General Information

North Carolina has a federally mandated, state supervised, county administered social services system. This means the federal government authorizes national programs and a majority of the funding, and the state provides oversight and support. The 100 local social service agencies deliver the services and benefits. In North Carolina the single administrative agency is the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). This umbrella agency includes separate divisions. Some of the other DHHS divisions with the greatest impact on local offices include:

  • Division of Health Benefits (NC Medicaid)
  • Division of Child Development and Early Education
  • Division of Health Services Regulation
  • Division of Aging and Adult Services

Although many of DSS’s programs are federally mandated the North Carolina legislature and Executive Branch also establish programs for citizens. There are also commissions that develop operating rules which impact county departments of social services. These commissions of the North Carolina General Assembly include the:

  • Joint Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Resources 
  • House Welfare Reform Committee 
  • Joint Legislative Public Assistance Commission 
  • Joint Subcommittee on Governmental Operations - Health and Human Resources 
  • Joint Study Commission on Aging 
  • Senate/House Judiciary Committee

NC DSS works very closely with both the chairpersons of these committees and their legislative staff. The Joint Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittee has responsibility for approving the Division's budget while the other legislative committees have responsibility for any statutory changes made to the general statutes that govern DSS programs and services.

One of the most influential bodies developing operating rules for DSS is the Social Services Commission, which is a statutorily-based body. Two federal departments oversee the major social services programs, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), specifically the Administration of Children and Families, and the US Department of Agriculture.

HHS oversees Work First, Child Welfare, Child Care, Child Support, Adult and Family Services, Low Income Energy Assistance, and Medicaid. The USDA oversees Food and Nutrition Services and Commodities.

The Role of County Departments of Social Services: From birth to death families count on county departments of social services for direct services that address issues of poverty, family violence and exploitation. County DSS offices provide citizens with resources and services to maximize their well-being and self-determination. We strive to prevent abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable citizens, the poor, the children, the aged, the disabled and the sick, as well as promote self-reliance and self-sufficiency for individuals and families. County departments of social services provide a wide variety of social work and economic services including:

  • Social Work Services: Child and family social work services are: protective services (abuse and neglect); family preservation and support services; foster care placement; adoption services; and recruitment and licensing of foster homes. Adult social work services include: protective services (abuse and neglect), guardianship services, adult foster care services, counseling and arranging for services for disabled adults, adult day care; services for the blind, in-home aide services, adult care home recruitment and evaluation. These services include: Medicaid, NC Health Choice for Children, Work First Family Assistance, Work First Employment Services, Emergency Assistance, Child Day Care Subsidies, Electronic Benefit Card (EBT)/Food and Nutrition Services; Low Income Energy Assistance, Child Support Services, special assistance to elderly and disabled adults and transportation services.
  • Additional Services: Some county DSS offices oversee veterans services, fraud investigation, work permits and more.

The state DSS provides support available to local counties through field staff including: Child Support Services Regional Program Representatives, Children's Services Program Representatives, Local Business Liaisons, Operational Support Team (OST) Economic and Family Services Program Representatives and Operational Support Team (OST) Medicaid Program Representatives.