The North Carolina General Assembly in July 2001 mandated that the state Division of Social Services develop and pilot a county-level differential response system that used a family assessment track for selected reports of child maltreatment in addition to the traditional investigative process. North Carolina developed seven strategies as part of the larger Multiple Response System (MRS) reform, including the family assessment track, collaboration between Work-First and CPS, strengths-based structured intake process, the re-design of in-home services, implementation of Child and Family Team (CFT) meetings, facilitation of shared parenting in placement cases, and improved coordination with law enforcement.
In 2002, the North Carolina Division of Social Services (NCDSS) requested that the Center for Child and Family Policy conduct an evaluation of the new system to determine its effectiveness within the 10 pilot counties as well as 10 additional counties that began MRS implementation in mid-2003. This comprehensive evaluation focused on multiple dimensions of MRS reform:
- Case distribution, choice of two approaches to report child maltreatment,
- Safety, including rates of assessment and repeat assessments,
- Timeliness of response and case decision,
- Frontloading of services,
- Redesign of in-home services,
- Implementation of CFT meetings,
- Collaboration between Child Welfare and Work First,
- Shared parenting activities, and
- Feedback from families.
Multiple reports highlighting the findings of this on-going evaluation are available for review through the links provided below.
The plan during 2009-11 was intended to narrow the scope of the evaluation by focusing on the MRS strategy at the core of family-centered practice — CFT meetings. NCDSS practice guidelines define CFT meetings as a process that brings together family members and their community supports for the purposes of creating, implementing and updating a case plan with the full participation of the child, youth and family. The plan builds on the strengths of the child, youth and family and addresses their needs, desires and dreams. This process is used as the primary vehicle for engaging families and community partners in an effort to build individual family support networks that will exist after Child Protective Services is no longer directly involved.
In order to explore variations in practice and ensure continuous improvement related to this key MRS strategy, CCFP observed up to 100 CFT meetings within six counties across the state in conjunction with case file reviews. This information allowed for analysis of primary areas of interest such as how CFT meetings (that adhere to model fidelity) may affect entry into foster care, duration of 215 (in-home services), and repeat maltreatment. Further, these data supported the work of the in-home services improvement project that is part of the program improvement plan resulting from the Child and Family Service Review.