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  • Summary date: Apr 17 2023 - View Summary

    Enacts GS 143B-157.1, establishing the office of the Foster Parent Ombudsman (FPO) within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Specifies that the FPO will report directly to the Secretary of DHHS (Secretary). Empowers the FPO to assist foster parents with issues and resolve conflicts related to the licensing of family and therapeutic foster homes, the placement of children in foster care, adoption procedures, and other related matters. Specifies that the FPO will advocate on behalf of foster parents in this State and support their rights to ensure their voices are heard and concerns are addressed. Requires the Secretary to select a person who is qualified with unique experience in foster care State and federal laws to serve as the Ombuds. Requires the FPO to coordinate with certain State and federal agencies. Sets forth seven other specified duties of the FPO, which must be conducted in a neutral manner. Specifies that communications between the FPO and prospective foster parents are considered confidential under State public records law. Requires the FPO to compile data and submit it to DHHS by October 1 of each year detailing the number of inquiries and complaints handled and trends in recurring issues for foster parents and local county departments of social services. Requires that any information in the report be such that it cannot be used to identify a single foster parent or other individual. Requires that DHHS use the data to submit a report to the specified NCGA committee by November 1 of each year. Appropriates the recurring sum of $137,000 for the 2023-2024 fiscal year and $145,000 for the 2024-2025 fiscal year to DHHS to establish the FPO and hire one full-time equivalent employee. Effective July 1, 2023.

    Requires that DHHS have the FPO operational by January 1, 2024, and engage in appropriate rulemaking to implement the act.