22, No. 3
NC's New Diligent Recruitment and Retention Plan
Recruitment and retention of families for children in foster care matters a great deal. When we have enough foster and adoptive parents and kin caregivers, it is easier to place children in their home communities and school districts. More siblings can stay together. Careful matching with caregivers is easier. Children awaiting adoption don't have to wait as long for forever families.
Understanding this, North Carolina built a solid network of state, county, and private agencies to find and support resource families. See Figure 1 for a snapshot of this network.
But we've had a bit of a wake-up call. In 2015, federal reviewers concluded we need to improve our system for recruiting and retaining resource families. Rising numbers of children in foster care (Fig. 2) and declines in adoptions of waiting children (Fig. 3) underscore the importance of doing everything possible to find and hang on to families for kids in care.
Knowing we can do better, a broad array of NC stakeholders has developed a plan to help us bring about needed changes. This article will explain our state's vision for the future, our new Diligent Recruitment and Retention (DRR) plan, and what it means for you and your agency.
A Need for Improvement
After the federal review, NC determined that strengthening and reframing our state's diligent recruitment plan would be the best way forward. As part of its federal Program Improvement Plan (PIP), NC promised to recreate our DRR plan and address federal reviewers' concerns by Dec. 31, 2018.
Creating the Plan
To determine what should be in the new plan, the workgroup held regional stakeholder meetings between October 2016 and January 2017. These were attended by more than 200 people with ties to the recruitment of resource families, and included Division staff, county DSS staff, private agency staff, former foster youth, foster/adoptive parents, GALs, and others.
The workgroup then compiled the notes from these meetings and, with the help of the NRC-DR, crafted the plan in spring 2017. This was an extremely collaborative process; the plan represents the hard work of hundreds of people across the state who are invested in the diligent recruitment and retention of resource parents.
The Division released the new DRR plan June 15, 2017. You can find it here: https://www2.ncdhhs.gov/dss/publications/.
NC's Vision for DRR
The plan then articulates a long-term vision of a future in which North Carolina will eventually have:
Building on a Solid Foundation
County agencies must develop annual DRR Plans. The statewide DRR plan provides a template agencies must use to develop this annual plan. Using this template will ensure county child welfare agencies and the state take a consistent, structured approach to DRR, one that involves measuring progress toward concrete goals. Note: while plans begin with a template, the expectation is that each county's plan will be unique, reflecting differences in culture, geography, etc.
Each county agency's DRR plan will have three parts:
1. Information Gathering. Here the agency captures details about how it staffs and supports recruitment and retention, the data it collects and uses to monitor DRR, the strategies it uses, the barriers it experiences, and more.
2. Plan Development Process. Every plan should be developed with input from an inclusive group of stakeholders. In this section the agency records things such as who was involved in plan development, how the agency will build the capacity needed to measure outcomes and success, and whether the agency has technical assistance needs related to DRR.
3. Plan and Measurement. This part of the plan lays out concrete strategies for achieving the four goals identified in the box below. Agencies have the option of setting additional goals for themselves in their plans.
Each county's DRR plan will also serve as its annual Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) plan. Please refer to the new statewide DRR plan for guidance and information about the overlap between DRR and the requirements of MEPA.
When their plans are completed, counties will submit them to their assigned NC Kids Consultant. If needed, the consultant will work with the county to develop a plan for technical assistance around DRR.
Private child-placing agencies are encouraged--but not required--to develop annual DRR plans. Private agencies that develop DRR plans are encouraged to share them with the Division and the county DSS agencies with whom they partner.
All agencies must develop and use data profiles. So that we can make data-driven decisions regarding diligent recruitment and retention, each county DSS and each private child-placing agency must complete a Diligent Recruitment and Retention Data Profile. This profile must be updated quarterly and shared with the Division every year on Aug. 1. The Division will then share comprehensive statewide data on an annual basis to help inform ongoing localized and statewide recruitment and retention efforts.
To develop their data profiles, agencies should use the DRR Plan's Data Profile template. The box below depicts the kind of data points collected in this template.
The NC Division of Social Services understands that agencies currently vary widely in their capacity work with DRR data. If your agency needs technical assistance in this area, please contact NC Kids (email@example.com; 877-625-4371).
DRR Plans. In the coming year counties will develop and submit their DRR plans to their assigned NC Kids Consultant in two cohorts, or phases. Phase 1 counties must submit their plans by Feb. 1, 2018. Phase 2 counties must submit plans by May 1, 2018. Please click here to see which phase your county is in and who your county's consultant is.
All DRR plans submitted next year will be for SFY 2018-19 and be effective July 1, 2018. The expectation is that county agencies will update and resubmit these plans to their assigned NC Kids Consultant by September 1 of each year, starting in SFY 2019-20.
Data Profiles. County DSS and private child-placing agencies must submit their first DRR data profile to the Division on August 1, 2019. Data profiles must be updated and resubmitted to the Division by August 1 of each year thereafter.