In December of last year, three children being overseen by the Guilford County Division of Social Services died in a house fire, which resulted in an investigation by the state of the county’s Child Welfare Services.
Those alarming findings caused the state to require Guilford County to offer a Corrective Action Plan and, on Friday, Oct. 27, the county released the 90-day review of the implementation of that plan.
The county’s review states that “training, collaboration, and process improvements” are leading to greater child safety and “more stable family placements for children in care.”
Assistant Guilford County Manager Victor Isler stated in a corresponding press release that the various changes will benefit children under the county’s purview.
“Because of the combined efforts of Guilford County DHHS and the state, today children in Guilford County are safer, moving towards permanency, and in more stable placements, which includes increased utilization of relatives and kin, while awaiting permanency,” he said. “We continue to review and revise our processes to ensure we put families first and, when it comes to assessing a child’s safety, we are using a variety of supervisory and leadership oversight and monitoring to coach workers on how to use the safety-focused, family-centered, and trauma-informed training they learned in the classroom out in the field.”
The Corrective Action Plan focused on several key areas regarding child welfare practices:
•Safety and Assessment Planning
According to Guilford County officials, during the initial 90 days of the plan’s implementation, the county has achieved 100 percent compliance with training requirements outlined in the plan.
The investigation by the state earlier this year discovered very low compliance rates in many areas of child welfare.
The county has also put in place new real-time documentation tools that are to be used during interviews with families and children – as well as a safety assessment monitoring tool that allows supervisors and program managers to better track safety assessments for later follow-up.
The county also, among other changes, developed an “escalation protocol” that attempts to limit unplanned moves for children in foster care by identifying possible placement disruptions – allowing DSS time to find additional resources before a move becomes unavoidable.