Contact Person: Kimberly Duffy
Contact Address: The Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center, The University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work
403 East Winding Hill Road, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055
Contact Phone: (717) 795-9048
Contact Email: email@example.com
In 2010, three Citizen Review Panels were established in Pennsylvania. Support for the panels is provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services’ Office of Children, Youth and Families via a contract with the University of Pittsburgh’s Child Welfare Resource Center.
The structure of Pennsylvania’s Citizen Review Panels is best described by highlighting three key points.
Panel Members Are Volunteers - Recruitment efforts extend well beyond the stakeholders traditionally gathered at state and county child welfare decision-making tables. There is an emphasis on recruiting persons who truly can serve in a volunteer capacity and with a “citizen” perspective.
Panels Are Independent – Panels are not assigned topic areas to evaluate; rather they can examine any policies, practices and procedures as long as they relate to state and local child protective services system agencies and their effectiveness in discharging child protection responsibilities. The panels’ recommendations, along with the Department of Human Services’ responses, are published in their entirety annually.
Panels Are Regional - Pennsylvania’s child welfare system is one of 13 states that operates as state-supervised but county-administered. To support this structure, panels are regionally located and membership reflects the diversity of Pennsylvania’s counties in each region. This allows for the development of county-specific solutions to address the strengths and needs of families and their communities but does not prohibit panels from addressing statewide concerns. There are currently three panels in Pennsylvania and their coverage extends to 36 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
In 2012, the Citizen Review Panels and the Office of Children, Youth, and Families (OCYF) began the practice of meeting twice a year in the Spring and the Fall to engage in dialogue and information sharing. This practice continues and has proven to be very beneficial in promoting a strong partnership between the panels and the state. The Spring meeting allows the panel members to discuss the recommendations from the previous year with OCYF and any action steps the state has identified in response to the recommendation. This meeting time is also used by the panels to formulate their work plans for the year. During the Fall meeting, the panel members review their individual work with each other, come to a consensus on the recommendations and then present this information as a draft annual report to OCYF and other stakeholders.
The panels’ focus areas have remained consistent for the past several years. The Northwest and South Central Panels continue to advocate for data collection and best practice standards for Resource Parent recruitment, training, and retention. The Northeast Panel is advocating for improvements to the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children to shorten wait time for children. OCYF strives to engage the panel members throughout the year on a variety of levels. In addition to two annual meetings, OCYF invites members to participate in activities in addition to their panel meetings. These activities include statewide workgroups, meetings, conferences, trainings and older youth events.