CBS 21: Some families are at risk of entering the child welfare system due to impacts of inflation

Inflation continues to rattle families across the country. However, for some who were already facing poverty, their family is being faced with the foster care system. 

Tri County Community Action serves Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties. 

Director of early childhood and family development at Tri County, Sheila Deer, said they’ve seen an increase in the number of referrals in their program. 

“We work with families that live in the reality of poverty on a day-to-day basis,” Deer said. “We see families navigating all sorts of financial tensions and because of that they end up navigating the reality sometimes of the child welfare system.” 

She said families get involved in the child welfare system for a number of reasons. 

“Sometimes the reality is they have to make a choice between one thing or another, pay a bill to keep the gas going verses having food on the table,” Deer said. 

She said that inadvertently leaves some families forced to face the reality of the foster care system. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services’ (DHS) latest data on the foster care system is from 2021. 

While not by much, children entering the foster care system for the first time jumped by nearly 100 children from 2020 to 2021. In 2020, 5,540 children entered the system for the first time. In 2021, 5,635 entered the system for the first time. 

PA Family Support Alliance (PFSA) works closely with DHS. 

PFSA Executive Director Angela Liddle said due to the economy, they’ve seen an increase in families at risk of entering the foster care system. 

“A good bit of what we see if a lack of parental supervision,” Liddle said. “Parents don’t have access to quality affordable care and so kids are really too young to be left home alone.” 

Liddle said these kids are often left at home alone because their parents need to go to work in order to pay the bills. 

She said prevention and family stability needs to be looked at in a far broader realm. 

“Let’s look at how we can support families with things that help them get by and then also put them in a position where they are more secure and can really focus on being moms and dads and raising kids,” Liddle said. 

Deer said that is where Tri County steps in. 

“Organizations like ourselves and others come in to play because we step into the mix with that family and begin to assess what’s going on,” Deer said. 

Both Deer and Liddle said they are hopeful for the future. They said in President Biden’s and Governor Shapiro’s budget plans, there are ideas that could bring positive changes to families facing extreme poverty. 

From CBS 21, March 30, 2023

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