Luzerne County CYS Director Pans School District’s Lunch Letter

KINGSTON, Pa. -- Officials in Luzerne County say a letter sent to some parents in one school district is inappropriate. The letter warned of potential penalties -- including losing their children to foster care -- if parents did not pay their children's overdue school lunch bills.

Luzerne County's director of Children and Youth Services says the letter makes her agency's tough job even tougher.

Luzerne County CYS director Joanne Van Saun is using strong language, saying the Wyoming Valley West School district is, in her words, weaponizing her agency in an effort to collect overdue bills.

"The parents are calling, and asking, 'is this true?' Are we going to take their children?" Van Saun said.

Van Saun learned Tuesday night of the letter sent out to about 1,000 parents in the Wyoming Valley West School District.

"It's just outrageous, you know, and unacceptable," Van Saun said. "This causes more antagonism so that when we're knocking on the doors, families see us more as a threat instead of an agency that will provide support and lend assistance."

Van Saun notes that only the courts, and not Children and Youth, can order a child into foster care, and no one connected with the court system who we talked with can think of a case where a child was taken away from their home because their parent did pay their lunch bills.

Wyoming Valley West School officials sent the letter to about 1,000 parents after it says it made several efforts to collect more than $22,000 in unpaid lunch money over the last school year. The letter indicated that parents could be sent to dependency court for neglecting a child's right to food. The result may be that the child would be taken from home and placed in foster care.

"This to me is terrorizing children and families. And it was just so unnecessary," Van Saun said.

Van Saun says the letter is making it tougher for CYS staffers, who often struggle to reach people in need.

She says it could also be tougher on parents who received the letter.

"When we send this letter, what are children and families feeling? When they come to school will Children and Youth come to take them away? That's just a horrible, horrible message to deliver," Van Saun added.

Wyoming Valley West school officials tell Newswatch 16 the district's solicitor will answer questions raised by this letter on Thursday. We called several board members and only one talked with us on the phone and told us he had no idea the district even sent this letter out.

7 comments

  • Dick Rose

    So Wyoming Valley West is actually paying someone a salary to hold the title “Director of Federal Programs” and he’s too stupid, lazy and incompetent to have applied for a grant so his dirt poor district can receive free lunch across the board and to make it extra precious he has the audacity to bash parents who aren’t getting a salary from the school district to be “Director of Federal Programs” for not filling out forms for their kids to qualify for free lunch… Do tell Genius Incompetent Joe what is the salary and benefits package you’re taking from Wyoming Valley West to be its incompetent “Director of Federal Programs?”

  • FreeJulianAssange⏳ (@lauraroslin7)

    Kids shouldn’t be shamed over meals or clothing. This is a poor district. This school system is one of the lowest performing ones in the state of PA.
    School lunches should be free. Period. Kids shouldn’t be too hungry to learn.
    It’s not like the school food is of very good quality anyway. Today’s school food in most cases is akin to prison food, often prepared by the same for profit companies that make the food at jails and prison.

  • sirbarkalot

    The issue with school lunch accounts is that the districts are required to provide lunches to any child regardless of the ability to pay. If the student does not qualify for free or reduced lunch their lunch account is charged the amount set for a reimbursable school lunch. This was put into practice after a “no lunch shaming” bill was passed in the senate. Sen. Bob Casey was one of the proponents of the bill. The only problem is the bill left districts no way of collecting those charges that have any impact. Unfortunately, families caught on to this and now don’t pay. Not they they can’t, but just that they found that loophole. The districts need help with this. No one is trying to starve a child, but just trying to collect money owed.

  • Matt Berns

    Seriously, there were plenty of times I didn’t eat because I didnt have money or it was the end of the grocery week. The kids won’t die.

  • lickerblisters

    How about this, seeing as we are in the “go fund me” era, why don’t all the teachers with their bloated salaries get together and start a account for all their children they care for all so much?! Yeah, that’s what I figured!

  • melissaaseng118

    Severely F’d up. So many, many schools offer free breakfast and lunch and often send the “hungry,” home with food so they can eat over the weekend. What happened to feed the children and no child goes hungry? I don’t even have kids or live in the school district and I find this horrific. Foster care over a damn grilled cheese sandwich and some milk? Who’s running the show here, the same guy that’s taking kids from their parents near that “wall?” Seems like someone’s following Mr. President’s lead. The taxes alone should cover breakfast, lunch, dinner and so much more. Look at all the other news stories you hear about teachers and board of Ed members using their own time and money to supply school supplies, food, washing machines and dryers so kids who are less fortunate will feel better about going to school. This ass clown needs to pay more attention to what others are doing for their students and follow suit. Threatening to take kids away and put into foster care?! Really? Someone needs to bump him down a few pegs and make him watch The Grinch or something. Big bully. Who needs this stress and drama especially in today’s climate?! Oh this makes me so angry. Stepping down off my soap box now.

    Sent from my iPhone

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