Vol. 16, No. 2 • May 2012

NC's Foster Care Infrastructure

North Carolina has developed a foster care infrastructure that currently includes:

100 public child-placing agencies (county departments of social services). Every child in foster care in North Carolina is in the temporary custody of one of these public agencies, which are responsible for ensuring their safety and well-being. All of these agencies supervise traditional family foster homes; two (Catawba and Wake) also supervise therapeutic foster homes. For a listing go to <www.dhhs.state.nc.us/dss/local>.

115 private child-placing agencies licensed by the NC Division of Social Services. These agencies provide a variety of services; most contract with county DSS agencies to supervise traditional family foster homes, therapeutic foster homes, or both. For a listing go to <www.dhhs.state.nc.us/dss/licensing/docs/cpalistfostercare.pdf>.

47 residential child care facilities (group homes) licensed by the NC Division of Social Services. These placements are more often used for adolescents and children with serious mental or physical health difficulties. For a listing go to <www.dhhs.state.nc.us/dss/licensing/docs/rccfacilities.pdf>.

Foster Homes
Parents in traditional family foster homes are trained to care for abused and neglected children while their parents work with social work professionals to resolve their family issues. Parents in therapeutic foster homes receive special training to provide care for children with serious emotional and behavioral problems. As of March 30, 2012 North Carolina had 7,100 licensed foster homes. Of these:

  • 3,721 were family foster homes. Of these 72% (2,696) were supervised by DSS agencies and 28% (1,025) were supervised by private agencies.

  • 3,379 were therapeutic foster homes. Of these, more than 99% (3,354) were supervised by private agencies.

Because foster homes are such an essential part of our efforts—foster care could not exist without them—and because they can have such a direct effect upon the well-being of children, we should also have some sense of how the system uses foster homes and how long foster homes remain active.

Use. Gibbs (2005) examined administrative data on use of foster homes in Oregon, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Although she cautions that her findings are not necessarily generalizable to other states, she found that in these states just 20% of foster parents provided 60% to 72% of all foster care days. This is in line with the conclusion reached by Stukes Chipungu and Bent-Goodley (2004), who found that on a national level 33% of licensed homes have no children placed in their homes at any given time.

Length of Service. In the three states she studied Gibbs found that between 47% and 62% of foster parents quit fostering within one year of the first placement in their home, and that at least 20% of all foster homes left the system each year.

We do not have data about the length of service for foster homes in North Carolina. However, we do know that a large number of new foster homes are licensed each year. For example, in state fiscal year 2011-12 North Carolina licensed 1,638 new foster homes (NCDSS, 2012b). This means that about a quarter of North Carolina's current foster homes were licensed within the past year.

References for this and other articles in this issue

~ Family and Children's Resource Program, UNC-CH School of Social Work ~