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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 13, 2018 04:44 PM
From: Senator Lisa Baker and Sen. Judith L. Schwank
To: All Senate members
Subject: Interbranch Commission on the Child-Welfare System
In September 2017, the auditor general issued a “State of the Child” special report that detailed alarming deficiencies in Pennsylvania’s child welfare system. While we have read about several horrific cases of child abuse, the truth is too many children in supervised situations suffer death, serious injuries, or endure abysmal living conditions. Since the report came out, several community discussions have spotlighted the depth and extent of the shortcomings. The problems have been evident for some time, reaching back across administrations, and are largely structural within the system, rather than evidence of poor performance. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the system is underfunded and overburdened.

It is going to take a serious effort to push through remedies that will include increased funding, added personnel, more consistent oversight, and important changes in law and regulation.

To that end, we are reintroducing legislation from last session, SB 1087, which sought to create the Interbranch Commission on the Child Welfare System. The commission will include six members appointed by the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, four members appointed by the General Assembly, five members appointed by the Governor, as well as the auditor general and a deputy secretary from the Department of Human Services.

This body is patterned after the Interbranch Commission for Juvenile Justice, which did an outstanding job of investigating the horrific circumstances of the Kids-for-Cash scandal in Luzerne County. That commission developed an extensive series of reform recommendations, the majority of which were implemented through legislation or by rule.

Last session, SB 1087 was approved unanimously in the Senate but stalled in the House. The legislation was co-sponsored by Senators Rafferty, Vogel, K. Ward, Farnese, Mensch, Costa, Vulakovich, Browne, Yudichak, Bartolotta and Wagner.

Introduced as SB297