22, No. 1
NC Works to Engage, Consult, and Respond to Families on a Systemic Level
According to the U.S. Children's Bureau, "parent and youth involvement in agency councils and boards is a proactive way for state and county agencies to gather and use parent and youth input in program and policy development, service design, and program evaluation" (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2010).
North Carolina has long believed that child and family services should involve both parents and youth in service design and delivery to increase accountability to the needs of the community and those it serves. While family-centered principles can be seen throughout North Carolina's policy and guidance concerning direct practice, we have more work to do to ensure our child welfare system proactively engages consumers on a broader, systemic level.
Improving Our System
In 2015, our state participated in Round 3 of the federal Child and Family Services Review (CFSR). Based on the results, in spring 2016 it held five stakeholder meetings to determine the root causes of the issues identified by the CFSR and to brainstorm ways the system could improve. Information from these meetings helped North Carolina develop the goals, strategies and activities outlined in its federal Program Improvement Plan (PIP).
Several parents who had been subject to a report of child abuse or neglect and youth who had been served by the foster care program were able to participate in these CFSR/PIP stakeholder meetings. Having family voices present was so beneficial to the process that it strengthened North Carolina's resolve to engage families in all levels of child welfare. As a result, the NC Division of Social Services has prioritized engaging families on the state level over the next two years.
A Family Advisory Council for Child Welfare
The development and implementation of a family leadership model for North Carolina is part of our PIP. In partnership with the Center for Family and Community Engagement at NC State University, the Division plans to bring family and youth perspectives to the table by establishing a NC Child Welfare Family Advisory Council.
The council's purpose will be to help guide policy and practice and to provide ongoing consultation around statewide child welfare goals and objectives. The process for creating this council will include a review of state and national family leadership models, a state-level readiness assessment for family leadership in child welfare, and the development of the council itself.
The Division has convened a workgroup of stakeholders to help establish the council. This group will be involved in the review of family leadership strategies and the assessment of the state's readiness to recruit and sustain a Child Welfare Family Advisory Council. This workgroup will help the Division identify and implement activities needed to ensure the council is sustainable and successful. When these preparations are complete, families and youth with child welfare experience who are interested in this leadership opportunity will be recruited to serve on the council.
If you have been successful in engaging families in the design and delivery of your child welfare operations, or if you have a parent you would like to recommend as a potential member of the North Carolina Child Welfare Family Advisory Council, please contact Kara Allen-Eckard (firstname.lastname@example.org; 919/515-5511).
References for this and other articles in this issue
| Looking for ways to better involve families in your agency and community? Check out Meaningful Parent Leadership: A Guide for Success. Created by the FRIENDS National Resource Center, this practical guide shares information, strategies, and tools for developing successful models of parent leadership and partnership. It's available online at: https://friendsnrc.org/jdownloads/attachments/pl_guidebook.pdf