The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today released a coordinated action plan to address the urgent crisis of children with complex behavioral health needs who come into the care of child welfare services. The action plan represents the work of a multi-sector team of stakeholders that is working to transform the way that the child welfare, behavioral health and other systems that support children and families work together.
Children in crisis who have come into the care of child welfare services require immediate protection in safe and supportive environments that can meet their physical and mental health care needs. Unfortunately, the number of children with these needs far exceeds the spaces and services available.
NCDHHS convened the multi-sector Child Welfare and Family Well-being Transformation Team to develop prevention and treatment solutions to help every child and family experiencing adversity to cope, repair and heal. The Transformation Team includes leaders from across NCDHHS as well as stakeholders from hospitals, private agencies, Local Management Entities, county DSS offices, practitioners, attorneys, parents and those with lived experience.
"This action plan is a critical first step to providing better and urgently needed care to children with complex behavioral health needs in crisis who too often face confusing and under-resourced systems of care," said NCDHHS Chief Deputy Secretary Susan Gale Perry. "I am proud and grateful for the work of the Transformation Team members who share a commitment to our vision that every child in North Carolina grows up in a safe, nurturing family and community with the opportunity to achieve their full potential."
The action plan includes strategies to connect children to expanded care placement options more quickly, ensuring they receive appropriate care and support as soon as possible. It also includes strategies to expand treatment services and prevent children from being removed from their homes or experiencing multiple placements.
"County Departments of Social Services have appreciated working with NCDHHS and multiple stakeholders on the Coordinated Action Plan with interventions that can help children in our care now," said John Eller, Director of Social Services for Mecklenburg County. "The children we care for often have very complex needs related to the significant trauma that they and their families have experienced. We stand ready to act collectively to support these children and families to improve outcomes."
The Action Plan is the first in a series of proposed prevention, family stabilization and treatment solutions that the Transformation Team will recommend.
"This Action Plan exemplifies the kind of multi-sector work NCDHHS is committed to leading as we build on lessons learned and capabilities we developed during the pandemic to recover stronger," said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. "We are focused on three priorities: investing in behavioral health and resilience, supporting child and family wellbeing, and building a strong and inclusive workforce. It won’t be easy, but we can solve the crisis for kids with complex needs and their families by taking coordinated action across these three priorities."