The Daily Review: Sullivan County CYS Director honored as Blue Ribbon Champion

HARRISBURG — Sullivan County Children and Youth Services director Lisa Wilcox was awarded the Blue Ribbon Champion for Safe Kids Award by the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA) at Pennsylvania’s capital building in Harrisburg on Tuesday, April 2.

According to the PFSA, this award is given to individuals who “have gone above and beyond the call of duty to support and protect Pennsylvania’s children.” Wilcox was one of only four people chosen for this award due to her dedication and continuous effort.

Wilcox has been working within the system of Children and Youth Services (CYS) for 38 years and working specifically for Sullivan County for 28 years. Twenty-five of those years have been spent as the county’s CYS director.

The PFSA recognized Wilcox’s various achievements during her time as director. They stated, “Wilcox has implemented several evidence-based and other programs to help prevent child abuse and neglect throughout the county. These programs are designed to give families and children the tools to ensure their health and safety.”

They further stated that “With the Sullivan and Bradford sheriffs’ offices, Wilcox played a leading role in the founding of Camp F.L.E.A. (Family Life Enrichment Adventure) for at-risk children ages 9-12 to give them the opportunity to participate in a camping experience. Now in its 25th year, Camp F.L.E.A. has been attended by nearly 1,000 children.”

Wilcox explained that it was not in her plan to remain in Sullivan County for this long, but after working within the county, she saw opportunities and possibilities for genuine change and decided to stay.

“Because of what I found in this community and that we could truly try to do child welfare right, and do best practice here, that’s why I stayed,” said Wilcox.

Because of how supportive the local government is, along with the caseworkers Wilcox works with, she found a place where she knew she could make a change.

Wilcox explained that she almost turned down the award, as she is not one for big ceremonies or celebrations, but she felt as though she owed it to her team, her community and the local government, as she feels they have had just as much of an impact on Sullivan County CYS as she has.

“I may have lead some ideas, but it’s really my staff and our partners in the community, even the commissioners supporting, that make these things happen,” said Wilcox.

Not only did Wilcox use this award to recognize her staff and the community, but also to speak on larger issues within the CYS system.

She is concerned with the state of child welfare throughout the state, as it is a very complex system and still requires a lot of work, therefore she used her acceptance speech to address some of these issues and call for change.

Her speech read, “without properly addressing the child welfare workforce crisis, I fear the system will implode. I ask you to join me in achieving solutions.”

She further stated examples of the complex system that require change, such as “valuing the child welfare workforce, not condemning them, taking away the barriers to best practice, updating regulations, addressing the lack of services and support for children with complex needs.”

While she believes in the abilities of Sullivan County, Wilcox continues to call for change and growth within the system as a whole. She ended her acceptance speech with a reminder of why these changes are needed and why the work CYS continues to do is crucial.

“Every day we must try,” she stated. “Every day we must strive to leave each child, each family, better than when we first met them.”

From The Daily Review, April 3, 2024

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