Overview of Children and Youth Services
Pennsylvania’s Child Welfare System is a state supervised and county administered. Every county has a Children and Youth Services Agency that organizes and manages the services that are available in that county. The name of the Children and Youth Services Agency may vary in each county.
The purpose of a Children and Youth Services Agency is to provide child welfare services designed to protect children from abuse, neglect, and enable children to remain safely in their homes. It provides services to help families overcome problems that result in dependency, neglect, and delinquency, and to enhance the family’s capacity to provide for their children’s educational, physical, and behavioral health needs. The Children and Youth Service Agency provides adequate substitute care in foster family homes and child caring institutions for any child in need of care due to abuse or neglect. Services are available to children from birth to 18 years of age. However, if a youth should choose to stay involved, in the state of Pennsylvania they can stay until the age of 21. Children and Youth Services promote and protect the health and welfare of children with the focus of keeping families together through protective services. When placement does occur, the goal is to reconnect and reunify the child with the family in as an effective and timely way possible, while ensuring the safety of the child.
Why Children, Youth and Families May Be Involved With Your Family
The Children, Youth and Families (CYF) works with families that are having a difficult time providing a safe and nurturing environment for their children. CYF is the agency designated by state law to look into allegations of child abuse and neglect. CYF receives referrals from friends, family, neighbors and others; the agency also receives referrals from parents themselves. CYF assigns a Caseworker to look into the allegations and to decide if CYF can help. By law, the agency will offer services to families when:
Parents are not able to care for children and no other responsible adult is available
Children that may have been injured, abused, or sexually molested by their parents or caretakers; children are not adequately cared for or supervised; in certain situations, when parents need help with their problems or their children’s problems.
Keeping Families Together
The agency’s preference is to keep families together. If your children can live with you and be safe, they will stay with you. Most families who are involved with OCYF continue to live together under the same roof. While parents continue to parent, they are also receiving services from the agency. A Caseworker will meet with family members in the home to assist the family in working through problems. The frequency of home visits will be decided by the parents and the Caseworker.
If adults and children cannot live together safely, CYF will provide a safe, temporary home for the children. This “out-of-home” placement may be with relatives. It may be with a foster family. Less often, it is in a group home, a residential center or shelter.