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Family and Children's
Resource Program

Vol. 22, No. 3
June 2017

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.

Figure 1: NC Foster Care & Adoption Facts

As of April 30, 2017:

Foster Care Agencies

  • 100 public/county DSS agencies
  • 81 private child-placing agencies
  • 97 residential facilities

Foster Homes
6,843 licensed foster homes:

  • 38% were family foster homes supervised by county DSS agencies
  • 58% were either family or therapeutic foster homes supervised by private agencies
  • 4% were residential/group/ institutions

Adoption Agencies

  • 100 public/county DSS agencies
  • 42 private adoption agencies

Adoptive Homes

  • 11,335 children adopted from foster care from 2007 to 2014

Sources: NC DSS, 2017a; NC DSS, 2017b; USDHHS, 2017


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
In 2015 federal reviewers were concerned our state could not show that routine, statewide diligent efforts were being made to find families for children with special needs and families that reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of the children in DSS custody. They also noted that NC did not provide consistent standards for diligent recruitment, nor did it have a system for monitoring diligent recruitment.

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
By the time the PIP was approved on Jan. 1, 2017, efforts were already well underway to improve diligent recruitment in NC. In fall 2016, the NC Division of Social Services approached the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment (NRC-DR) for assistance. By October 2016, a workgroup dedicated to creating a new DRR plan had formed. The group's participants included representatives from the Division, county DSS agencies, and private agencies. Two consultants from the NRC-DR offered the group guidance and support.

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:

NC's Vision for DRR
Although many people and agencies in North Carolina contribute to recruitment and retention of resource families, we are all ultimately a part of one, unified child welfare system. The new DRR plan is a vehicle to help us improve our results and the way we work together. As a starting point, the plan lays out the beliefs and values at the heart of what we do. You can find these in the box below.

Beliefs behind the Plan
  • Value all prospective, current, and former foster and adoptive parents
  • Value all caregivers and encourage the licensure of kinship placements whenever possible
  • Provide and value opportunities for support, engagement, and training of resource families
  • We have an obligation to build our capacity to use data to inform diligent recruitment and retention of foster and adoptive parents

The plan then articulates a long-term vision of a future in which North Carolina will eventually have:

  • A structured statewide approach to recruitment and retention.
  • An efficient recruitment process that is easy for prospective resource families to understand.
  • Placement stability for children served by the foster care system.
  • Placement of children in their home communities and school districts.
  • Sibling groups placed together.
  • A diverse population of foster and adoptive families, including but not limited to diversity of ethnicity, race, language, and location.
  • Public and private child welfare staff who are familiar with North Carolina's Diligent Recruitment and Retention Plan.
  • Consistent engagement in technical assistance, information sharing, and collaboration around DRR by the Division, county DSS agencies, and private agencies.
  • Statewide use of a customer service approach to DRR, with positive feedback from foster and adoptive families.
  • Involvement in the DRR process by resource families and youth served by the foster care program.
  • Statewide capacity to collect, assess, and interpret data to inform DRR activities.

Building on a Solid Foundation
Before we delve into the changes the new plan brings, a few words of reassurance. While the plan brings new expectations, the basics of our work will remain the same. We will continue to have a state-supervised, county-administered system in which counties partner to varying degrees with private agencies to recruit resource families and supervise foster homes and provide adoption services. Prospective resource parents will still be free to choose to be licensed as foster parents and/or be approved as adoptive parents by either a public or private agency. And, the NC Division of Social Services will continue to provide supports to public and private agencies, especially through its NC Kids Adoption and Foster Care Network.

New Expectations
What does this new plan mean for NC's child-placing agencies and child welfare professionals?

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.

Four DRR Plan Goals
  1. Recruit and maintain a sufficient pool of ethnically and racially diverse families who can provide ongoing safety for and meet the needs of children in foster care
  2. State, counties, and private child-placing agencies have the capacity and ability to use data to inform and monitor diligent recruitment and retention efforts throughout NC
  3. Excellent customer service provided to prospective, current, and former foster, adoptive, and kinship families
  4. Excellent customer service provided to internal and external community partners/stakeholders

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.

Items on Data Profile
  • Number of children in care
  • Characteristics of children in care
    -- Race/ethnicity
    -- Age
  • Number where ICWA applies
  • Characteristics of families available
    -- Race/ethnicity
  • Average time from initial inquiry to licensure
  • Total licensed beds
  • Total truly available beds
  • Children placed out of county and/or with outside agencies due to lack of available families
  • Number of placement disruptions or placement changes
  • Option to track additional data points

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 (; 877-625-4371).

Implementation Timeline

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.

North Carolina has a new plan and approach for the diligent recruitment and retention of foster and adoptive families for children in foster care. This plan and approach will help us increase our use of data, the extent to which we involve key stakeholders, and the quality of our customer service. This, in turn, will ultimately strengthen our ability to achieve the outcomes we seek for children and their families.

References for this and other articles in this issue