Diocese cutting CSS foster, adoption programs soon

The Diocese of Scranton is discontinuing Catholic Social Services’ adoption and foster care programs.

Citing strained fiscal resources and a decline locally and nationwide in adoption and foster care, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, in a statement Monday, said the two programs are being discontinued, but did not give a specific date.

“Because adoption is so closely aligned with Catholic Social Services’ mission and Catholic social teaching, this is a particularly painful step to take,” the bishop said in a news release.

Dan Gallagher, a spokesman for the diocese, said CSS stopped taking referrals from the Statewide Adoption Network (SWAN) — which the programs worked with — at the beginning of September 2017. “However any cases that we received through Aug. 31, 2017, we are continuing to work on,” Gallagher said.

In a letter to the editor, Sheila Maslo, foster care supervisor and a CSS adoption caseworker in Hazleton, said although the program’s end does not have an exact date, “transition planning is taking place,” and all resource families on hold will have their cases closed.

Parents of adoptive parents will be notified in the near future where adoption records will be sent. And Act 101 cases will also receive notification in the near future where correspondence will be sent.

“Over the last few years, however, Catholic Social Services has seen a decline in its adoption and foster care programs,” Bambera said. “This is not unique to Northeastern Pennsylvania; adoption is declining nationwide, and the number of children in foster care has declined as well. Given the resource demands of these two programs, the decision has been made to discontinue them and Catholic Social Services’ affiliation with SWAN. Every effort will be made to assure a smooth, professional, and compassionate transition as these programs are phased out.”

Part of the decision was fiscal, the bishop said.

“Human services programs are labor-intensive and often underfunded,” Bambera said. “In the last year, despite generous support from the people of the Diocese, it has become apparent that Catholic Social Services’ fiscal resources are increasingly strained. The operational deficit is rising and funding at the local, state, and federal levels is shrinking.”

In the news release, Bambera offered alternatives for those interested in adoption and foster care.

“The resources of St. Joseph’s Center, headquartered in the Diocese of Scranton, are available for Catholic families wishing to adopt,” the bishop said. “A sponsored mission of the Congregation of Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for more than a century, St. Joseph’s is also a SWAN affiliate.”

The Children, Youth and Family Services departments in the region — which are headquartered at Catholic Social Services in Hazleton — will continue to have resources available for foster care to assist children and families in need, Bambera said.

“Catholic Social Services’ presence in Hazleton, where there is a growing need for programs to shelter and assist the homeless and feed the hungry, is a good example of how services are evolving,” Bambera said. “In the last two years, Catholic Social Services has responded to the critical needs of the area’s homeless population as a founding partner in the development of Divine Providence emergency shelter in Hazleton, and is now working toward establishing a permanent home for the shelter. Catholic Social Services continues to operate St. Joseph’s Pantry, as well as other such initiatives, and is actively developing a plan for a more direct needs-based use of Catholic Social Services’ Hazleton facility.”

One adoption story

In another letter to the editor of the Standard-Speaker. Andrew and Susan Lake wonder what will happen to their effort to adopt a second child, and what will happen to the records of the first.

The Lakes went the Catholic Social Services route because they could afford it, Andrew Lake said.

“We investigated into adoption only to find out it could cost tens of thousands of dollars,” Lake wrote. “We were not in a situation to afford that. We were about to give up when a friend who adopted through Catholic Social Services came to us. She stated that for less than 10 thousand dollars you can adopt locally through Catholic Social Services.”

The Lakes were screened, and then had the opportunity to become foster parents to a seven-month-old girl “with the strong possibility to adopt.” They were able to adopt her, Lake said.

“The staff at Catholic Social Services was amazing through the whole process and because we fostered to adopt the cost of the whole process went down to less than $3,000,” Lake said. “Catholic Social Services is a tremendous asset to this community for people looking to adopt or foster.”

In the letter, he urged people to write letters to the diocese, sharing their stories and family pictures.

“I honestly don’t know if it is going to help, but at this point it certainly won’t hurt either,” Lake wrote.

Lake said letters should be directed to: Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, 300 Wyoming Ave., Scranton, PA 18503-1279, or email: Bishops-Office@dioceseofscranton.org; Mary Theresa Vautrinot, Secretary for Catholic Human Services, also 300 Wyoming Ave., Scranton, PA 18503-1279, and email: Mary-Theresa-Vautrinot@dioceseofscranton.org, and Neil Oberto, executive director of Catholic Social Services, Hazleton, 214 W. Walnut St., Hazleton, PA 18201, and email: neil@csshazleton.org.

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