Despite the challenges the Huntingdon County Children’s Services have faced during the pandemic thus far, officials from that department are proud to say they’ve been working hard to protect children in Huntingdon County, despite those challenges.
“It’s been a long 13 months working with restrictions, but I’m proud of our staff,” said Shannon Walborn, Huntingdon County Children’s Services director, at Tuesday’s Huntingdon County Commissioners meeting. “We’ve done amazing things for the kids and families of the county.”
One of the things they’ve done is bring back the foster care program in the CYS office, which has grown since it was implemented in late 2020.
“We approved two foster homes in October,” said Walborn. “As of March, we’ve licensed 10 families. We still work with our providers, but it’s nice to bring some of those services in home and allow our staff to work with these families.”
Families are encouraged to reach out to the agency if they’re interested in fostering a child through the agency’s Facebook page dedicated to foster care services at www.facebook.com/hccsfostercare or by calling the agency at (814)643-3270.
Walborn noted they will also be doing outreach services to educate more county residents about the foster care program at Huntingdon’s Mayfest event Saturday, May 24, as well as Thursdays at the Huntingdon Farmers’ Market.
The agency is now fully moved into the former Mutual Benefit Group building at 412 Penn St., which was purchased by the county in 2020 for $625,000. Walborn discussed what they’ve done at the building.
“We are 99% moved into the building,” she said. “It’s been an amazing opportunity to take over the space. The staff is now all together, which makes communication much more efficient. We have two conference rooms, a classroom and we’ve been able to have a visitation room. We’re able to provide services faster. We keep our referral agencies on hand, but it’s been a blessing to do this in house.”
The state also audited the agency, and they received an official license approval for 2021, and the fiscal audit received a 100% rating.
“We had a program inspection with the state, so we have another one year with a full license,” said Walborn. “No safety violations were found, which was excellent. Talking to some program specialists who have been here for awhile, they told me it was the best inspection in the 23 years they’ve been here.
“The fiscal audit had no errors,” Walborn added. “I have to give my hats off to the staff. We’re now fully staff, with a new position we created the only one that’s vacant. We sit here today in a position of being fully capable of handling the work we have here.”
Walborn noted that while the number of reports they’ve received up until this point in March in 2019-2021 have ranged from 205-214, which is usual, the severity of the reports are seen in 2021, which could be due to the pandemic.
“We think there are links to COVID, with children being quarantined and not being able to get to school,” she said.
Huntingdon County Commissioners also signed a proclamation marking April Child Abuse Prevention Month in the county.
Walborn said they’ve been working with Huntingdon Borough Police Corporal Charles Streightiff and The Abuse Network to share information on how to effectively report child abuse, where to report sexual assault and how to obtain help.
If anyone wants to report child abuse, Walborn said they can call using the ChildLine number through the state at 1-800-932-0313 or through the county at (814)643-2370.