Child Welfare System: North Carolina
The North Carolina child welfare program is a system of services that encompasses the supervising NC Division of Social Services (NC DSS), the implementing county Departments of Social Services, district courts, and private agencies to cater for the welfare of children in the state. These private agencies, in tandem with the NC DSS, work with the system to perform multiple functions such as child placement and foster care, and these agencies may receive funding and various financial benefits. Lastly, licensed in the state, Children's Home Society of NC operates in this system to provide services such as child placement for adoption and foster care, supportive services, other strategic partnership/collaboration with the NC DSS.
Functions of Organizations/Agencies: NC Child Welfare System
Child-Placing Agencies For Adoption
- Licensed child-placing agencies in North Carolina carry out some functions of any county Department of Social Service (DSS) including child-placement services for adoption. They do this by "working toward obtaining permanency for foster children by providing child placement services to those who need temporary homes."
- Usually, such as regulations require that priority be placed on reunifying such children with the birth or biological family or relative. Counties such as Mecklenburg County follow this guideline.
- "If a parent relinquishes a child to DSS or licensed child-placing agency for adoption, the agency acquires legal and physical custody of the child and assumes placement responsibility for the child under the adoption law."
- If a district court terminates the parental rights over a certain child in the custody of a licensed child-placing agency, the agency must work towards achieving the child's permanent plans or timely permanent placements, as required by state regulations.
- Apart from the above constituting a part of the DSS's responsibilities, prospective or intending adoptive parents can opt for a private foster care placing agency, which must be licensed. For the adoptive parents, such an agency will then assist in completing the TIPS-MAPP course and other relevant requirements for the adoption process.
- The Blair Foundation, licensed in the Buncombe County for child-placement for adoption, by providing foster-to-adopt placement services including child preparation services, child-specific recruitment, medically needy adoption, adoption matching events to connect awaiting foster children to forever families, etc.
- These agencies also provide post-adoption support services such as monthly payments, medical benefits and other services. Some of these agencies include Children’s Home Society, Catawba County Social Services, Children's Home Society, among others.
Child-Placing Agencies For Foster Care
- Licensed child-placing agencies in North Carolina carry out some functions of any county Department of Social Service (DSS), which includes child-placement services for foster care. They do this by ensuring that every foster child in North Carolina has one single, stable foster care placement within their community.
- Implicitly, "if a parent relinquishes a child to DSS or licensed child-placing agency for placements, the agency acquires legal and physical custody of the child and assumes placement responsibility for the child."
- Apart from the above constituting a part of the DSS's responsibilities, prospective or intending foster parents can opt for a private foster care placing agency, which must be licensed. The agency will then work with such foster parents and the DSS by completing the 'Foster Home Application' and submitting the completed form to the North Carolina DSS for review and licensure.
- These agencies also provide routine or ongoing supervision and support for foster children and foster homes/parents after they are licensed.
- Falcon Children's Home is a licensing agency for child placement for foster homes in North Carolina. Its placement services/functions include conducting relevant training opportunities for foster families, matching children in foster care with qualified and available foster families, maintain family foster care license, and the supervision of families with placed children and the placed children.
Residential Child-Care Facilities
- "Residential Child Care Facilities licensed by the North Carolina Division of Social Services are placement resources for children with Level I needs." "They are private residential child-care facilities or group homes that care for foster children or a public residential child-care facility or group home that cares for no more than 25 children."
- These are group homes that provide independent living programs for children requiring behavioral mental health treatment services (Level I) but not children who are assessed with Level II, Level III or Level IV needs or display behaviors requiring behavioral mental health treatment services. The NC DSS does not license group homes for children with these ailments.
- Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina, Inc, licensed in Columbus County for residential child-care services and facilities, provides residential care services and programs for children to heal and develop by placing "strong emphasis on developing positive relationships, rediscovering academic success and preparing for the challenges of adulthood."
- They achieve this through a concerted program termed GRACE for 'Growth, Restoration, And Cultivating Empowerment.'
Residential Maternity Homes
- By state regulations, "residential maternity homes are child-caring institutions that provide continuing full-time care for adolescent and adult women during pregnancy (especially adolescent and adult women that are experiencing unplanned pregnancies) and after delivery when delivery takes place in a licensed hospital."
- These facilities provide certain social services such as admission, residential, and discharge services to applicants, residents in care, and their families or legal custodians.
- Room at the Inn, Inc., licensed in the Guilford County for residential maternity homes, functions to provide services such as maternity services for homeless pregnant women and their children through its Naussbaum Maternity Home, support community and residential programs, voluntary spiritual programs, and aftercare services.
- Foster homes provide a safe, temporary living arrangement for children who are at risk, are victims or have been victims of abuse or neglect. These services can also be extended to children who are suddenly bereaved from the loss of their parents or are homeless.
- These services are usually provided by licensed parents, families and/or households. Additionally, some child-placement agencies for foster care provide similar services such as Agape of North Carolina.
- These homes keep these children safe pending their permanency or permanent placement.
How These Organizations/Agencies Fit into the System
The Division of Social Services
- Administered by the North Carolina Division of Social Services (NC DSS), child welfare involves three aspects: child protective, foster care placement, and adoption services. A typical case study that describes how the system works is provided below.
- When the DSS receives a report, it conducts an assessment and if evidence of abuse or neglect is found, "DSS must determine whether to provide protective services to the family, whether to file a petition so that the court can become involved in the case, and whether removal of the child from the home is necessary to protect the child."
- If the DSS finds that the removal of the child from the home is necessary, they would obtain a nonsecure custody order from a district court, which is a temporary emergency custody order. At this point, the court, during the subsequent hearings to terminate the order or let it continue, would address issues such as the child’s placement and medical decision-making.
- During this period and pending the court's adjudication and disposition, the child would likely be in the custody of the DSS or child-placing agencies for foster care or by inference, residential child-care facility if there are qualified medical/mental needs.
- After the court's judgment, which includes permanency planning hearings, it will decide on various permanent plans based on what's best for the child. They include reunification, custody to a non-parent or guardianship, adoption, among others.
Child-Placing Agencies For Foster Care
- As highlighted above, child-placing agencies may come into play when the DSS has obtained a nonsecure custody order. Such agencies, in collaboration with the DSS, may obtain temporary emergency custody over a child.
- These agencies may also come into play when a district court hears, adjudicates, and concludes that a child may be placed under the custody of the DSS or these agencies, which extend the functionalities of the DSS.
- Like the DSS, these agencies, licensed by the DSS and based on state laws and regulations, place these children into foster homes while providing other support services to the foster children and foster homes. In addition, they also license and assist in the licensing of foster homes.
- Upon the placement of foster children by the DSS or child-placing agencies for foster care, foster children are temporarily sent to licensed foster homes.
- Furthermore, orphans and children who are homeless may also be sent to foster homes.
- Under the continuous supervision of the DSS or child-placement agencies for foster care, foster homes temporarily take care of these classes of children pending their permanent placement either through reunification with relatives, adoption, and other programs/initiatives.
Child-Placing Agencies For Adoption
- The DSS and child-placing agencies for adoption may come into play when the court grants a termination of parental rights (TPR) for the aim of adoption and/or timely permanent placement. Children in this regard may be sent to child-placing agencies for adoption for an onward connection with a qualified prospective parent/match.
- Another point of connection is through foster homes. When a child is placed in a foster home by a child-placing agency for foster care, such an agency (if it has the ability to place foster kids for adoption) or a child-placing agency for adoption works towards the timely permanent placement of such a child by identifying a qualified, prospective parent.
- These agencies also work with relevant authorities to provide post-adoption support services. These, including those listed above, are done according to state laws and regulations.
- For the adoptive parents, These agencies also assist in obtaining the adoption license by assisting the completion of the TIPS-MAPP course and other relevant requirements for the adoption/licensing process.
- There isn't much information on residential child-care facilities and residential maternity homes from government and media sources likely because the NC DSS operates fewer or no number of these facilities, as the DSS focuses on protective services, foster care placement, and adoption services. This space is majorly dominated by private agencies and the NC DSS does not provide any specific information on the way it relates to these agencies except licensing requirements.
- These agencies must be licensed by the NC DSS and must operate within the state rules and regulations.
- The North Carolina "Subchapter 70K Rules" and "Subchapter 70I Rules" for residential maternities and residential child-care facilities respectively, provide the regulations involved in starting and running a residential maternity facility including licensing actions and requirements, services (social, psychological, psychiatric, etc.), program of care, client rights, among others.
Children’s Home Society of North Carolina: Child Welfare System
- Children’s Home Society of North Carolina (CHS) is a licensed child-placement agency for foster care and adoption. This can also be seen in the NC DSS child placement agency listings for adoption and foster care.
- Based on the various functions of licensed agencies that operate in the child welfare system, Children's Home Society of North Carolina positions its services as being capable of providing the following below:
- family preservation;
- child-placement for foster care including training, support and licensing services;
- child-placement for adoption including parenting preparation, home study services, counseling for families and children, and post-placement support services;
- a portfolio of supportive services including child support recruitment, post-adoption services and networking, and others;
- TIPS-MAPP Classes for parents who intend to obtain necessary license for adopting a foster child; and
- other educational programs and training.
- CHS has had several collaborations with the NC DSS in achieving the aims of the child welfare system. "As more children entered the care of the public system through the Departments of Social Services, CHS was requested to provide expertise in preparing families and placing children in permanent homes."
- The annual progress and performance report for 2015 to 2019, published by the NC DSS, shows that CHS has partnered with the NC DSS in administering various funding initiatives as part of the child welfare system. This is the Strong Able Youth Speaking Out (SaySo) funding support for youths aged 14 to 24 who are or have been in out-of-home care (NC LINKS).
- Also, other collaborations with the NC DSS regarding the child welfare system include the North Carolina’s Permanency Innovation Initiative where "CHS provided services to improve permanency outcomes for children living in foster care, to improve engagement with biological relatives, and to reduce costs associated with maintaining children in foster care."
- Furthermore, as part of the future plans of the North Carolina Child and Family Services Plan (child welfare system) from 2020 to 2024, the NC DSS is continuing some of its strategic collaborations with CHS. They include the North Carolina’s Permanency Innovation Initiative and the Strong Able Youth Speaking Out (SaySo) funding support (NC LINKS).