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The Supreme Court throws out a Trump-era ban on gun bump stocks; a look at how social media algorithms and Shakespearian villains have in common; and states receive federal funding to clean up legacy mine pollution.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

STEM model may offer hope for PA child welfare workforce crisis

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Wednesday, April 17, 2024   

The child welfare system in Pennsylvania faces a staffing crisis affecting children and families throughout the system.

The Child Welfare Resource Center said about 30 counties report caseworker vacancy rates of 30% or higher

Terry Clark, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services, at a state Senate hearing on child welfare, challenged the Departments of Education and Human Services to work together to develop a STEM-focused model for human services. It could offer young people opportunities for training, apprenticeships and careers in child welfare, juvenile justice and behavioral health.

"We spend a lot of time focusing on colleges and universities," Clark noted. "But we believe we might want to back this up a little bit, and start looking at middle schools and high schools. Try to reinvigorate, get younger students motivated and trying to come into this field."

Clark pointed out some agencies have asked supervisors and even people from other departments to take on casework responsibilities. A recent Philadelphia study found Community Umbrella Agencies had an average 45% turnover rate, with vacancies ranging from 21-60 positions.

Clark observed private providers face workforce challenges similar to the county child welfare agencies. He emphasized counties are beginning to explore more contractual relationships with private providers for needed work.

"Counties are starting to put out RFPs, calls for private providers to help supplement their workforce," Clark stressed. "That means they're asking private providers to take on roles and functions that, in the past, were primarily done by counties themselves."

Clark argued competitive wages are seen as crucial to attract and retain child welfare workers, and county funding often falls short. He added student loan forgiveness and fellowship programs may be promising ways to bring new people into the field, but lawmakers would have to agree.

"There have been House bills and different Senate bills that have been introduced, or at least in draft form over the years," Clark acknowledged. "We hope that there's continued discussion about those, because if we can get some movement on those, we think those will really help."

He told legislators the turnover trends will not change significantly without increased investment in workers.

Disclosure: The Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Children's Issues, Education, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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