Diligent Recruitment of Families for Children in Foster Care in North Carolina

Recruitment and retention of families for children in foster care matters a great deal. When we have enough foster and adoptive parents and kin caregivers, it is easier to place children in their home communities and school districts. More siblings can stay together. Careful matching with caregivers is easier. Children awaiting adoption don’t have to wait as long for forever families.

Knowing this, North Carolina built a network of county and private agencies to find and support resource families. For a snapshot of this network and other North Carolina foster care and adoption facts, see the box below.

NC Foster Care & Adoption Facts

Foster Homes


6,895 foster homes as of Jan. 31, 2018:

  • 39% were family foster homes
    supervised by county DSS agencies
  • 61% were either family or
    therapeutic foster homes
    supervised by private agencies

Foster Care Agencies*

Adoption Agencies*

Adoptive Homes

  • 11,335 children adopted from
    foster care from 2007 to 2014
* As of March 19, 2018

But there’s a problem. Nationally, the number of young people living in foster care is rising. At the same time, many states are struggling to recruit and keep enough foster families. Ours is one of them.

What the Data Says

In North Carolina, the data shows a concerning trend. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of children and youth in foster care in the U.S. increased 8%, rising from 404,878 to 437,465 (USDHHS, 2015; 2017). In North Carolina, the rise was greater. In July 2010, there were 9,167 young people in DSS custody in North Carolina. By July 2017, there were 11,204—a 22% increase (Duncan, et al., 2018).

As the figure below shows, during this same period, the number of foster homes in North Carolina actually dropped, moving from 7,684 in 2010 to 6,828 in 2017—an 11% decrease (NC DSS, 2018a).

Figure: North Carolina: Number of Foster Homes and Number of Children in DSS Custody 2010-2017This is not to say that North Carolina has not been focused on foster parent recruiting. In fact, between 2013 and 2017, our state’s child-placing agencies added approximately 1,500 new foster homes each year (NC DSS, 2018c). But an equal or greater number of families have stopped fostering each year due to adoption and other reasons.

In 2015 during the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR), federal reviewers concluded our state needed to improve its system for recruiting and retaining resource families. Reviewers found our state could not show that routine, statewide diligent efforts were being made to find families for children in foster care with special needs, or to find resource families that reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of the children in care. They also noted North Carolina did not provide consistent standards for agencies to use in diligent recruitment, nor did it have a system for monitoring diligent recruitment.

What about the Rise in Foster Care Placements?

Determined to Do Better

North Carolina is determined to improve. To drive needed changes, our state set about recreating its Diligent Recruitment and Retention (DRR) plan. The NC Division of Social Services, the state agency that oversees our child welfare system, began by enlisting the help of the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment and forming a workgroup with representatives from the NC Division of Social Services, county DSS agencies, and private agencies. It then held regional stakeholder meetings between October 2016 and January 2017 to get input on the plan. These meetings were attended by more than 200 people with ties to the recruitment of resource families, and included foster and adoptive parents, former foster youth, staff from county DSS and private agencies, GALs, and others.

The workgroup compiled the notes from these meetings and, with the help of the National Resource Center, crafted the plan. The NC Division of Social Services released the new DRR plan June 15, 2017. You can find it here: https://www2.ncdhhs.gov/dss/publications/.

New Expectations for Agencies

To ensure consistent and diligent recruitment of potential foster and adoptive families who reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of children statewide, the state’s DRR plan includes two new expectations for agencies.

1. Local DRR Plans. Now, each county child welfare agency must create its own annual DRR Plan. (Private child-placing agencies are encouraged but not required to have a plan.) These plans must describe how the county agency staffs and supports recruitment and retention and the barriers it experiences. Every plan must be developed with input from an inclusive group of stakeholders (for example, resource parents) and must lay out concrete strategies for recruiting and maintaining a sufficient pool of ethnically and racially diverse families who can provide ongoing safety for and meet the needs of children in foster care. Agency plans must also show how they are using data to inform and monitor their efforts.

North Carolina’s county child welfare agencies have already created their first annual DRR plans and submitted them to the NC Division of Social Services. These plans go into effect July 1, 2018. County agencies must update and resubmit their plans to the state every year.

2. Data Profiles. Each county DSS and each private child-placing agency must also complete a DRR Data Profile. This allows us to make data-driven decisions regarding diligent recruitment and retention of resource families. This profile must include information about the children in foster care and the families who care for them, including demographics (e.g., age, race/ethnicity), average time between the first inquiry and when families are licensed, the number of children placed out of county and/or with outside agencies due to lack of available families, and more.

County DSS and private child-placing agencies will be required to update their DRR data profiles quarterly and share them with the NC Division of Social Services every year. Receiving data from supervising agencies will allow the state to share comprehensive statewide data on an annual basis to help inform ongoing local and statewide recruitment and retention efforts.

Supporting Statewide Efforts

The NC Division of Social Services itself is working hard to help the state bring about improvement. It has been:

  • Gathering and reviewing existing data and developing targets for resource parent recruitment and retention and
  • Providing training on, reviewing, and monitoring county agencies’ annual Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) plans to ensure they reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of children for whom foster and adoptive homes are needed.

The Family and Child Protection and Accountability Act (House Bill 630), also focuses on recruitment of resource families by requiring the NC Division of Social Services to grant or deny new foster home licenses within three months of application. The Division currently processes licensing applications well within this timeframe.

You Have a Role to Play!

We have described what agencies and the state are doing to improve resource parent recruitment and retention in North Carolina. But as a foster or adoptive parent or kinship caregiver, you are in a fabulous position to help as well! No one can speak more persuasively or with more authority than you about the rewards of caring for children in need. Even small actions on your part can make a big difference to this overall effort. The rest of this issue is filled with inspiration and ideas for how you can contribute.