To the editor:
As a tax-paying resident of Mifflin County, I felt compelled to write this letter, especially after reading the cover letter from the Children and Youth Agency that was made public in The (Lewistown) Sentinel. Even in this letter, it publicly stereotyped the families that the agency works with. The 10 pages of citations from the Department of Public Welfare were minimized as well.
Reasoning and attempted justification of the citations was focused on staff turnover. I have never seen as much turnover in an agency as there is here in Mifflin County. Yes, there is a higher turnover rate in child welfare than other professions; however, not to the extent that Mifflin County Children and Youth has. You would think someone would question: "Why is there so much turnover in this office?" How can anyone minimize 10 pages of citations?
This is far from ordinary with any other Children and Youth agency. You cannot operate an agency that involves the children and families of Mifflin County with people that, in my opinion, have no compassion for the family entity. Children and Youth is not a judge, therefore it should not act as such. As taxpayers of Mifflin County, we pay those salaries of the governing body of the county and all heads of the agencies governed by DPW. Are we getting our money's worth? I do not think so. We have commissioners that will not respond to the citizens of their county and an agency that works with children and families that, in my opinion is not operating as DPW would expect.
The taxpayers of Mifflin County are paying for people that are to be working with families to strengthen the family, not tear it apart. There will always be those few that, for the safety of the child, they will need to be removed. However, there should be efforts to reunite that family. There should be efforts made to place that child in Kinship Care, and Kinship Care does not necessarily mean blood relatives. That does not always occur in Mifflin County for whatever reason, per the information that was in the recommendations from DPW.
You would think that the Commissioners of Mifflin County would want to see less money spent on removing children from their parents and paying anywhere up to $300 a day for residential care for one child. The money that Mifflin County taxpayers pay goes to someone else in another county. Residential facilities charge so much a day and there sure are not any residential facilities in Mifflin County. I would rather see the money being kept in the county and benefiting the families and children. Take this money and provide preventative and educational services for these families that are struggling. Take the time to talk and understand the parents' situation, do not judge and condemn them. We are all the same and no better than anyone else: "Don't judge me until you have walked a mile in my shoes."
The operation of Mifflin County Children and Youth is an embarrassment to the ones that are trying to change the way families view Children and Youth. If someone came knocking at my door and threatened me that they would take my children, I can just imagine how I would react. Children and Youth should not be a threat to families; they should be a helping hand. There are several practices in child welfare that have proven positive outcomes. Why not use these practices, help the families and save the county some money along the way? These practices place the power and decision making in the hands of the family. The old, authoritative way of child welfare has failed many families. It is easy to kick a person when they are down.
Child Welfare has worked hard to change the reputation of the agency. The current practice is to strengthen the family. To do that the agency must have respect for the people they work with. They must involve the families in the plans for the family. Research has shown that children that have been removed from their parents and placed, later return to their biological family when they age out of the system - even the children that have gone through adoption. If issues were not addressed when they were young, there will only be another generation of involvement with Children and Youth.
You would be surprised how parents react to a caseworker if you treat them with respect and dignity. You give them the power by being part of the solution of their problem. Use the taxpayers' money wisely. Invest in the children and families of Mifflin County. Investing in the children and families of Mifflin County will only strengthen our community. The way that the Children and Youth Agency is operating, we are, in my opinion, destroying the most precious assets of our community - our children and families.
Several months ago I attempted to make my concerns known to the Mifflin County Commissioners I voiced my concerns to the Department of Welfare and their response was that they discussed my concerns with the director and felt that there was nothing wrong with the actions being done. I provided the link to the page where the information I was reporting was public. No response from DPW or the commissioners. This is exactly why nothing changes in Mifflin County.
Quoting from The Sentinel's article: "As far as the allegations of misconduct go, a representative from DPW was unable to verify whether these claims by some of the families were substantiated or unsubstantiated." However, in the cover letter addressed to The Sentinel, Mifflin County CYS Director Mackenzie Seiler said there were areas of " improvement identified, however the accusations of scandal and corruption were not substantiated."
The DPW representative stated that they could not verify whether the claims were substantiated or unsubstantiated, and CYS is saying that they were not substantiated. I am rather confused on this situation as well.
It is time that the taxpaying citizens of Mifflin County take an interest in what is going on around them. How is our tax money being spent? Who have we elected into office? Some new blood is coming into offices, a new district attorney and a new judge who will be next?
I take a lot of pride in my community, my home and my career. I am a tax-paying citizen of Mifflin County, and I am a Children and Youth Caseworker for Perry County. It is important to me that our community strengthens. If things continue like they have, everything that is important to me and, I believe, to a lot of other citizens, will be at risk of being destroyed.
Karen Cleck French