Supporting local organizations’ foster care initiatives in North Carolina

Over 391,000 children and youth are currently in foster care in the U.S. and approximately 80% have significant mental health challenges.1 These challenges are attributed to the complex trauma experienced by those in foster care. Those who previously lived in foster care experience post-traumatic stress disorder at a rate five times higher than the general adult population.

In addition to difficulties in foster care, placement instability can have serious negative effects as well. According to the Children’s Bureau, the longer children stay in foster care, the more placements they experience.2 Multiple foster placements have been found to lead to delayed placement permanency, academic difficulties and challenges developing meaningful attachments.3 Youth who age out of foster care without experiencing permanence are more likely to experience homelessness, joblessness, early parenthood and substance use.4

By 2021, 54% of foster kids in North Carolina had been placed in four or more homes.Children and youth transitioning to a new placement in North Carolina are experiencing wait times as long as a few weeks, spending nights sleeping in county offices.6 Although there are currently more than 10,000 children in the North Carolina foster system, approximately 5,400 homes are licensed as foster homes. The 23% decrease in available foster homes from 2021 to 2022 was initiated by challenges caused by COVID-19. Additional factors impacting the decrease in foster homes include difficulty obtaining quality mental health services (as youth mental health challenges have increased) as well as length of time for child welfare cases to be concluded.

Of the foster children in North Carolina aged 14 to 21, only 6% received transitional services in 2021 such as vocational training and housing assistance.5 For older youth in the system, 43% aged out without experiencing permanency.

To help address these challenges, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of North Carolina has joined efforts with six local organizations to increase access to specialized treatment programs and transitional services for children and youth in foster care. UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of North Carolina is investing $200,000 in the following organizations:

  • Black Mountain Home for Children, Youth & Families
    • This Presbyterian organization provides foster care as well as transitional and independent living services to children in Western North Carolina.7
  • The Hope Center at Pullen
    • The Hope Center is a Baptist organization that offers trauma-informed transitional services including assistance with housing, college-readiness and internships. These services are available to teenagers living in Wake County and former foster youth up to age 24.8
  • Center for Child & Family Health (CCFH)
    • CCFH was founded in collaboration with Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Its mission is to practice and teach the highest standards of care in treating and preventing childhood trauma through integration of community-based practice and academic research.9
  • Creating a Family
    • This non-profit organization aims to strengthen foster, adoptive and kinship families and the professionals who support them by developing trauma-informed resources, community support, and training.10
  • Strong Able Youth Speaking Out (SaySO)
    • SaySo is a youth-driven advocacy organization for youth aged 14-24 who have been in foster care, group homes, mental health placement or the juvenile justice system. The organization aims to improve the substitute care system by educating the community, speaking out about needed changes and providing youth support.11
  • Youth Villages
    • This organization helps children and families through foster care, adoption and specialized crisis services.12

Each of these organizations play a role in providing resources to help children overcome adversity and supporting the transition to independent adulthood. This grant is part of UnitedHealthcare’s ongoing commitment to build healthier communities in North Carolina. Additional support was offered by the United Health Foundation in the form of a $3.2 million investment in East Carolina University’s efforts to expand youth access to mental health care services over the next three years.

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of North Carolina’s Chief Executive Officer, Anita Bachmann, commented, “We are honored to collaborate with organizations focused on creating lasting change to improve the health and well-being of children in foster care and young adults.”

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