The General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services heard this week from health experts, advocates, and families on the need to reform the state’s foster care system.


Lisa Cauley, Senior Director of Child, Family and AdultServices, at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)spoke about the urban and rural divide when it comes to resources for families.


In Cauley’s testimony she told the committee about a five-year-old girl from a well-resourced, urban county who entered the foster care system after being left alone by her mother in a hotel room. The grandmother thankfully came forward to take the child but was only successful at doing so because the county had resources to help.


The grandmother had the benefit of support, training, and a skilled social worker. The mother was able to receive substance abuse treatment and now has a relationship with her daughter.


Unfortunately, due to the fractured nature of NorthCarolina’s foster care system, these kinds of resources are often not available to families in poorer, rural counties.


Right now, across the state, care children in the foster care system are managed by entities known as LME-MCO’s. They are local to specific regions.


While locally focused care may seem like a good idea, it presents a major problem because their network of support and providers is also local.


That means children and families in rural areas often can’t get the support and resources available to those in urban areas.


Dave Richard, the Deputy Secretary of Medicaid at DHHS testified about the many challenges regional system causes, especially as it relates to the coordination of care.


“Children are mobile,” Senator Joyce Krawiec pointed out in her questioning. “The fragmented system,” she said, “is a problem.”


DHHS, to their credit, has created a plan that will address the system’s current shortcomings.


Building off the success of Medicaid Managed Care, DHHS wants to establish a statewide, broad network plan that will be value-driven with quality metrics.


The plan, testified Richard, will solve the lack of consistency currently seen from LME-MCO to LME-MCO.


Richard said the system will bring single accountability, with expert care managers and support available to all children, no matter their geographic location.


But as he pointed out, the Department needs legislative approval to move forward with the plan.


Given the failures of the current system, approving the plan should be a no-brainer for the legislature.


Sign-off from the General Assembly will mean better care for children and families, a more efficient use of tax dollars, and will erase theurban-rural divide that right now plagues the system.


At the close of Richard’s testimony, Senator Jim Burgin recalled being told about a foster child who was dropped off at a hospital inhis district and lived there 29 days.


“That’s a lost child” by the system Burgin said.


He’s right.


And the legislature needs to make sure something like that never happens again.

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