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2000 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 1, No. 4
Summer 1996

In Pursuit of Permanence: North Carolina's Families for Kids Counties

North Carolina's Families for Kids (FFK) is an outcome-focused initiative that recognizes and tries to take advantage of the unique conditions that exist in every county.

Instead of prescribing specific organizational and procedural changes, North Carolina has asked its eight lead Families for Kids counties (Buncombe, Catawba, Cleveland, Edgecombe, Guilford, Iredell, Richmond, and Wayne) to formally embrace the Families for Kids goals and then make their own road to meet them.

Families for Kids Goals

  1. Community-based support for families
  2. One coordinated assessment process
  3. One caseworker/casework team
  4. One single, stable foster care placement
  5. A permanent home for children in the system within one year

Each in its Own Way

Take, for example, the goal of providing one primary case worker or case management team for every child who comes in contact with the child welfare system.

Richmond County, North Carolina, chose to meet this objective by training its specialized case workers to wear all the different hats of children's services. Once they have completed the necessary training, workers will be prepared to stay with a case from the day of substantiation until it is closed.

North Carolina's Iredell County DSS has come up with a different solution. On June 3, Iredell formally reorganized its Children and Family Services so that investigation, treatment, and premanency planning are no longer separate work units. They now have four "Family Support Teams," each made up of two investigation workers, two treatment workers, two permanency planning workers, and one supervisor.

Why choose Family Support Teams? According to Lisa York, Iredell's children's services program administrator, "When we looked at the Families for Kids goals, we realized that one of the reasons kids were staying in care so long was that information was either being lost or transmitted too slowly within the system. Traditionally, as a child progressed from CPS to foster care to adoption, workers and the child had to inform the next person about the case. Information about the case was passed along to a succession of caseworkers in a series of 'bridge visits'. This took a lot of time."

With Family Support Teams, the supervisor now knows the case from beginning to end. Bridge visits still take place, but they are much easier now that they occur within teams of workers who work closely with one another. And preserving some degree of specialization guarantees that the teams have the depth of knowledge needed to help the family achieve their own goals.

Public Awareness

Using the Families for Kids goals of a single, stable foster placement and a permanent home for children within one year as a starting point, North Carolina's Catawba County DSS has started a full-fledged media campaign.

Together with Children's Home Society, they have started the "Campaign for the Family Builders of Catawba Valley," an effort to find additional foster and adoptive homes within--and beyond--the borders of Catawba County.

Because the success of this initiative hinges on public awareness, Catawba has contracted with Synergy, a small local advertising agency. Together they have come up with the idea for a series of billboards that build upon the theme "I wish I may, I wish I might, I wish I had a family tonight."

As a part of this campaign, they have enlisted the help of the Seattle Supersonics' Nate McMillian. A Raleigh, North Carolina native committed to recruiting families of color, McMillian will be featured on posters and on a billboard presenting the message "You can make a child's wish come true."

The billboards and the contract with Synergy are being paid for through a grant from the Duke Endowment. "Families for Kids allows us to bring together and expand the resources of our community," says Andrea Benfield, program administrator and Families for Kids supervisor at Catawba County.

1996 Jordan Institute for Families