NC’s Kinship Navigator Program and NCCARE360

by Janet Drake •

When a child is at risk of out-of-home placement or enters the custody of a North Carolina county department of social services, family members often step up to care for the child. Although these families have unique needs and challenges, they typically do not have professionals available to help them navigate the complex systems they face or make service referrals on their behalf. To help meet this need, North Carolina is developing a Kinship Navigator Program.

NC’s Kinship Navigator Program
In 2018, the NC Department of Health and Human Services received a federal grant to build a program to bring additional support to kinship families. When it is complete, North Carolina’s Kinship Navigator Program will feature a website and call center, both of which will be served by an integrated resource database. To ensure the database houses the most up-to-date information, data coordinators will continually research community resources and confirm each one listed in the database is current and correct.

North Carolina’s Kinship Navigator Program will feature a wide range of resources for kinship families, including resources related to food, housing, transportation, employment, interpersonal safety, mental health, childcare, and healthcare. Once they find a resource they are interested in, families will be able to self-refer (i.e., contact the resource directly themselves) or request a referral through the Navigator. The goal is to provide a “no wrong door” approach that makes it easy for families find the support they need.

To guarantee it meets the needs of the people it is being created to serve, the Kinship Navigator Program will be built in partnership with and with input from kinship caregivers, organizations representing them, youth raised by kinship caregivers, and other stakeholders. To ensure it is effective, the program will use a model approved by the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare.

Timeline
North Carolina’s Kinship Navigator Program will be developed alongside NCCARE360, a new statewide website currently under construction. Like the Kinship Navigator, NCCARE360 will serve all 100 counties via a website and a call center. Listings in the NCCARE360 resource directory will be translated into the top five languages spoken in our state. To learn more about NCCARE360, visit http://www.nccare360.org/.

North Carolina’s Kinship Navigator Program will not be implemented until NCCARE360 has been rolled out statewide. Currently NCCARE360 is being implemented in phases: 50 counties will be on board by the end of 2019 and the remaining 50 will onboarded by the close of 2020. The Kinship Navigator Program will be available sometime in 2021.

Both NCCARE360 and the Kinship Navigator Program will support families and give agencies and the state an opportunity to see what resources are being utilized, where resources are lacking, and the funding that is needed.

Janet Drake is a Program Consultant with the NC Division of Social Services.