WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Luzerne County officials say they will get to the bottom of ongoing issues at children and youth services and have hired a law firm to help make that happen.
This, in the aftermath of the arrest of its former director Joanne Van Saun on charges she allegedly ordered staff to terminate more than 200 child abuse referrals to the agency.
One mother says her case was one that was “erased” from CYS records. She and other parents are demanding answers.
They tell Eyewitness News at this point in time they simply do not trust Luzerne County Children and Youth Services.
“Even with them giving us some hope that’s what I think it is right now. Some hope for a lot of people. We are going to keep pushing,” Sabrina Smith, family involved with CYS, exclaimed.
Smith says that investigators from the state attorney generals office confirmed with her that her case was one of the 217 that were allegedly terminated in May of 2017 by order of for CYS former director Joanne Van Saun.
The I-Team met with Smith and two other parents who say they have been trying to sound the alarm about what they describe as questionable practices of CYS With their respective cases.
“As an advocate that deals with families on an everyday basis these families want someone they can trust. We are looking forward to it.”
County officials hired a Philadelphia law firm to conduct an internal review of the operations of children and youth services.
“The ultimate goal is to find out how and why this happened and to make corrections, so, as to prevent anything like this from happening again,” Romilda Crocamo, acting Luzerne County Manager, said.
The acting county manager promises to restore the parents’ trust in CYS.
“The health safety and welfare of the children of Luzerne County is an absolute priority for this administration. We will get to the bottom of it. We will make it right not only because we have to but because we want to.”
It will be a tough sell because these parents tell the I-Team they’ve been made promises in the past.
“I think it’s headed in the right direction… But I think it’s got to get a little bit further,” Judy Lorah Fisher, family involved with CYS, said.
“I don’t think internally CYS can be straightened out. I think we need an outside agency. I think we need the state in here immediately to stop these actions,” Beth Hartman, a parent, exclaimed.
Luzerne County manager Crocamo tells the I-Team they purposely hired a Philadelphia area law firm with no ties to Luzerne County.
To ensure objectivity in their internal review of CYS, the investigation is getting underway now. There has been no word on how long it might take.
Officials from the state Department of Human Services, the agency that oversees CYS, is currently working with Luzerne County CYS in the aftermath of the arrest of Joanne Van Saun.
Van Saun will have a hearing on child endangerment and obstruction charges later this month.