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More Protections Coming for PA Children’s Service Providers

HB 2214 was recently signed by Govenor Tom Wolf

November 29, 2022 – Danielle Smith, Public News Service (PA)

In just two months, it should be easier for providers of children’s services in Pennsylvania’s child-welfare and foster-care system to get the liability insurance they need. Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill into law that outlines who takes responsibility when an incident or accident occurs in the child-welfare system.

Some counties’ contracts require the private children’s service provider to take full responsibility, even when they are not at fault.

Samea Kim, vice president for Legal & Public Affairs at the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth & Family Services said as a result, the private providers have had trouble getting affordable, quality liability coverage – and this should make it easier for them to do so.

“This bill would allow the agency to take ownership of something that may have come up, if it was within the scope of what they did. Otherwise, if it was something related to the county, then the county would be able to take responsibility for their own actions,” Kim said.

Kim added under the current system, providers were making insurance payouts even in cases when they were not at fault, because the county contract requires the provider to take liability. The new law goes into effect February 1. There are nearly 15,000 children in Pennsylvania’s child-welfare system.

Laura Maines, CEO of Every Child, Inc., a nonprofit adoption and foster care organization based in Pittsburgh, said groups like hers have faced limited liability insurance coverage options and high premium costs, driven in part by the contracts that require private providers to indemnify government agencies in any situation. So, they advocated for House Bill 2214.

“This is about fairness,” Maines said. “This is about accountability. This is really about partnership and service continuity. And so, what [HB] 2214 does is it says if there is any language in a public foster care contract or child welfare contract that seeks to transfer 100% of the risk to the private agency, it’s unenforceable.”

Maines added professional liability insurance protects the agency if something happens to a child and there is a claim brought against their agency.