County hopes software will streamline foster home licensing process

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 19, 2021

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday gave the Department of Social Services unanimous approval to contract with foster home licensing software company Binti.

Before a family can foster a child, they must be licensed through the Department of Social Services. The department not only vets potential families it provides them training and resources once they are licensed.

Binti’s software, which is used by more than 170 foster care agencies in 24 states, is intended to streamline the foster care licensing application process by transitioning a paperwork-driven process online. Binti is considered a “sole source” because performance or price competition is not available for the product and it is only available from one source.

Through the end of September, Rowan County’s Department of Social Services had 165 children in foster care, 44 of which had been placed outside of the county. There are currently 31 foster families licensed in Rowan County.

Clarisa Sifford, a recruitment social worker with the Department of Social Services, told commissioners Binti would help the department add new foster families to its roster.

“There is a need for foster families. So, whatever resources that we can get to bring more families in would be good for Rowan County and for our youth,” Sifford said.

George Montgomery, a licensing social worker, said Binti’s software would help eliminate much of the paperwork that slows down the foster family licensing process, reducing the need for social workers to trek out to homes to deliver and receive paperwork. 

The new software, Montgomery said, would also help the department take a proactive approach in the diversity of families it can recruit.

The licensing fee for Binti’s software costs $15,800 for 12 months. Funding for the software will come from Adoption Promotion Funds that are awarded to the county by the state.

Department of Social Services Director Micah Ennis said Binti will customize the software for the department’s needs and the county’s staff will undergo training. Ennis said it is difficult to estimate when Binti’s software will be implemented, but is hopeful it will be in place within a half year.

In other meeting business:

• Following a brief closed session, the board approved the county paying $7,675 in a settlement to a homeowner in Rowan County who claimed the Rowan County Health Department improperly permitted their land for a wastewater system. The homeowner claimed the improper permitting resulted in additional costs. The total settlement is for $15,350, but the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will pay half.

• The board granted permission for the county to send out a request for qualification for engineering services for residential plumbing. As a result of elevated levels of lead and copper found in drinking water of several customers on the Northeast Rowan Water System, the county plans to replace the plumbing in approximately 10 homes. The county plans to fund the plumbing replacement projects using American Rescue Plan Act funds, if possible, but the project will move forward regardless.

• Finance Director James Howden gave commissioners an update on the county’s finance reports through September. The county’s annual cumulative expenditures through September totaled about $35.7 million, which is on pace with the county’s spending through September of 2020. The county’s annual cumulative revenues through September were $60.9 million, which is almost $6 million higher than the previous year. Howden said the increase in revenue was due to a higher property tax collection percentage. The county collected $52.7 million in property taxes through August.

• Commissioners approved a request to purchase body cameras for the bailiffs at the Rowan County Courthouse. The cameras will be purchased from Axon and will cost the county $92,741 (including tax) over the next four years for the hardware and video storage. In a memo to commissioners, Sheriff Kevin Auten said, “There have been several occasions in which camera footage would have benefitted (Rowan County Sheriff’s Office) personnel who were being complained on.”

• The board approved a contract with ADW Architects for $27,500 for a space needs assessment study, programming and “high-level” master planning related to the relocation of the Health Department. The Health Department, primarily located at 1811 E. Innes St., has space needs that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Commissioners approved a four-year contract worth $50,000 per year with HDR Engineering for the company to provide general services and planning support to the Rowan County landfill.

• The board took a moment to recognize Chaplain Michael Taylor and Michael P. Taylor for Clergy Appreciation Month. The father and son duo take turns leading the commissioners in prayer before each meeting.

• Commissioners voted to cancel their second meeting in December.