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State Review Reveals County's Child Welfare Work Continues To Improve

MAY 15, 2003

CHARLOTTE, NC - A quarterly review of Mecklenburg County's child welfare division shows progress and steady improvements in the way the Department of Social Services (DSS) works to keep children safe.

A team from the N.C. Division of Social Services today shared the preliminary results of a three-day intensive review of 18 randomly selected cases handled by the Mecklenburg County DSS Youth and Family Services Division (YFS). The purpose of the review is to help YFS identify its strengths and focus on areas that need improvement and additional resources.

"We were real encouraged by what we saw in your attitude and your desire to see excellence in your work," said Judy Massengill, program consultant with the N.C. Division of Social Services. Massengill reported the state team's findings during a morning exit conference.

Preliminary results show strengths in the following areas: quality documentation, good contacts with the children, excellent services brokered for children and families, excellent work with non-English-speaking families, good collaboration with other agencies and appropriate response to open cases which receive subsequent referrals.

One area that's noted as needing additional work is the agency's effort to make contact with fathers who are not in the home. The push for a nationwide system-change approach to child welfare underscores the importance of taking a holistic approach to working with parents, including fathers not in the home, extended family members and the community.

"The Child and Family Services Review process continues to highlight the division's strengths as well as opportunities to enhance our service delivery system," said Dannette R. Smith, YFS director. The next quarterly review for Mecklenburg County DSS is set for August 2003.

The random case records were chosen from the period of July 2002 to the present. The process involved review of each case record, interviews with YFS social workers and supervisors, and interviews with family members and community providers. The 18 case records represented six in-home case management services cases (YFS Family Intervention unit), six placement cases (YFS Permanency Planning unit), and six investigation cases.

With passage of the 1997 Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), states have an increased accountability for public child welfare systems. Under ASFA, the Federal government is monitoring states around three key areas of child welfare: safety, permanency and well being. The Federal government is expected to return to North Carolina during the summer of 2004. Mecklenburg County will participate in the state review and all other state reviews because of its size as the largest urban county in North Carolina.

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Media contact: Suzanne Jeffries at 704-353-0774 or jeffesu@co.mecklenburg.nc.us



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