Raleigh, N.C. – Four Republican leaders in the North Carolina House of Representatives have filed legislation seeking to reform the state’s child welfare and social service systems to better serve and protect vulnerable citizens.
House Rules Chairman David Lewis (R-Harnett), pictured, Speaker Pro Tempore Sarah Stevens (R-Surry), Senior Appropriations Chairman Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) and Representative Jonathan Jordan (R-Ashe), Chairman of the House Homelessness, Foster Care and Dependency Committee, introduced House Bill 608 the Family/Child Protection and Accountability Act on Wednesday.
Lawmakers say the current child welfare system is insufficient and cannot meet its responsibilities because there is no consistent model of care across a fragmented system of 100 county social services agencies, complicating state oversight.
Lewis, pictured, said case workers and supervisors are overwhelmed by excessive caseloads as well as inadequate training and support. As a result of these problems, children are not receiving the care they need to recover from abuse or neglect, and in some instances, are not being placed in safe environments.
‘The Child/Family Protection and Accountability Act meets these challenges head-on with a measured and collaborative approach. The legislation enumerates a plan to consolidate the 100 county DSS agencies into no more than 30 regions by 2022. This will allow the state to effectively standardize practice statewide. The bill also gives the state greater authority to enforce safety and practice standards at the local level.’
The legislation requires a third party entity to evaluate the current child welfare system and work with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to implement system-wide changes.
The bill also reduces the time to permanency for children removed from their homes, creates a council to align children services across all government systems, and establishes pilots to support access to driving for youth in foster care, as well as strengthening the overall foster care system.
“This bill would go a long way for the most vulnerable people in our state,” said Lewis, adding, “It’s high time we invest in key social services infrastructure to serve the needs of those who do not have a voice. We must not sit idly by while children suffer; instead, we must be proactive and tackle the issue head on with holistic reforms that solve the problem.”
“I am confident that this bill will improve the conditions of our child welfare system,” said Representative Stevens. “We must fully commit to solving the problems our social services face, and this bill will certainly do that by creating a system in which foster children can succeed.”
House Bill 608 is identical, ‘companion’ legislation to Senate Bill 594 and will receive a committee referral this week.