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Family and Children's
Resource Program

Vol. 26, No. 1
December 2020

Design Teams: The Role of the Community

Embarking on large scale change can be feel like an insurmountable task. For many past change efforts, it may have been that a small number of people were driving the change. Previous successful change efforts in North Carolina--such as the move to the Multiple Response System (MRS)--discovered the key to sustainable change is to involve as many stakeholders as possible from the onset. The development of the Design Teams is based on the idea that the more involvement you have from those who will be impacted by change, the more successful and sustainable the change will be.

"The Design Teams were developed to ensure child welfare transformation is planned and implemented with robust input from all system stakeholders," explains Lisa Cauley, Senior Director for Child, Family, and Adult Services, NC Department of Health and Human Services. "This includes state child welfare staff, county child welfare leaders and frontline staff, partnering public agencies--including the courts, private partners that provide child welfare services, and especially youth, families, and others with lived experience receiving child welfare services."

In fall 2019, recruitment letters were sent to all 100 county directors asking for nominations for the Design Team membership. In addition, NCDHHS reached out to other key stakeholder groups to ensure the teams represented the variety of community partners across the state. "The ULT was very encouraged by the number of persons who responded to the recruitment effort. Many more excellent nominations were received than could be accepted," Cauley says. The ULT finished selecting the teams in January 2020.

During the statewide conference, the teams reviewed the goals, targets, and benchmarks related to their assigned strategic priorities and identified "next steps" for moving forward. The work of the teams will be varied and includes Design Team members giving input on proposed policy changes, advising how new practices should be implemented, and giving input into the implementation of North Carolina's practice model.

"Design Teams are an excellent way to give voice to the many people that are impacted by and participate in the field of child welfare," shares Emi Wyble, Safety Design Team facilitator. "They allow the state to have a solid, committed group of people, who are invested in the transformation of child welfare, to give input to a wide selection of ideas/strategies."

Design Teams meet monthly. When COVID-19 related restrictions were implemented, the teams adapted by meeting virtually. To begin development of a statewide practice model, CSF facilitators are working with the Design Teams to solicit input and ideas.

Asked what it is like serving on a Design Team, Barbara Young, member of the NC Child Welfare Family Advisory Council, says, "At first, I was worried that as a parent new to CQI, the information would be way above my head, but our CQI Design Team spent our first few meetings getting everyone "on the same page". Then, as we began our discussions in earnest, I was able to share my thoughts and ideas with confidence. I was heard and our county representatives were heard, too."

As we move forward with the work of child welfare transformation, the Design Team members have an important role in ensuring all voices are heard and represented in the new practices that emerge.

2020-2024 CFSP Design Team Benchmarks

Safety Team

  • validate Structured Decision Making tools
  • implement a statewide practice model
  • implement services to safely prevent children from entering foster care with funding from the Family First Act
  • develop a comprehensive plan to prevent child abuse and neglect
  • identify and plan to reduce racial disparities and disproportionality

Well-Being Team

  • strengthen health and well-being programming in CPS In-Home Services
  • ensure children in foster care receive timely initial screenings and referrals to medical, dental, and behavioral health services
  • ensure Medicaid plans meet the needs of child welfare-involved children and youth
  • ensure NC's practice model and workforce development are trauma-informed

Workforce Development Team

  • complete a workload study
  • reinstitute a stipend program as part of the Child Welfare Collaborative
  • implement a comprehensive workforce development program

Permanency Team

  • decrease time children spend in foster care before they are reunified, placed in guardianship, or adopted
  • increase the stability of child placements
  • maximize the use by eligible youth of foster care 18-21 services

Continuous Quality Improvement

  • develop a statewide CQI program that aligns state and county efforts
  • assure state and county leaders have access to reliable data