By Derek Danneker, Pennsylvania Legislative Services | June 6, 2022


Officials and administrators recognized the work of caseworkers and others to commemorate the start of Child Welfare Professionals Appreciation Week in the Main Rotunda Monday.


Nikki McElwee, administrator of Children and Youth Services (CYS), Cumberland County, thanked Gov. Tom Wolf for recognizing the “difficult” and “important” work of child welfare service workers. “We should not lose sight of the fact that this file is filled with dedicated, hardworking individuals who committed their lives and careers to protecting children,” she remarked. McElwee reported that 38,000 child abuse allegations were investigated in Pennsylvania, 13 percent of which were substantiated in 2021, and 44,000 general protective service reports were validated. She stated that in the number of cases where a child must be placed in protective custody, caseworkers in the commonwealth placed children in relative or kinship homes 50 percent of the time. She explained the state is working to place more children with their relatives when that level of custody is needed.


Dr. Joseph Birli, president and CEO, Bethany Children’s Home, emphasized the importance of recognizing the work of child welfare workers as the “unprecedented number of mass shootings have diminished the sanctity of life, particularly among children.” He stated those events perpetuate trauma that requires healing, often through the work of child welfare professionals. Dr. Birli added the work of those professionals was also on display during the COVID-19 pandemic. “This recognition of appreciation is not just to be represented in one moment of time, but every time a child needs to be cared for, feel safe and receive a sense of value,” he said.


Jon Rubin, deputy secretary, Department of Human Services (DHS), highlighted that the work of child welfare workers never stops and many worked throughout the pandemic. He pointed out that although the public often hears about cases where something has gone wrong, they rarely hear about the “thousands” of successes.


Rosemarie LaRue described how her granddaughter, Jordan LaRue, came to her care. She explained how the CYS in Sullivan County provided her with the services she needed. Jordan LaRue further described her personal growth since leaving the custody of her parents.


Justin Walker, caseworker, CYS, Cumberland County, explained that his work is rewarding and offers many opportunities for growth.


Erica Edwards, caseworker, CYS, Cumberland County, emphasized the importance of self-care for caseworkers due to the stresses of the job.


Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) commented that as chairman of the House Children and Youth Committee she is interested in learning about laws to improve the system and outcomes for children. She stated the committee has held many hearings with counselors and others who have detailed the difficult work of child welfare workers. She thanked those workers for their dedication.


Brian Bornman, executive director, Pennsylvania Children and Youth Administrators Association (PCYA), echoed Rep. Delozier’s sentiment and encouraged anyone interested in a career helping children to investigate openings on their county’s CYS webpage or PCYA’s webpage.