The Pulse

Legislators advance foster care assessment bill

By: - May 16, 2023 4:37 pm

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation examines several aspects of the foster care system in North Carolina. Photo: Istock/Getty Images

Members of the House Health committee advanced a bill Tuesday that attempts to help children in North Carolina’s foster care system, and those at risk of entering it.

“We have to do better than this,” said Rep. Kristin Baker (R-Cabarrus), one of the primary sponsors of House Bill 860.

Baker said her bill is focused on “intervention and prevention;” that is, intervening to help kids already in the foster system, and preventing those at risk of entering it. The proposal would do that by directing the Department of Health and Human Services to create, and establish requirements for, a “trauma-informed standardized assessment” for children in foster care.

“It’s meeting the child where they are, understanding how trauma has informed their current responses, and then utilizing that to go forward with them,” said Baker, who is also an M.D.

The assessment would be implemented statewide. It would be used in both foster care settings and before children enter the system. Children between ages 4 and 17 would need to be assessed within 10 days of being referred; individuals between ages 18 and 21 could be assessed, as well.

Each child on a Medicaid children and families specialty plan would also be assessed, per the bill.

The proposal also would direct the Division of Health Benefits to implement “in-lieu-of” services under the Medicaid state plan to address gaps in care of children receiving foster care services. That plan would have to identify best practices that support children in foster care being reunited with their family in a timely manner, and identifying short-term residential treatment options that serve children with serious needs that divert them from higher level placement options.

“We need to decrease the need for foster care by identifying upstream measures to prevent movement into foster care,” Baker said. “And then we need to increase our resources around the foster care services that we have so that they are effective and they move toward reunification, keeping the children with their families when at all possible.”
The bill would appropriate $750,000 in non-recurring funds for each year of the 2023-2025 fiscal year to fund the assessment, and $20 million in recurring money to fund the “in-lieu-of plan,” a match for federal dollars.
Baker said the money was already in the Senate budget unveiled Monday.
The bill is now in the Appropriations Committee.

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Kelan Lyons
Kelan Lyons

Investigative Reporter Kelan Lyons writes about criminal and civil justice, including high-profile litigation, prison and jail conditions, housing, and the challenges people face when they leave prison.