Giving Families a Voice in North
Carolina’s Child Welfare System, May 31, 2017 | Matt Shipman
Children are among the most vulnerable members of society, and NC
State University’s Kara Allen-Eckard is
helping to lead an effort to better serve at-risk children and their families
in North Carolina.
To address these shortcomings, North Carolina developed a program improvement plan,
which was issued in January 2017. As part of its plan, the state has committed
to “develop and implement a state level child welfare family leadership model.”
And this is where Allen-Eckard comes in.
Allen-Eckard is a community developer for NC State’s Center for
Family and Community Engagement, with years of experience working with families
and social services providers to meet the needs of children and their families.
Earlier this year – with financial support from North
Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Social Services
(DSS) – Allen-Eckard was chosen to co-chair a state working group with
representatives from DSS, family advocacy groups, nonprofit organizations,
county social services departments and family members who have experience
working with the child welfare system.
“We are trying to figure out exactly what a ‘state level child
welfare family leadership model’ actually means,” Allen-Eckard says.
“Broadly speaking, our goal is to establish an advisory council
that will give the families we serve a voice, so that they can provide feedback
to the state child welfare system charged with ensuring child safety,
well-being and permanency for children in North Carolina,” Allen-Eckard says.
“Hopefully, that feedback will improve outcomes for children and families.”
Since January, Allen-Eckard has been working with state and
national leaders in family advocacy and caregiver education to determine
strategies to develop and sustain a North Carolina State Child Welfare Family
Advisory Council. This work has included outreach and support for family and
youth membership on the state planning workgroup. And while the work is in its
early stages, the working group plans to have an advisory council in place by
“To an outside
observer, this may come across as more bureaucracy, but it’s not,” Allen-Eckard
says. “This is a concerted effort to find ways to take better care of North
Carolina’s children by listening to these families. Everyone at the table knows
this is a move in the right direction. We just need to find the right way to