The Child Wellbeing Project, North Carolina
This is one of 31 program profiles that appears in Support Matters, Lessons from the Field on Services for Adoptive, Foster, and Kinship Care Families (PDF – 2 MB), published March 2015.
The Child Wellbeing Project is a research project in Catawba County, North Carolina, that provides an array of support services to families of children who have left Catawba County foster care.
Children aged birth to 15 who have left the custody of Catawba County Social Services to reunification, adoption, legal custody, or guardianship.
Between 2010 and July 2013, the program served 84 families. About 180 families were offered services. As of July 2013, there were 45 active cases, including 15 reunified birth families, 15 adoptive families, 13 relative adoptive families, and two legal custody cases.
Theory of change
Increasing protective factors and reducing risk factors will reduce a child’s chance of re-entering foster care. The interplay between risk and protective factors influences a family’s resilience. Providing services to families will reduce risk factors, increase protective factors, promote a stable and safe environment for children, and increase child and family resilience. In the long term, these services will increase children’s well-being, including education, employment, housing, connection to family and community, access to health and mental health care, and life choices.
The program is run by Catawba County Social Services.
Role of public child welfare agency
Catawba County Social Services operates the program and provides some funding.
Key service components
Through this voluntary in-home service,success coaches:
- Engage families in a supportive partnership
- Assess child and family protective factors, needs, trauma history, and goals related to the following: functioning, resiliency, well-being, safety, economic self- sufficiency, community and family connections, education, employment, and concrete needs
- Work with the family to develop a success plan with goals to increase protective factors and reduce the risk of maltreatment
- Coordinate services Help families increase skills in areas such as health and wellness, resiliency, financial management, communication, and parenting
- Provide crisis intervention services
Based on families’ needs, the coaches coordinate the following additional services:
- Educational advocacy — An educational advocate works with 44 schools in the county to promote children’s educational achievement, stability, and continuity.
- Material supports — Discretionary funds are available to families served by success coach to meet critical concrete needs that affect the child’s well-being (such as paying for car repairs enabling parents to remain employed, paying for summer camp opportunities, etc.).
- Parent-Child Interaction Therapy — Families with children ages 2 to 6 can receive this evidence-based treatment to address behavior problems or a history of abuse or neglect. (See page 222 of Support Matters guide (PDF – 2 MB) for more information about the therapy.)
- Therapeutic services — Individual, couple, and family therapy is available, as needed, in the home or in an office.
- Adoption therapy groups — Adopted children, grades two to 12, can participate in therapeutic support groups to address the grief, loss and identity issues they have experienced. Parents participate in four concurrent sessions, while children attend 11 sessions.
- The program receives referrals from Catawba County Social Services as children exit foster care and when children who were previously in Catawba County Social Services’ custody return to the attention of child protective services.
- Information about the service and referral process is provided to child welfare social workers through team meetings.
- Adoptive families receive information at the pre-adoption training.
- Success coaches meet each family prior to the child’s leaving foster care to explain the services.
- 1 half-time project director
- 1 full-time post-care supervisor
- 3 success coaches — 1 full-time equivalent 1 half-time evaluation coordinator 1 educational advocate — .8 full-time equivalent during school year
- 1 half-time post-care clinician
- 1 full-time administrative assistant
Success coaches receive extensive training (more than 100 hours during the first year on the job). Some of these trainings are provided internally and others are provided by state or external providers on:
- Engagement with families and activities for skill-building
- Family preservation
- Assessment tools
- Sexual abuse
- Effect of separation and loss
- Child development
Evaluation and outcomes
In addition to tracking the services provided to children and families, the project:
- Assesses and tracks improvement in family or individual function using measures such as the North Carolina Family Assessment General Services + Reunification, Devereux Early Childhood Assessment, and Casey Life Skills Assessment
- Tracks child protective services involvement or foster care re-entry
- Holds monthly staff meetings to review staff meet monthly to review program data and make data-informed improvements to service delivery
Outside evaluators were engaged in a process evaluation during the pilot phase of services. This has not been a rigorous, random trial, but rather an effort to determine whether services have a positive impact on families. Results showed that of families who accepted and fully engaged in the success coach service, 96 percent (72 of 75) have maintained permanency compared to 95 percent (105 of 110) of families who declined the service.
Approximate annual budget for services described
The Duke Endowment funds the majority of the project. There is some ability to draw down Title IV-E or Medicaid funding for adoption support groups and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy. In addition, the county provided up-front costs for the two initial staff.
Partnerships required or recommended
The program is a partnership between Catawba County Social Services and The Duke Endowment. The success of the program requires collaboration and partnership with multiple units within the agency including Family Builders (Adoption and Foster Home Licensing unit), the Foster Care unit, and Family Net (the child mental health services unit) to ensure integration in the child welfare continuum. The educational advocate also has strong partnerships with the three public school systems operating in the county.
- Helping families to see the services as helpful. Many families do not want additional services after the child is home.
- Helping staff see post-care services as part of the child welfare continuum, along with mandated services.
Background and future directions
The program was founded in 2010 after The Duke Endowment approached Catawba County Social Services’ leaders to partner on improving well-being of children in foster care. They were concerned that child well-being was not being adequately addressed with the traditional focus in child welfare services on safety and permanence. Following planning efforts, the decision was made to focus on well-being of children who had achieved permanency. Decisions about program services were informed by focus groups held with staff, adoptive, reunified, and guardianship families.
The formal outcome evaluation phase of the project began in 2014, and will assess the impact of this service on child well-being across several counties. Catawba County prepared a replication manual, an Access database to house all program data, data report templates, fidelity measures, a success coach manual for social workers, a training program and implementation plan with built-in technical assistance to ensure successful implementation in other locations.
In 2014, the post-adoption portion of the program was expanded to eight new counties in North Carolina.
- Ligia Cushman, post-care supervisor, Catawba County Social Services: 828-695-5702
- Child Wellbeing Project website
- Post Adoption Success Coach website
- Chrissy Triplett, interview, July 1, 2013.
- Catawba County Child Wellbeing Project materials