New Luzerne County Children and Youth Director hired

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | March 18th, 2016 6:09 pm

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Luzerne County Children and Youth has a new director: Joanne Van Saun.

County acting Manager C. David Pedri announced the promotion Friday afternoon, saying Van Saun is a 30-year veteran of the county agency.

Van Saun started her agency career as a caseworker, obtained a master’s degree in social work and most recently worked as the agency’s social service coordinator, Pedri said.

“In her tenure, she has assisted thousands of Luzerne County’s children when they have been in need. Her dedication will serve her well as she embarks on her new position,” Pedri said in an email to the county council.

Van Saun will receive $70,000 in the position.

Krista McIlhaney had resigned as agency overseer the end of December to accept a position outside the area. She had been hired for the $78,000 position in September 2014.

The state downgraded the agency’s license to provisional status in October after a review stemming from the death of a child, citing “serious concerns regarding agency practice” and “regulatory violations.”

Staffing shortages were identified as part of the problem. In response, county officials have scrambled to fill most of the 30 vacant caseworker positions.

Pedri recently said state officials informed him the county is “making progress” implementing corrective actions, but he did not expect a license restoration would be possible without a qualified director on board.

More than 100 applied for the director position, and a search committee interviewed several applicants.

Pedri said he interviewed the top two finalists before selecting Van Saun.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.