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State agency hosts listening session about child welfare services

SALISBURY — In an effort to improve child welfare services statewide, a state government agency sought feedback from constituents Wednesday.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Social Services held a listening session at Rowan Public Library. The public was invited to comment on what the agency is doing right what needs to improve.

Talks were facilitated and recorded by students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work while department employees listened and responded to inquiries.

Facilitator Laura Phipps said the agency has been holding similar listening sessions across the state. The Salisbury stop was No. 4 of six.

“We specifically picked places we don’t typically go to,” Phipps said. “That way, we could get a different cross-section of the community.”

DHHS allowed the public to speak about any issue pertinent to child welfare, then guided the talk toward three specific areas.

Officials wanted to know how they could improve safety, permanency and well-being outcomes, how they could better serve high-risk populations and how they could improve post-adoption services.

Arlette Lambert, a child and family services review coordinator, said many concerns expressed during the session have been recurring issues across the state.

Marcy Mays with Yadkin County Human Services expressed concern about mental health care and placement for foster children. She also said the department’s quest for permanence needed to be better defined.

Nadean Quarterman of the Rowan County Department of Social Services said that 18-year-olds in foster care tend to leave of their own accord rather than take advantage of services available to them.

Still others expressed desires for improved collaboration between in-home social workers and school social workers and counselors, smaller caseloads for case workers and simplified standards — all measures they said would help the care team of a child better meet his needs.

Donna Fayko, Rowan County social services director, said research shows that high social worker turnover negatively affects children and their families.

“We’ve got to make a more concerted effort to simplify, standardize and provide consistent guidance to our social workers,” Fayko said, adding that some department standards could be interpreted in varying ways. “… That’s why we have a retention problem.”

Lambert said concerns and suggestions for child welfare services will continue to be collected through September.

The responses will be compiled and delivered to the state Division of Social Services.

To submit comments outside a listening session, residents may:

• Email: CFSP.APSR@dhhs.nc.gov

• U.S. mail: NC Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Social Services, Child and Family Services Review coordinator, 2406 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-2406

• Drop-off: Dorothea Dix Campus, McBryde Building East, 820 S. Boylan Ave., Raleigh

• Phone: 919-527-6359

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