Strong Support for Gov. Wolf’s Executive Order to Overhaul Vulnerable Population Systems

August 01, 2019

Harrisburg, PA – Advocacy groups and legislators praised Governor Tom Wolf for signing an executive order Wednesday making sweeping changes to Pennsylvania’s systems that provide protections and support to vulnerable people.

“The new Council on Reform met immediately after the announcement and is already hard at work identifying the changes our commonwealth’s systems need to undergo to better serve Pennsylvanians,” said Gov. Wolf. “I am eagerly anticipating their report, so we can start making the changes that will end the issues that have permeated our systems for decades.”

Sen. Lisa Baker and Sen. Judy Schwank released a joint statement commending Wolf’s actions:

“In response to Governor Wolf’s announcement of Executive Order 2019-05 and directives intended to increase protection of vulnerable populations, Senator Lisa Baker (R-20th) and Senator Judy Schwank (D-11) said they were pleased the administration is building on legislative efforts to address deficiencies in Pennsylvania’s child welfare system. For more than a year the Senators have been working to establish the Interbranch Commission on the Child Welfare System (SB 297) to advance remedies.

‘Given the unacceptable number of tragedies experienced in recent years, and the documented shortcomings in the child protection system, there is a need for the sort of initiatives the governor is advancing,’ Baker said. ‘We also need the thorough and extensive inquiry that an independent interbranch commission can provide, so that will continue to be a priority.’

‘I’m very encouraged by Gov. Wolf’s initiative in addressing the delivery of critical children’s services,’ Schwank said. ‘We need to continue to pursue our efforts in the legislature. The children in our care must be kept safe, and I am hopeful that at the end of this process we are ensuring their better future.’

‘We have heard the troubling stories and profound questions from survivors of abuse and from family and friends of those lost to abuse. These come from our districts and many places across Pennsylvania. We owe them answers in the way of effective and lasting reform of state law and practices,’ they said.”

Rep. Frank Dermody added on Twitter, “I welcome Gov. Wolf’s important action to defend vulnerable people. The state has a vital role here. I’ll work in the #PaHouse to advance any bills needed to keep the progress going. #Plan4PA.”

Rep. Christina Sappey echoed his sentiment. “Pleased to share @GovernorTomWolf announced an executive order providing for protection to vulnerable populations. This order makes PA a trauma-informed state and expands on trauma-informed education initiatives I successfully passed in Harrisburg last month. #traumainformed,” she posted on Twitter.

Other groups and individuals that have lauded Gov. Wolf’s executive order include:


“AARP and its 1.8 million Pennsylvania members applaud the Wolf Administration for taking steps to better protect vulnerable older adults from potential physical and financial exploitation, and help seniors remain at home and in the community-where they want to be,” said AARP Pennsylvania State Director and Council on Reform Member Bill Johnston-Walsh. “We are optimistic that this work will also lead to a long-overdue update to the state’s Older Adult Protective Services Act, and additional resources to help local aging advocates keep pace with rising reports of elder abuse.”

Kari King, President and CEO, PA Partnerships for Children (PPC)

“PPC commends Gov. Wolf on this initiative as it creates a prime opportunity to build on work in the child welfare community prioritizing prevention and kinship care, or care that is provided in family-like settings. Research tells us outcomes for children are better when kids are placed in family-like settings rather than in group homes or institutions. Unfortunately, 14 percent of the foster care population were placed in group home settings in 2018. We hope to partner with the administration and other advocates at the table to improve the child welfare system and realize the common goal we all share for at-risk children: that they are placed in loving homes free from abuse and neglect.”

Douglas E. Hill, Executive Director, The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania

“Counties are major providers of these services. We have long advocated for the resources to permit counties to do our jobs most effectively, and an oversight environment that focuses on outcomes for the clients more than on paper work. Our strong partnership in delivery of protective services to vulnerable populations will benefit from a thorough review and potentially new ways of providing services. We agree system changes are needed to allow us to more efficiently deliver services for which counties have been advocating, and we look forward to working with state officials in advancing the partnership.”

Nancy Murray, President of the Arc of Greater Pittsburgh at ACHIEVA

“ACHIEVA applauds the Wolf Administration for the Executive Order creating the Council on Reform. PA needs to do more to ensure the safety of children, people with disabilities, seniors, victims of domestic abuse and other vulnerable groups. The Council is charged with submitting a report to the Governor with recommendations for changes by November 1, 2019.”

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence

“The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) commends Governor Tom Wolf for signing his ‘Protection of Vulnerable Populations’ Executive Order today. The Order establishes an Office of Advocacy and Reform within the governor’s office to help ensure the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians. Additionally, a Council on Reform will be created to support efforts to protect vulnerable populations throughout Pennsylvania. PCADV Chief Executive Officer Susan Higginbotham has been appointed to the Council on Reform, which will focus efforts on protecting vulnerable populations from three perspectives: Prevention and Diversion, Protection and Intervention, and Justice and Support.”

Richard S. Edley, President and CEO, RCPA

“RCPA congratulates the Governor on taking these important steps toward keeping the citizens of our Commonwealth safe and protected, by increasing oversight and accountability of its institutions, as well as improving responsiveness to incident management. It is clear that Governor Wolf’s administration is committed to improving the system’s ability to address, and help prevent, the mistreatment of Pennsylvanians in vulnerable situations.”

Adam Marles, President and CEO, Leading Age

“LeadingAge PA, the voice of non-profit senior care in Pennsylvania, today commended Gov. Tom Wolf’s executive order to form a new Office of Advocacy and Reform to protect vulnerable Pennsylvanians, including our oldest and most frail population.

“LeadingAge PA will always support efforts to improve the care and quality of life of Pennsylvania’s seniors and looks forward to working with the administration together on this. For some of our frail elderly, nursing facilities remain the best and most compassionate choice for care. For others, we believe it’s important to help them receive care in the least restrictive settings, including their homes.

“Our members take great pride in supporting the many dedicated professionals on their team who care deeply for their patients. It’s our hope the new Office of Advocacy and Reform will work with us to identify resources to help us keep our team members – and compete for new ones.”

The Center for Children’s Justice (C4CJ)

“The Center for Children’s Justice (C4CJ) celebrates Governor Tom Wolf’s decision to prioritize protecting Pennsylvania’s children and to create a Child Advocate within a newly created Office of Advocacy and Reform.

“This is incredible and long overdue news for Pennsylvania children who have experienced sexual and physical violence.

“C4CJ, along with other advocates for victimized children, have spent decades urging Pennsylvania policymakers to create an independent Child Advocate as part of a broader commitment to ensuring that Pennsylvania’s child protection laws and practices emphasize evidence, recognize and reduce trauma, promote independent oversight and value transparency.

“Even as C4CJ celebrates this news and the words spoken today, it is critical that we acknowledge that fundamental questions still need answers. Among them: Will the Advocate operate with independence and be provided with funding to accomplish the consequential work on behalf of vulnerable children?

“The scope of duties outlined in the Governor’s Executive Order (EO) are intentional and represent those fully supported by C4CJ, including triaging complaints about government services for children and families involved in the child protection system and recommending system-wide improvements. The promising scope of duties outlined are a powerful signal that Pennsylvania is done letting institutional practices and loyalties, along with the quirks of state government, be of greater priority than protecting children. Still, translating today’s well-received words into actual protections for children will require intentional actions, independent oversight and a sustained financial investment.

“Separately, the Governor’s EO creates a Council of Reform. The scope of the Council’s work and the vulnerable populations to be represented at the table is broad and diverse. That invites some caution in that even with the best of intentions, children, particularly abused and neglected children, may slip off-the-radar. Every effort must be made to ensure that the Council is intentionally child-centered and guards against victimized children being diminished or disregarded.

“Finally, none of the promising steps taken today should deter the Pennsylvania General Assembly from acting to ensure Pennsylvania’s child protection statutes sufficiently invest in evidence-based and upfront prevention strategies to keep children safe at home as well as promote child-centered and trauma-informed interventions when abuse has occurred. Ultimately there can be no relenting, on all fronts, to ensure that every Pennsylvania child can live and grow free from sexual and physical violence connected to nurturing and supported families.”

To see all of Gov. Wolf’s reforms, view the full Executive Order.

SHARE Email Facebook Twitter