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DSS receives best practice award for trauma-informed child welfare

Posted 9/23/19

The Wilson County Department of Social Services recently received a best practice award from the North Carolina Association of County Directors of Social Services at the 2019 Social Services …

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DSS receives best practice award for trauma-informed child welfare

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The Wilson County Department of Social Services recently received a best practice award from the North Carolina Association of County Directors of Social Services at the 2019 Social Services Institute in Hickory.

The association chose the agency’s trauma-informed child welfare practice among the 16 nominations in the Innovations for Services to Customers category.

“We are so pleased to receive this recognition,” said Wilson County DSS Director Glenn Osborne. “It means so much that our peers recognize the work we do and the difference it is making for our county.”

Wilson County uses the Signs of Safety practice model while focusing on developing a trauma-informed system. That practice model affords the staff the opportunity to create effective, family-driven plans for keeping children safe. With this practice model, staff do not spend time addressing “what ifs” and are clear about the distinction between risk and safety.

The agency redesigned its child welfare system to respond to the needs of the community by creating access to trauma- and evidence-informed practices and services. The development of a trauma-informed child welfare system has allowed for a significant decrease in the number of children entering foster care, leading to direct cost savings and allowing the agency to serve children and families in an innovative manner. Wilson County is one of very few counties across North Carolina to include a team of in-house clinicians to evaluate, assess and treat parents and children from within the child welfare program.

“In N.C., foster care numbers are up by 25% over the last five years,” Osborne said. “During that same time period, our foster care numbers in Wilson County have dropped by 45%.”

Osborne said they attribute that to their trauma-informed, Signs of Safety child welfare approach.

“We began this work in 2010, in response to our participation in a breakthrough series collaborative focused on placement stability,” he said. “We continue to build on our practice each year and have accomplished our goals of reducing the number of children entering care, providing immediate access to mental health assessment and treatment, as well as supporting the evolving practice skills of our social workers.”

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