Auditor general to do deep-dive into child protection agencies

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The cases have been heart-breaking, tragic and, for Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, too frequent.

There was 11-year-old Ciara “CeCe” Meyer in Perry County. She died two years ago, but the anguish is fresh for her family.

“We have to cry every night now because we have no answers and we’ll never get CeCe back, never,” Ron Rohde told ABC27 months after the death of his niece.

Just this week in Dauphin County, police say they rescued a 2-year-old living in filth and squalor.

They are just two of the suffering children that are troubling DePasquale.

“When we think we’re having a bad day, it doesn’t even remotely come close to what that child was going through,” DePasquale said of the Dauphin County 2-year-old during a Thursday news conference at the Capitol.

DePasquale announced a special report called “The State of the Child.” He says his team will do a deep dive into children and youth agencies across the commonwealth to get a handle on exactly how at-risk children are being protected. The systemic audit will focus on 13 counties including Dauphin and York. He will also put Philadelphia and Allegheny under the microscope.

“To be blunt, hardly a day goes by, and certainly not a week goes by that we haven’t read some horrifying story about something that is happening to a child somewhere in Pennsylvania,” he said.

DePasquale won’t make corrective recommendations until the report is complete in the fall, but he suspects county caseworkers are understaffed, undertrained and overworked. He also said that workers just out of college and early in their careers are often sent into deplorable, even dangerous conditions by themselves.

“Many of them are scared for their lives while they’re in these situations,” he said.

DePasquale admits that a special report on child welfare is beyond the traditional dollars and cents audits of his office. Is it beyond his authority?

“If somebody wants to say, Eugene, we’re mad that you’re being too aggressive in protecting children, I can live with that criticism,” he said.

DePasquale also announced that an audit of York County Children and Youth Services revealed that it had overbilled the state $578,400. That money will be reduced from future payments to the agency, he said.

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