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2000 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 1, No. 2
Winter 1996

In Pursuit of Permanence: Richmond County, North Carolina

The people of Richmond County have accepted a serious challenge: to find permanent homes for every child who has been in foster care in their county for more than a year.

As one of the eight North Carolina counties participating in the Families for Kids initiative, Richmond County is making their child welfare system more efficient and more accessible to families. In addition to reducing the number of children who have been in care for more than one year (the "backlog"), each Families for Kids county is striving to:

  • make family support accessible to all.
  • create a single assessment tool, so even families who deal with many agencies will be part of only one planning process.
  • provide one primary case manager or case management team.
  • ensure that every child who comes into care receives a single, stable foster placement.
  • find a permanent home for children in the system within one year.

Although this initiative is just getting underway--Buncombe, Catawba, Cleveland, Edgecombe, Guilford, Iredell, Richmond, and Wayne were chosen as the initial counties in September 1995--Families for Kids counties are already working hard to meet these goals.

In an effort to guarantee families and children the highest level of services and care possible, Richmond County is transforming its child welfare structure. In the months ahead, instead of specializing in CPS treatment, foster care, or adoption, workers will become "generic" child welfare workers. In the short run, this means they will devote time to learning more about areas that have not been their speciality. In the long run, once they have learned to wear the different hats of children's services, they will be prepared to stay with a family from the day of intake until it is closed.

Richmond also has comprehensive assessment teams meeting regularly to make sure that children get the attention and the services they need. These teams are made up of representatives of the various human services agencies and community members--homemakers, ministers, and other volunteers. Each team appoints one of its members to be a family-team liaison; a contact person for the family, this liasion helps the family navigate through the system.

To increase a child's chances of receiving a single, stable foster care placement, Richmond has also formed "mini crisis" teams. Composed of a DSS worker, a Mental Health therapist, and a foster parent, these teams are called in to help prevent foster placement disruption. These teams have already proven their worth. According to Lynn Ficklin, Richmond county's program manager, "frustrated foster parents have found that just having an experienced foster parent that they can call makes a lot of difference."

Editor's Note: Look for this column in future issues to learn more about the innovations in Families for Kids counties.

1996 Jordan Institute for Families