New Hanover Child Advocates Grant
City of Wilmington, North Carolina
Prepared by: Caroline Logan, Sarah Ashley Barnett, Danielle Nichols, and
Dr. Jeffrey Brudney
University of North Carolina Wilmington
601 S. College Road
RE: Proposal for New Hanover Child Advocates
Dear Dr. Brudney,
New Hanover Child Advocates (NHCA) is enthused to present this proposal for your
review. We look forward to working with you in order fill the void in New Hanover for
children in the court system without a voice, as we hope to serve as a mediator between
the legal guardian(s) and child services. Although New Hanover County has a number of
government funded social programs to aid abused and neglected children, these programs
do not sufficiently advocate for each individual child within an overburdened legal
system. The preexisting social programs train employees and volunteers to make
decisions based on what is in the best interest of the organization. While these choices
may be intended to positively impact New Hanover County as a whole, an oversight of
what is in the best interest of the child in question remains a possibility. The main
objective of NHCA is to advocate for children in court, ensuring that a potential
inappropriate out-of-home arrangement is avoided.
NHCA will accomplish its goals by recruiting and properly training community
volunteers to serve as Guardian Ad Litems who will speak on behalf of the child in court.
In expressing their unbiased opinion, Guardian Ad Litems will advocate for what they
feel is in the best interest of the child. This evaluation presented to the judge, will be
based on the evidence of monthly home visits wherein the volunteer will interact with the
child as well as their parent or guardian. NHCA will strive to take on as many cases as
possible however the most severe cases of abuse and neglect among young children will
Similar programs in other areas have been successful and we believe that NHCA will be
no different. Our proposal requests $225,000 in funding in order to hire the appropriate
staff and obtain the necessary resources to make our organization effective.
We appreciate your interest in advocating for the abused and neglected children of New
Hanover County. Please contact me by phone at (614) 580-9090 if you require any
further information or have questions concerning this proposal.
New Hanover Child Advocates
Each day, innocent children within New Hanover County are removed from their homes
as their parents fail to care and provide for their needs. Abused and neglected children are
placed under the custody of the courts, however, they remain at great risk; research shows
that interrupting the everyday lives of children can have a devastating emotional effect.
Studies reveal that 40% of children in foster care drop out of high school and that abused
children are more likely to get arrested than other children.
New Hanover Child Advocates will seek to fill the void in New Hanover for children in
the system without a voice, expressing and advocating for their best interests in court. In
this way, children who are in the court system due to an insufficient home environment
will be assigned a Guardian Ad Litem. Guardians will be recruited as community
volunteers and properly trained to speak on behalf of the child in court, expressing what
they feel is the best placement option given the evidence of their home visits. The
Guardian’s will carry out home visits once a month for their assigned case. The Guardian
Ad Litem will, through their service, ensure that the child does not get lost in the
overburdened legal and social service system or be put into an inappropriate out-of-home
New Hanover Child Advocates will strive to take on as many cases as possible, however,
the most severe cases of abuse and neglect among young children will take priority. The
population in which NHCA will seek to benefit includes children within New Hanover
County who are in the system because there has been reported signs of abuse, neglect and
Although NHCA is a start up non-profit organization, we are confident in our ability to
meet the needs of abused and neglected children in New Hanover. By hiring qualified
and enthusiastic staff members, raising community awareness, and training Guardian Ad
Litems properly, our organization will succeed in identifying the needs of the child and
working to get those needs met in the court. As our Guardian Ad Litems work together
with our permanent staff, our organization will not only grow, but also become
increasingly more efficient as we continue to foster and develop relationships with
volunteers and donors.
Statement of Need
Although New Hanover County has a number of government funded social programs to
aid abused and neglected children, these programs do not sufficiently advocate for each
individual child within the overburdened legal system. The preexisting social programs
train workers and volunteers to make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the
organization. While these choices may be intended to positively impact New Hanover
County as a whole, the interests of the child may be overlooked. Children’s Protective
Services, for example, receives and investigates reports of abuse, neglect, or dependency
of children in order to determine whether they should be removed from home based on a
number of conditions. Once the investigation is complete and a decision to remove is
made, the child becomes an integrated part of the system. New Hanover Child Advocates
will assume responsibility for these abused and neglected children and ensure they to not
get lost in the caseload of the New Hanover County court system. A trained volunteer
serving as Guardian Ad Litem will consider each child’s case carefully and serve as a
constant presence throughout the legal process. In doing so, NHCA will strive to alleviate
the county’s problem, reducing the amount of time abused and neglected children spend
in long-term foster care. Furthermore, NHCA will work to reduce the likelihood of a
child reentering care.
According to the North Carolina Division of Health and Human Services, between 2008
and 2009, there were a total of 4,702 children under the age of eighteen that were
removed from the custody of their parent or guardian for a median total of approximately
365 days (NCDHHS). Star News reported in January of 2012 that the total number of
child abuse or neglect reports for New Hanover County has increased by 50% when
compared to the previous year (Star News). As these children enter the court system, they
are reliant on Division of Social Services (DSS) to provide the necessary support to
navigate local bureaucracy. Due to budget cuts, understaffing and an overload of cases, it
is difficult for DSS to provide optimal attention for each individual. This provides a
direct need for these children to be provided with an advocate – an individual that can
provide the necessary support to supplement DSS and help ensure the safety of the child.
Although Child Protective Services is being offered in all 100 counties of North Carolina,
there is not always enough staffing provided to be able to give each case the attention that
it needs and deserves. Caseloads in the Family Reunification Services programs can
range from 4 – 10 families per worker (DHHS). This can lead to small but potentially
detrimental details being overlooked. In addition to caseloads, each worker has to
maintain up to date documentation on each family. By allowing another program to come
into the Child Protection Services, the needs of the child will be held as the highest
priority. This heightened awareness of the child’s situation through NHCA, will work to
ensure that their placement is in a safe and healthy environment.
NHCA will be implemented as the link between the community volunteers and the
children who need their help. By independently monitoring a child’s situation, identifying
community resources, and participating in the court hearings, Guardian Ad Litems will be
responsible for seeing a case through from start to finish-even though it may take years to
NHCA volunteers must be 21 years of age and make a two-year commitment to the
NHCA program. It will be requirement to complete a 40-hour training program prior to
being assigned a case. Training will include information regarding correct safety
procedures, working with the children, and appropriately dealing with the children’s
supervisor. Volunteers must successfully pass a screening process and background check.
Guardians will receive the support of NHCA staff as they will be in correspondence with
the staff attorney, submit monthly reports, contact logs, and meet in person prior to the
court case date. All volunteers are expected to attend all pertinent hearings, reviews, or
meetings for each of their cases.
The main goal of NHCA is to give the children in the court the attention and support
needed in order to confirm a safe home environment. Currently, caseloads in the Family
Reunification Services programs can range from 4-10 families per worker (DHHS). In
the creation of NHCA, we hope to reduce the cases per worker and allow for the best
possible outcome for the child.
It is our hope that a child assigned to a NHCA Guardian ad Litem will be more likely to
find a safe permanent home, become a candidate for adoption, and will be less likely to
re-enter foster care. Children under the watch of a Guardian Ad Litem will have the
opportunity to express their wishes to the volunteer pertaining to their placement. In this
way, the Guardian Ad Litem will be able to incorporate what they believe the child
wants. This means of communication will give the judge a sense of where the child feels
comfortable, avoiding the inclusion of exterior motives from child services and the biased
opinions of the birth parents.
1. Have at least 75% percent of cases placed into permanent homes.
2. Have less than 15% of cases filed, return into foster care.
3. Increase the number of cases that NHCA is involved with by 20%.
4. By the end of year 1, be able to hire a full-time case-manager.
5. Host a charity auction and dinner with a goal of raising $20,000.00.
6. Plan and execute at least 2 other fundraising events within the first year.
7. Increase number of volunteers by 25% by the end of year 1.
In order to make sure that NHCA is on track in completing our first year goals, measures
will be taken throughout the year to monitor the progression of the organization. There
will be weekly meetings between the Director of Volunteers, attorney on staff, and the
volunteers. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and provided the resources
needed. In addition to the weekly meetings, the volunteers will have to complete monthly
case reports, turned into the on staff attorney. This will help to supervise the children’s
whereabouts, view their progression thus far, and reveal the next steps necessary.
Problems to be addressed:
There is inadequate representation of abused and neglected children in the present New
Hanover County courtroom setting. The Department of Social Services serves the
purpose of evaluating families based on reported child abuse and neglect. In the event
DSS determines birth parents are unfit to care for their child, the child then enters the
court system and is placed out of the home. Once the case is opened, a judge makes the
final ruling concerning termination of parental rights after due process.
New Hanover County Department of Social Services assumes the responsibility of
working with birth parents and other extended relatives to address safety issues in an
effort to return the child home. Although DSS makes an effort to locate any existing
family members who are able and willing to care for the child, only about 23% of
children in New Hanover County who are in out of home placement reside with relatives.
The remaining 77% are placed in foster care. The DSS is required to make a
recommendation about a child's long term plan within one year of the child entering
foster care; however, the evaluation is based on what the department learns from working
with the birth parents, rather than from observing the children in foster care. At present,
no organization exists to monitor the best interest of the abused or neglected child.
Overburdened Legal System
Judges make the final determination concerning the fate of abused and neglected
children. Sufficient and detailed case information is needed for judges to make welladvised decisions. New Hanover County Department of Social Services is the court's
only resource of information relating to the child's placement; however, because the DSS
is already overburdened with the responsibility of working with birth parents as well as a
heavy caseload, they are unable to provide adequate insight pertaining to the best interest
of the child. For this reason, courtroom officials often produce ill-advised rulings that
serve the interests of the court or other sources of advisement, causing children to
become lost in the legal process.
Overburdened Social Service System
New Hanover County Department of Social Services' first responsibility is to attempt to
safely reunite children with parents. When children cannot return to their parents because
of on-going safety issues and there are no other appropriate extended family members to
care for the child, the child is placed in the first available foster care residence. New
Hanover County is able to accommodate about 38% of children in out of home
placements, with 39% residing outside of New Hanover County. Placing children in
unfamiliar environments after they have already experienced abuse or neglect may
damage their overall development, create distrust in the social service system, and impair
their ability to form vital attachments.
Provide consistency in the lives of children needing adult presence
New Hanover Court Advocates will closely follow each case until it is closed and the
child is placed in a safe and permanent home. Volunteers will be trained to deal with
courtroom procedures, safety measures for home visits, and appropriate means of
communication with children. Abused and neglected children entering foster care are
vulnerable due to the lack of a consistent and responsible adult presence. Children who
receive NHCA Guardian Ad Litems are expected to spend substantially less time in longterm foster care as they are evaluated in a more detailed manner. NHCA, through careful
observation, will prevent children from becoming lost in the legal and social service
systems by providing dedicated volunteers with a desire to serve the child’s best interests.
Speak up for the best interest of abused and neglected children in the courtroom setting
New Hanover Court Advocates will spend a significant amount of time getting to know
each child. Monthly home-visits and follow-ups will allow Guardian Ad Litems to make
informed recommendations to courtroom officials. The volunteers' court reports will
improve the representation of abused or neglected children by serving as an unbiased and
reliable source of information. The NHCA will reduce the burden placed on New
Hanover County judges by providing detailed information of each case. Volunteers will
also reduce the strain on lawyers who will be working in conjunction with the Guardian
At Litem; specific duties include, but are not limited to, everything from in-home visits to
filing written reports.
Reduce the amount of time spent in long-term foster care and the likelihood of reentering
Each NHCA volunteer will collaborate with DSS representatives, foster parents, and
other government organizations in order to ensure the child is receiving all opportunities
available. Establishing a well-working relationship and opening the lines of
communication between state and local members will prompt them to be more attentive
to the needs of abused and neglected children. NHCA will emphasize the importance of
finding a safe and permanent home for each child by raising community awareness.
Trained volunteers will provide a voice for abused and neglected children in New
Hanover County social service system by allocating resources that favor early adoption
and plan for permanency.
NHCA will work to evaluate its progress after one year. In doing so, the staff will
examine the number of cases taken on by community volunteers as well as the outcome
of these cases. NHCA will also conduct a comprehensive review of all budgetary aspects
in order to establish where funding can be more efficiently allocated, where there can be
cutbacks, and how benchmarks may be established in the future to ensure progress and
NHCA will allocate $15,000.00 in funds to secure a one-year lease for a Class C
commercial real estate space within walking distance to the New Hanover County Clerk
of Court. The terms of the lease will include property insurance on the contents inside the
building such as furniture and electronics.
The space will be approximately 2,000 square feet and include four private offices to
accommodate the Executive Director, Director of Volunteers, Fund-raiser/Grantor and
Attorney on Staff. The space will include a large conference room that will be used to
conduct meetings with the Board of Directors and a general common area that will be
used to train the Guardian Ad Litems. The administrative support staff will have their
own space in the front lobby to greet consumers and other visitors.
The individuals appointed to the Board of Directors will be required to provide necessary
funds for the salaries of the Executive Director and Attorney on Staff. The Board of
Directors, at their own discretion, will have the ability to dismiss, appoint and set the
salaries for both positions as they see fit. NHCA recommends – based on comparable
salaries – that the Executive Director is paid the sum of $64,500.00 and the Attorney on
Staff be paid the sum of $62,500.00.
NHCA will allocate funds for three full-time employees: Director of Volunteers, Fundraiser/Grantor and Administrative Support. The Director of Volunteers will be paid the
sum of $52,000.00; Fund-raiser/Grantor will be paid the sum of $40,000.00; and the
Administrative Support will be paid the sum of $38,000.00.
All five full-time employees (Executive Director, Attorney on Staff, Director of
Volunteers, Fund-raiser/Grantor and Administrative Support) of NHCA will receive
PPO Health Insurance benefits accounting for $16,000.00 per employee, equaling a total
Paid by Board of Directors
Attorney on Staff
Paid by Board of Directors
Director of Volunteers
*Position is paid by Board of Directors and not included in the total
NHCA will allocate $37,685.00 in funds for furniture, electronics, equipment, supplies
and utilities. These necessities have been itemized by quantity and price.
Two members of the Board of Directors have co-signed with NHCA to secure a 5-year
installment loan from Bank of America in the amount of $25,000.00 with an interest rate
of 5.25%. NHCA will allocate $474.65 per month to apply to the balance, equaling
$5,696.80 per year.
Dry Erase Board
Bank of America
The provided budget accounts for the sum total of $268,382.80 in funds allocated to
NHCA. The difference of $6,617.20 will be held as reserve cash in an interest-earning
checking account that will be used for operational costs associated with utility bills, loan
payments, office supplies and any other necessary items that NHCA may need. The
Executive Director and Administrative Support staff will be the only individuals that have
access to these funds.
The Board of Directors will coordinate a charity auction and dinner within the first year
of operation with a goal of raising $20,000.00. These funds will be applied to the
purchase of a passenger van used for transport of Guardian Ad Litems to home visits.
DHHS - http://info.dhhs.state.nc.us/olm/manuals/dss/csm-92/man/FR-02.htm