26, No. 1
Safety Organized Practice: North Carolina's New Practice Model
After North Carolina's legislature passed Rylan's Law (HB 630) in 2017, North Carolina contracted with the Center for the Support of Families (CSF) to develop social services and child welfare reform plans. CSF's recommendation in the child welfare reform plan for a statewide practice model was for North Carolina to develop clear and well organized practice standards for Safety Organized Practice (SOP). This article describes what our state has done to follow through on this recommendation.
Using practice models helps child welfare agencies by:
Safety Organized Practice
North Carolina chose SOP as its practice model for two main reasons:
1) The Structured Decision Making tools North Carolina has used for years are outdated. As part of implementing SOP, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) will update and empirically revalidate our state's SDM tools.
2) Many SOP tools are consistent with North Carolina's values of being safety-focused, trauma-informed, family-centered, and culturally competent and include specific strategies for working collaboratively and effectively with families to assure children are safe. Examples of tools that fit our values include Harm and Danger Statements, The Three Houses, and Safety Mapping.
Learning the practice standards will build skills and behaviors in the workforce that are fully consistent with SOP. The practice standard will anchor SOP, provide a foundation for learning and using SOP tools, and help guide decisions on selection and implementation of those tools in North Carolina. Other states--including California where much of SOP was developed--have had success taking a similar approach.
The goal is to finalize practice standards by June 2021 and complete training on the practice standards by June 2022. The timeline developed with NCCD for the implementation of SOP calls for revalidating and implementing updated SDM tools by spring 2022 and beginning training on other SOP tools in summer 2022.
Figure 1 outlines the relationship between a practice model, its essential functions, core activities of those functions, and practice standards.
See Figure 2 for a hypothetical example of what a finished practice standard may look like.
There are the five essential functions in child welfare as selected and defined by the ULT:
Communicating: Timely and consistent sharing of spoken and written information so meaning and intent are understood in the same way by all parties involved. Open and honest communication underpins all essential child welfare functions.
Engaging: Empowering and motivating families to actively participate with child welfare in the functions of assessing, planning, and implementing by communicating openly and honestly with the family, by demonstrating respect, and by valuing the family's input and preferences. Engagement begins on first meeting a family and continues throughout child welfare services.
Assessing: Gathering and synthesizing information from children, families, support systems, agency records, and persons with knowledge to determine the need for child protective services and to inform planning for safety, permanency, and well-being. Assessing occurs throughout child welfare services and includes learning from families about their strengths and preferences.
Planning: Respectfully and meaningfully collaborating with families, communities, tribes, and other team members to set goals and develop strategies based on the continuous assessment of safety, risk, and family strengths and needs through a child and family team process. Plans should be revisited regularly by the team to assess progress towards goals and whether changes are needed.
Implementing: Carrying out plans that have been developed. Implementing includes linking families to services and community supports, supporting families to take actions agreed upon in plans, monitoring to assure plans are being implemented by both families and providers, monitoring progress on behavioral goals, and identifying when plans need to be adapted.
A specific timeframe for statewide implementation of the practice model has not been determined. However, implementation will almost certainly occur in phases and be aligned carefully with implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act.