State officials are accusing a Harrisburg counseling center that received public funding of hiring convicted felons to work with at-risk children and families.
“It causes a great concern for the department that we would have had a provider who thought it was appropriate to have people with serious criminal convictions, even if they were in the past, to go into people’s homes and provide these types of very serious counseling services,” said Stacey Witalec of the Department of Public Welfare.
A February inspection by the DPW of Covenant Counseling on Walnut Street in Harrisburg revealed that a convicted murderer, a convicted sex offender, who is listed on Megan’s List, and a person convicted of aggravated assault, were working there, according to DPW. The department has also charged Covenant with gross incompetence, negligence or misconduct in operating the agency
The department said it will not renew the license of the youth aid agency. That license will expire at the end of June.
Covenant Counseling received federal funding to work with at-risk families and children. Currently, it works with about 20 families in the greater Harrisburg area.
DPW officials said the employment of felons is a violation of state law, and that the agency should have known who it was hiring.
“After we gave the provider time to correct the problem, take care of any staffing issues that they knew they had and clean up any other part of the operation that would be problematic for the department, it was our understanding they continued to hire people without getting criminal clearances,” said Witalec.
A spokesman for Covenant Counseling would not comment on the DPW’s allegations or decision not to renew its license. The spokesman said the agency would have something to say at some point and said Covenant Counseling will appeal the decision.
The agency has 30 days to file an appeal. Witalec said the department has not yet received the request for an appeal.