The Erie County Office of Children and Youth is dealing with an increase in child abuse cases. Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today came to Erie to listen to concerns from employees.  Similar problems are being reported in OCY offices across the state.

DePasquale released an 80-page report last month called 'The State of the Child.' In that report, he said that Pennsylvania's child welfare system is broken. Today, he indicated that Erie County is less broken than other areas of the state.

Since the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal shocked the state a few years ago, lawmakers have redefined what child abuse is.  More cases are being reported, and more paperwork must be filed by caseworkers. Caseworkers across the state are getting burned out.  

In Erie County, there were 1,231 total reports of of child abuse last year, compared to 1,036 in 2014. Even though 94 cases were substantiated last year, all of the cases had to be checked out. Turnover rates are high, and some counties are having difficulty finding qualified professionals to fill the positions. That is not the case in Erie County, according to DePasquale, as there have been more applicants than vacancies.

But, he said Erie County caseworkers are very concerned because the opioid crisis is skyrocketing child welfare cases even higher this year, and law enforcement sometimes is too busy to help them do their jobs.

"I think we need better coordination with law enforcement.  We've seen certain situations where caseworkers were outside the home for 3 to 4 hours, waiting for law enforcement to get there because there's somebody inside with a knife or a gun.  They can't go in because law enforcement has taken too long to get there in some instances.  And therefore, the person inside takes the kid and they go away, and before you know it, the kid's lost," DePasquale said.

Erie county has to be thankful its OCY problems are not as bad as in York County. DePasquale said that county had a 90% turnover rate in caseworkers over a two-year period.