Pa. lawmaker proposes nurses be hired for each county Children & Youth agency

Mar. 17—HARRISBURG — Children and Youth agencies across Pennsylvania would be required to hire a nurse to their respective staffs under a bill introduced in the state House.

State Rep. Joanne Stehr, R-Schuylkill/Northumberland, said the proposed mandate is intended as a level of protection not only for children but also their parents and guardians as well as caseworkers.

She said social workers are often overburdened and underpaid, and that having the insights of a nurse who would read and interpret medical records could help clarify suspicions of neglect and abuse.

Stehr herself worked 30 years in home health and hospice nursing.

"I know even in the adult setting it's not always a matter of neglect, it can be that people simply don't know how to care for them," Stehr said, referring to her experience working with adult clients.

For example, Stehr said there may be cases where a child's medication isn't being administered properly, resulting in a rash or behavioral changes. It might not rise to the level of neglect, rather, the parent or guardian needs more guidance, she said.

A nurse may also be able to detect medical signs of abuse that might otherwise go unnoticed by a caseworker, she said.

"Simple things slipping through the cracks can result in adverse effects for everyone," she said. "If it's neglect, we want to make sure it's actual neglect and not an oversight."

Stehr said licensed practical nurses would be a good fit for the role, especially those experienced in child development. Her proposal, House Bill 418, would also require access to a physician or other certified medical practitioner for consultations.