2016 BEST PRACTICES WINNERS

Innovations in Services to Customers
Innovations in Services to Customers recognizes the county program or policy change that provides a new or unique service to customers.
  • Union Co. DSS  –  Emergency Shelter Care Program

The Shelter Care Program is operated by Union County Division of Social Services. It’s a 24 hr facility that provides crisis stabilization to the DSS and DJJ populations. The Shelter Care Program serves as a cost effective alternative to detention and out of county placements. This program provides much needed stability to children who are experiencing a traumatic disruption in their home environment. The Shelter Care Program is now an evidenced based, 90 day structured program that allows children and families to address critical issues. A new program handbook and a program curriculum were created and are now distributed to all new residents.  After the first year of implementation, they measured that 93% of the new residents had untreated mental health issues upon admission to the Shelter Care Program. In addition, 93% of those residents had mental health issues so significant, that it warranted medication management. With the proper authorization and consent, 100% of residents were assessed and treated for mental health, substance abuse, and medication management services.

  • Catawba Co. DSS  – Christmas Card

Child Support is a complex program and requires one to think outside the box. Agents have a very hard time in locating non custodial parents at times, especially when they do not want to be found. A lot of times the agent knows where the non custodial parent is, but cannot get that person served b/c they are hiding out. Each case that had an outstanding OFA out for a year or longer was mailed a Christmas Card to the last known address. Inside that card was a Settlement Letter.

Empowering Clients to Self-Sufficiency
Empowering Clients to Self-Sufficiency recognizes the county program or policy change that facilitates clients’ journey toward living independently.
  • Gaston Co. HHS – Job Fairs

Having the right number of employees with the right skills at the right time requires careful workforce planning. The County’s Workforce Development Board (WDB) historically sponsored 2 job fairs per year at a local church. Close monitoring of the local workforce’s supply and demand highlighted the need to modify this job fair structure. In the past 2 years, the County’s unemployment rate has steadily declined, while the number of jobs has increased and employers are continuously recruiting. Having more individuals seeking jobs than jobs available applies pressure to employers to find the most qualified employees.

-Recognizing the changing needs, DHHS-Social Services leveraged its partnerships with the WIOA program and the WDB (including the NC Works Career Center, Chamber of Commerce, the local community college, Vocational Rehabilitation, Economic Development Center, and Veterans Services) to design a new Job Fair model. Social Services’ main facility is located on the bus route and houses a large auditorium, making it an ideal location for monthly Job Fairs that have provided employers the ability to hire and job seekers the ability to interview on the same day every month since their inception in June 2015.

-DHHS-Social Services hosts the monthly Job Fairs with a very low budget; refreshments represent the only additional expense for the agency.

  • Alamance Co. DSS – ABAWD Blitz

Empowering clients has always been the commitment of Alamance County DSS. The agency increased their activity when the new ABAWD policy became effective. They created a forum where clients could not only be educated on the new policy changes and their exemptions, but also provide resources that could assist with employment…ABAWD BLITZ was born.  The ABAWD BLITZ was a series of meetings held twice a day for nine days during the months of January, February and March. During these meetings, which were conducted by Lead and triage workers, clients were shown a PowerPoint presentation outlining the policy changes and exemptions. Clients were given resource information that could assist with training and employment opportunities. During these months, they also took time to provide education to some of their community partners with whom they share clients. Over 900 ABAWDs were contacted and over 300 were assisted, either during the meetings or after care.

 

Profiles in Community Collaboration
Profiles in Community Collaboration recognizes the county program or policy change that resulted in forging relationships between community partners.
  • Edgecombe Co. DSS – Fatherhood Initiative Program

According to the North Carolina Child Support Office statistics for March 2015 through March 2016, Edgecombe County Department of Social Services has been listed as one of the top five (5) counties to increase their caseload under orders; as well as one of the top five counties to increase in child support collections at a rate of 7.5%. This is the result of a Fatherhood Initiative Program called “Show Me the Way” that began on August 1, 2015.  Key staff met with Chief District Judge William Farris, the DSS Attorney and Child Support staff to discuss a more comprehensive model for the Edgecombe County DSS Child Support Program. A new model would allow non custodial fathers to get the necessary training and/or certification so that they can obtain and keep a job. This model includes fathers who have criminal records. When the program began in August 2015; 13 fathers enrolled and 8 became employed. In just 11 months after program implementation 176 fathers have enrolled in the Fatherhood Initiative and 119 are actively employed. The employment of these fathers has contributed to an increase in child support collections. Almost 68% of the enrollment in the Fatherhood Initiative Program is now employed in just 11 months. At this rate, the office is expected to exceed its year one goal of enrolling 200 men.

  • New Hanover Co. DSS – Child Fatality Protocol

The Community Child Protection Team recognized a lack of effective communication and collaboration among community agencies regarding child fatalities. Due to the numerous recommendations of State fatality reviews; the New Hanover Co. DSS developed Child Fatality Protocol.  Following several years of discussion, among law enforcement, first responders, New Hanover Regional Medical Center, New Hanover County Medical Examiner, the District Attorney, and the New Hanover County Department of Social Services in 2011 they developed a written fatality protocol with the goal to not only bring justice to those responsible; but to bring protection to those whose lives could be in danger. Upon implementation of the protocol, all involved agencies were provided training on how to best perform their specific roles. This training was provided by N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner initially with annual training provided by The District Attorney and the Department of Social Services. Additionally, as a result of this collaboration, each individual agency developed an operational protocol detailing their specific role and responsibilities. (The New Hanover County DSS protocol is attached). The only cost of the project was the time investment from their Assistant Director of Social Work Services who jointly wrote the actual protocol with the District Attorney. The protocol has enhanced the successful criminal prosecution of fatalities involving abuse and neglect. Additionally, it has assisted DSS in providing effective intervention with families to ensure safety of surviving children and has been instrumental in strengthening their community partnerships.

 

 Cost Savings Measures and/or Improvements in Efficiency
Cost Savings Measures and/or Improvements in Efficiency recognizes the county program or policy change that resulted in a more economical method of delivering services to clients.
  • Cleveland Co. DSS – Second Party Data Collection Tool

Cleveland Co. DSS developed a Second Party Data Collection Tool capturing accuracy, timeliness and procedural errors in multiple economic service programs. It is used in their efforts to measure performance of individual employees, detect training needs, and improve timeliness and accuracy rates both for individuals and as a department. Employees determine eligibility in multiple programs, making it important to assess accuracy for specific program actions and accuracy when a family event impacted multiple programs. It was not only important to assess department and individual worker performance but provide results to monitors and auditors as well. The Program Administrator now has monthly data to evaluate training needs and the ability to pin point where the agency is in meeting Federal Regulations in administering the FNS and MA programs.  The supervisor’s reception and feedback of this project has added an update for the project to capture a 14/30 day check section allowing supervisors to aggressively check pending application status’ focused on accuracy of procedural and timeliness requirements.

  • New Hanover Co. DSS – Criminal History Record Information – direct terminal access

Under the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act of 2006, states are granted access to nationwide Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) providing accurate, up-to-date data on individuals throughout the US and in some cases includes pending warrants. In January of 2015, after several months of consultation with DHHS and the SBI, the New Hanover Co DSS was the first, and only, county DSS to receive authorization to be a “direct terminal access” agency for the completion of CHRI. Due to the anticipated large volume of checks that would be needed, a decision was made to utilize DSS staff to provide a more timely and efficient process. Consequently, several DSS staff completed the required SBI training; obtaining the direct computer “terminal” access to the CHRI checks. In September of 2015 the agency began completing the CHRI checks on all adults involved with an open Child Protective Services investigation/assessment. The time for their agency’s pre-existing clerical staff has been the program’s only expense.

In the initial ten months of CHRI access (September 2015 thru June 2016) they averaged 368 CHRI checks per month. Through utilization of the CHRI, parents and caretakers with criminal charges in other states ranging from murder to child molestation were discovered. The CHRI information has been integrated into the decision making process around maintaining children in the care of their parents/caretakers; approval of safety resource placements; and the pursuit of the custody of children.

 

Advancements in Staff and Leadership Development
Advancement in Staff and Leadership Development recognizes the county program or policy change that resulted in greater retention of supervisory-level employees.
  • Cleveland Co. DSS – Staff Support and Development Team

The Cleveland Co. Staff Support and Development (SSD) team is made up of two supervisors and eight lead support staff. The mission of the SSD Team is: “To prepare new employees for a successful transition into a Human Services career; to provide continuing education and remedial training to all staff; to provide technical support; and to assist Supervisors and Program Administrator in performance measurement and quality analysis. These areas of focus are intended to unite all units and teams in Cleveland County’s move towards a high quality Economic Service program with an emphasis on client advocacy.”

  • Gaston Co. HHS – Culture Survey/ Culture Improvement Committee

In January 2014, DHHS- Social Services conducted its first Culture Survey. The 21-question survey featured check-off responses and space for employees to write views, opinions, and suggestions. This survey was managed by a committee of 17 Social Services managers and line staff serving on the Customer Satisfaction and Culture Survey Committee. The resulting Recommendations Report identified strategies to address 32 issues that primarily focus on improving communications, improving training, and enforcing policies and procedures.  In January 2016, DHHS-Social Services conducted a second Culture Survey that would help gauge progress and align the group’s ongoing work with the staff’s current needs.  Fifty-five percent of Social Services employees participated in the 2016 Culture Survey, which showed significant increases in both trust and communication. For example, trust in the division director, administrators, director, and supervisors increased 32%, 22%, 18%, and 10% respectively. Likewise, clear communication from the division director, coordinator, administrator, and supervisors increased 44%, 30%, 26%, and 16%, respectively. Other areas of strength identified in the survey include staff’s personal commitment to quality work, teamwork, wellness initiatives, and satisfaction with management. Perhaps most important are the areas identified as needing more attention: Flexibility; workload; work-life balance; training; policies/expectations; and stress management resources. Moving forward, the Committee will continue its work of identifying, vetting, and working with management to implement workplace strategies that will promote a culture of trust.