ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. - There are concerns about new benchmarks that affect every child in foster care.
The state wants to ensure that more children are moved into permanent homes within 12 months of entering the system.
Eyewitness News reporter Tina Terry learned that some advocates worry it is unrealistic and could lead to problems in the long run.
They said the state Department of Social Services changes outlined in a document could backfire and put children in danger.
Dora Mbuwayesango, of Family Crisis Council of Rowan County, is an advocate for children who sometimes enter foster care.
"When you focus on numbers and not the situation you're going to fail,” Mbuwayesango said.
Donna Fayco, director of the Rowan DSS, said she has serious concerns about some of the new benchmarks.
One of the state requirements is that 41 percent of children who enter foster care must be discharged to a permanent home within 12 months of entering the system.
In addition, no more than 8.3 percent of those sent to permanent homes can reenter foster care within 12 months of their discharge.
“Those performance standards are based on many factors that are beyond the control of the county,” Fayco said.
She told county commissioners that completing an adoption in one year is almost unheard of.
Fayco also said some birth parents are battling addiction issues.
"One year is not a realistic time frame for full recovery,” Fayco said.
"I don't think that's fair to our citizens and I certainly don't think that's fair to the children,” Rowan County Commissioner Craig Pierce said.
Failing the requirements could lead to a loss of state and federal funding and a takeover by the state Department of Health and Human Services
A lawmaker who supports the changes said they're in line with federal guidelines.
Sen. Tamara Barringer, R-Wake, said it is unacceptable for agencies to say they can't fulfill the requirements.
She also added half of the children in the system never get a permanent home and that has to change.
“We face a foster care crisis in North Carolina. The 2015 report North Carolina failed is the Child and Family Service Report. North Carolina failed all 14 criteria, including safety. Public Consulting Group in 2016 that found systematic problems in the child welfare system and a 2017 report from the N.C. State Auditor that found most of the counties in the audit did not consistently meet standards for timeliness or accuracy in processing Medicaid claims. Our children and families deserve better. Children deserve a family, not a system.”
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