The tragic deaths of three children in a house fire in December of last year led to an investigation of the Guilford County Division of Social Services, and state officials found a host of problems and discovered that some employees weren’t doing the very basic things needed to keep kids being overseen by the county safe.

Guilford County doesn’t discuss personnel matters but an item on the agenda for the Thursday, Oct. 19 meeting of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners reveals that the division is seeking outside staffing help in the Child Welfare Division.

 The Division of Social Services – which is a branch of the  Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services – has “identified a need for staffing” in the Child Welfare Division and therefore asked the commissioners to enter into a new contract with Vanguard Professional Staffing to fill vacant positions with contracted temporary workers.

Currently, DSS has fifteen vacant children’s services social worker positions. At the end of August – the latest available stats – there were 533 children in custody, with 27 foster care social workers available to carry caseloads.

The contract with Vanguard Professional Staffing will total $335,296 and run through June 30, 2024.

A paragraph in the item description on the agenda may give some insight into why Guilford County’s Child Welfare Services was found to be so woefully inadequate that the state had to implement strong corrective actions: “Over the past two years, social services agencies across the state have struggled to attract and retain qualified child welfare social workers for various reasons. Guilford has seen rising caseloads and reports of abuse and neglect. Our agency currently [has] numerous vacancies in the child welfare division. Child welfare supervisors are covering vacant caseloads and shifts within programs areas have been made to ensure service levels are maintained.”

Guilford County has used the Vanguard service before.  In 2021 the county contracted four child welfare social workers for DSS.

DSS officials say that the services provided by Vanguard have been a significant help in children’s services covering vacant positions and caseloads.

Social workers contracted through Vanguard will assist with assessment and foster care cases, caseloads, client well-being, parent referrals, home visits, initiating cases, court summaries, on-call duties and take on other responsibilities associated with the Children’s Services Division.

The social workers will be handling about a dozen cases each as well as assisting with other support for social workers.

This request is to contract with Vanguard Professional Staffing through June 30, of next year for eight social workers to cover vacancies within the child welfare division.

These positions are meant to help Guilford DSS meet, “State and statutory mandates for the protection and well-being of children.”