Snyder County Children and Youth Services lauded as leader in state

Apr. 26—SELINSGROVE — Touting Snyder County Children and Youth Services' use of innovative collaborations for keeping children safely with families, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh led a roundtable in Selinsgrove on Friday to learn more about the agency and its staff.

"We're here to celebrate the work you're doing," Arkoosh said at the event held at Susquehanna University's new Downtown Center at 111 Market St. as she cited the agency's lowest rate of children being placed with non-family members in the state under the leadership of Snyder County Children and Youth Director Jennifer Napp Evans. "You're making sure parents aren't punished because they've fallen on hard times. You clearly have a vision here that we'd like more counties to know about."

The county has two dependent youths, and only one is currently placed outside the home compared to 41 dependent children in 2014, Napp Evans said. In 2019, before the agency started the Family Engagement Initiative to support families, there were 30 dependent children being served.

And, said Commissioner Joe Kantz, unlike many other counties, Snyder County has no vacancies in its Children and Youth Services department which has 27 staff members, including 13 caseworkers.

"Things work really well in this county," said Laval Miller-Wilson, deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Office of Children and Youth, highlighting the agency's collaborations to serve children and families. "Each county has to identify their strengths, but it is about building relationships."

"Child protection is complex, but when counties come together to work across systems and build processes that increase communication and break down disciplinary silos, children's outcomes can improve," said Child Advocate Maryann McEvoy.

Roundtable attendees also included state Sen. Lynda Schlegel Culver, Snyder County Commissioners Chuck Steininger and Adam Ewig and CMSU Behavioral Health and Developmental Services staff.

Several Snyder County Children and Youth staff members spoke about their work experiences and the change in attitudes toward child welfare and protection.

The biggest shift in the way they approach struggling families has been "what do we have to do to not remove the child," said Stanley Beck, a child protective supervisor.

Helping struggling families identify familiar supports has been a major part of the caseworkers' job in making that goal successful, said caseworker supervisor David Newman.

"What worked 10 years ago is not going to meet the needs today," said Napp Evans.

She highlighted the agency's work, including saving the county $5 million following the implementation of the Family Engagement Initiative; distributing sensory and calming kits to courtroom personnel working with children; constructing calming rooms at the courthouse in Middleburg and Children and Youth offices; co-organizing a farm safety meeting attended by more than 350 Amish and Mennonite residents and serving 22 families this year through the mentor program.