Former director of a child protection agency sentenced to probation

The former director of a Northeastern Pennsylvania County welfare agency was sentenced to probation and house arrest on Wednesday after previously pleading guilty to endangering children’s well-being when it covered up allegations of abuse to reduce the backlog.

A Dauphin County judge sentenced Joanne Van Saun, 59, to 34 months probation including the first nine months under house arrest, The Citizens’ Voice reported.

Van Saun was arrested and fired in July. She pleaded guilty to the tort of endangering children in October after being accused of falsely closing files on allegations of child abuse after public reports of a backlog of cases.

The attorney general’s office said the backlog started as early as 2017. Charges against Van Saun said she had asked employees to close 217 uninvestigated claims, reported the newspaper.

The Luzerne County backlog represented “at least 80% of the Commonwealth’s outstanding ChildLine referrals,” prosecutors said.

Van Saun’s lawyer Suzanne Conaboy said Van Saun felt remorse for her actions and suffered from lupus, which would put her at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 if imprisoned.

Justice Scott Evans said this case “is representative of a systemic problem that we have.”

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