Authors Posts by Jim Sharp

Jim Sharp


Prevent Suicide PSA Contest Graphic2021 PSA Contest for Youth Suicide Prevention
Prevent Suicide PA is once again hosting the annual PSA contest for high school students. This is a great opportunity to engage students in a dialogue around suicide prevention, the importance of positive messaging, and communicating effectively. Staff who have participated in the past have seen this as a way to teach students on many levels (academically, socially, and emotionally), and students have been empowered to use their voice to reach out to their peers.

This year’s contest officially begins Monday, September 21, 2020 and all submissions are due by Wednesday, December 16, 2020. Contest rules and submission guidelines can be found here.

All of the winning and honorable mention PSAs from previous years are available for free public use and can be accessed here. These are great resources to use during Suicide Prevention Month and throughout the year.

As part of DHS Secretary Teresa Miller’s update, please see this latest message regarding DHS’ actions in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This contains the information shared by Secretary Miller during the stakeholder call on Wednesday, September 16, 2020. The document highlights responses to ongoing questions and answers asked during the webinars and includes updated information on funding, regulatory waivers, reopening guidance, and other resources. If you have any questions, please contact your RCPA Policy Director.

The purpose of this bulletin is to transmit to public children and youth agencies (herein referred to as county agencies) requirements related to a statewide policy establishing when a referral can be designated as a General Protective Services (GPS) report, screen-out protocols, and response times for GPS report assessments. This bulletin rescinds and replaces the Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) Bulletin #3490-19-02, entitled Statewide General Protective Services (GPS) Referrals, which was issued on December 20, 2019 and effective on August 1, 2020. County agencies that already have policies related to screening out GPS reports and response times which provide for more immediate responses than the policy contained in this bulletin are permitted to continue with their individual agency’s policy.


The Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) is pleased to share information about two opportunities for interested providers to learn more about Specialized Settings and the related voluntary certification process. The Federal First Family Prevention Services Act has presented a new opportunities to develop, enhance, and deliver placement services in defined Specialized Settings. As shared last week by OCYF, a web-based informational overview of the voluntary Specialized Setting certification process has been scheduled for Friday, September 18, 2020 from 12:30 pm – 4:00 pm.

This presentation will include background information, an overview of the specialized settings options and requirements, and a review of the process to be followed to attain certification. While Pennsylvania currently offers an array of programming responding to the diverse needs of the population of youth most appropriately supported in congregate care settings, specialized settings offer an opportunity to refine and enhance services specifically for:

  • Children who are victims or who are at risk of becoming victims of sex trafficking activity;
  • Youth over age 18 in Supervised Independent Living settings which includes Transitional Living settings in Pennsylvania; and
  • Teen parenting programs that provide a specialized setting for pregnant youth and young parents and their child(ren).

This information was previously shared with placement service providers earlier this year in February prior to the first round of application submissions. Registration is open to any agency interested in learning about specialized settings and those needing a “refresher” review of the information included in OCYF Bulletin #3680-20-02, 3800-20-03, entitled “Specialized Residential Settings for Children and Youth,” which provides the standards required for certification as a specialized setting.

In addition to this webinar presentation, a panel discussion with the four private agencies who have achieved voluntary specialized setting certifications is scheduled for Wednesday, October 7, 2020 from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. This discussion will provide the first opportunity to engage in discussion with staff from Delta Family Services, Abraxas Youth and Family Services, Bethany Children’s Home, and Carson Valley Children’s Aid about the process their agencies put into place to develop their program descriptions and the selection of their agency’s trauma informed practice, the challenges, surprises, and lessons learned in the certification process, and an implementation status check of their specialized settings at this point.

Both sessions will include opportunities to address questions posed by participants and the timing of these presentations allows for information presented to be used by agencies as they are preparing their letter of intent due to their OCYF Regional Office by September 30, 2020 and their application packet due between October 1 and November 30, 2020.

A registration form is included with this notice which can be used for one or both scheduled sessions. Participants are strongly encouraged to include questions in advance to support thoughtful and complete responses as part of the presentations. Instructions for submission of the registration and questions are contained within the registration form. Please note, registration responses are due September 15, 2020. An email with the details to connect with one or both sessions will be provided to individuals submitting registrations.

We are pleased to have the opportunity to be involved in this implementation effort and look forward to talking again with colleagues committed to advancing quality and responsive programming for children, youth, and young adults in Pennsylvania. Please feel free to direct questions to either of us at the emails and phone numbers below or contact RCPA Children’s Division Director Jim Sharp.

Roseann Perry, 412.565.5168            Bernadette Bianchi, 717.979.6503


The Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) will be holding an informational training session in advance of the upcoming submission timeframes for voluntary certification as a Specialized Setting. The training will occur on Friday, September 18, 2020. The training will be held through WebEx from 12:30 pm – 4:00 pm. Registration information will be forthcoming in the upcoming days and RCPA will distribute when received.

For your convenience, here is the OCYF Special Transmittal entitled “Voluntary Certification as a Specialized Setting,” specifying the timeframes and process for voluntary certification, and the OCYF Bulletin #3680-20-02, 3800-20-03, entitled “Specialized Residential Settings for Children and Youth,” which provides the required standards for certification as a specialized setting.

If you have any questions regarding this information, please submit to this email or your applicable OCYF Regional Office, or contact RCPA Children’s Division Director Jim Sharp.