25, No. 2
North Carolina Holds Permanency Leadership Summit
On Nov. 20, 2019, North Carolina held a summit in Raleigh on achieving timely permanence for children and youth in foster care. Titled "Partnership for Permanence: Working Together, Family Forever," the event drew more than 200 leaders and stakeholders from across the state. Attendees represented the courts, child welfare agencies, guardians ad litem, the general assembly, private agencies, and other stakeholders.
Highlights included remarks from Cheri Beasley, Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court, and Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services, as well as workshops on community stakeholder engagement, including the youth voice, post-permanency services, safe and timely reunification, and NC's Early Childhood Action Plan.
We Can Do Better
"North Carolina's performance in terms of length of stay in foster care is 36th in the nation," Bayard said. "We can and must do better. For this to happen, the courts and child welfare must work together."
Balancing Competing Principles
"People talk about this work as if it were simple, but simplicity is a recipe for disaster," Berrick explained. "This work is complex. It requires constant moral choices. Successfully achieving one principle often means elevating it over another important principle."
As a result, Berrick said, even when we succeed, it often doesn't always feel that way. Even successes are vulnerable to criticism, since not all goals of the profession have been achieved.
Dr. Berrick's presentation drew from her book The Impossible Imperative: Navigating the Competing Principles of Child Protection (Oxford Univ. Press, 2019).
According to Kim Clark, President Judge of the Family Division of Pennsylvania's 5th Judicial District, and Angela Sager, Judicial Program Analyst with the Pennsylvania Courts, 12 years ago Pennsylvania faced many of the conditions and challenges North Carolina faces today, including a state-supervised, county-administered child welfare system, inconsistent practices at the court and agency levels, inconsistent service delivery and availability, and inconsistent outcomes for families and children.
One key to Pennsylvania's success was the creation of a structure for communication, decision making, and relationship building called "Pennsylvania's Children's Roundtable." These roundtables operate on three levels:
For more on the Children's Roundtables, click here or visit PA's Office of Children and Families in the Courts.
Promoting Permanency in NC
Permanency-related goals in NC's 2020-2024 Child and Family Services Plan and its Early Childhood Action Plan, Cauley stated, demonstrate that North Carolina is serious about improving permanence outcomes for families and children.
Cauley believes the child welfare practice model our state will soon adopt will help bring about this improvement. She predicts, for example, that it would give staff the skills they need to talk with families about concurrent planning--plans that include active, simultaneous efforts toward reunification and an alternative form of permanency.
"We can't wait until reunification is ruled out to begin exploring other avenues of permanence," Cauley said.