NC Senator Tamara Barringer (R-17) has filed a bill, proposing an overhaul of the state’s child welfare programs.
The bill, Senate Bill 594, was filed April 4 by the Wake County Republican Senator, and plans to re-organize the county-based welfare system to a larger, regional system. This would enable more oversight and create an easier target for the intensive review allocated by the bill to reform the entire program.
“Children deserve a family, not a system,” Barringer said during a press conference.
The bill has sponsors from both parties, including Republican Senators Kathy Harrington and Tommy Tucker, Democratic Senator Dan Blue, and Democratic Whip Terry Van Duyn. Barringer hopes the bi-partisan support will allow the bill, currently under committee, to be fast-tracked.
According to a federal review, the NC child welfare system has failed to meet any of its 16 goals, including child safety. Further, it lacked an independent review, or a review by the State Auditor’s office to find a solution to these failures.
“How many times do we have be told we are failing before we do something?” Barringer said. “How many more times will children disappear and us not know what’s going on? How many more times are we going to accept the fact that children actually die in this state – die – because they are not properly placed; they’re not properly supervised and we’re failing to give them the services that they need?”
Along with mandating an independent review board to determine problems within the system and how to address them, the bill will give greater authority to the State to enforce performance standards. The bill will also create a council to act as a liaison across government agencies in the state on matters of child welfare.
These sweeping changes would impact Greensboro, where almost a quarter of the city’s population lives below the poverty line, and an eighth of the total population consists of impoverished children.
This comes after a previous attempt to reform the welfare systems of North Carolina in 2015. Senate Bill 594, sponsored by Senators Don Davis (D-5) and Louis Pate (D-7), sought to reform food accessibility for impoverished areas in North Carolina.
The bill focuses on what are known as ‘food deserts’: areas without easy access to grocery stores with fresh and healthy food, leading to a reliance on innutritious and preservative laced food obtained from convenience stores.
While a two-mile detour to the grocery store might not seem much of a trek, for families in these areas, most without cars or money for frequent public transportation, a two-mile walk, especially in the scorching summer, can quickly become an ordeal.
The bill has stagnated in committees since its introduction, leaving the problem unsolved and unaddressed.
Senate Bill 594, if passed, would allow many Greensboro children to receive aid and would possibly open the door to further reforms to benefit the people of Greensboro and the state of North Carolina.