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Child Welfare Services Sue Over Budget Deadlock

A coalition of social services providers is suing Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration for leaving them high and dry during the state budget impasse.

The Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services, which represents more than 100 private providers of child welfare and juvenile justice services in Pennsylvania, said the legal challenge filed Tuesday is an attempt to protect its members’ funding during state budget fights in the years to come.

Bernadette Bianchi, the group’s director, said Wolf’s office has “failed to acknowledge the Commonwealth’s responsibility” to keep money flowing to mandated programs. The council's providers are among those who have been without state funding since July, when the absence of a budget eliminated the commonwealth’s authority to pay certain contractors.

Lawyers for the group say child safety and community protection services provided by private contractors should be funded during budget disputes, and that their efforts to leave state and federal funding uninterrupted by the impasse had been unsuccessful over the summer. 

The governor has said he’s still working on full budget agreement to ensure adequate, long-term funding for government programs, including mandated child welfare and juvenile justice services.

“[Wolf] is doing everything he can to mitigate the effects of the impasse, and he is working hard to reach a final budget agreement,” spokesman Jeff Sheridan said in an e-mail.

Counties responsible for paying child welfare contracts would be reimbursed upon the passage of a budget. Wolf is also seeking a spending plan that reimburses services providers for any borrowing costs racked up due to the stalemate.