to stay in one service department,” Walker said. “You can be an intake worker, you can work in the adoption and [permanence] unit, or you can even become an independent living provider.”
Brain Bornman, the executive director of the Pennsylvania CYAA, noted that a career in the field doesn’t have much financial benefit.
“You’re not going to get rich working in child welfare. But it’s richly rewarding,” Bornman said.
Low salaries are one of the issues causing high turnover in Pennsylvania’s CYS programs, according to an auditor general’s report in 2017.
The average salary for an entry-level caseworker was around $30,000, or $14/hour, with some county’s caseworkers receiving food stamps. Meanwhile, caseworkers reported that their job’s duties were extremely stressful.
State Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland, spoke at the end of the press conference and celebrated child welfare workers and children in the child welfare system, although she noted that it had room for improvement.
“So many of the professionals that are in this field are the first person that has basically expected something of our children. And that’s awesome. That’s phenomenal,” Delozier said. “We have professionals out there that stand for kids on a day-to-day basis.”
Christina Baker is an intern with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association
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