Partnering to Support NC Children and Families

Benchmarks NC

North Carolina ranks 33rd among all states for overall child well-being, according to national data. Hopes are high that this ranking will improve in the years ahead through the work of Benchmarks NC and its allied organizations.

Benchmarks NC supports organizations that provide direct services — from health care to nutrition programs - to children and families. Intermediary organizations play an important role in the child welfare ecosystem, where health and human services agencies, nonprofit organizations and philanthropies such as The Duke Endowment work to improve people’s lives in communities across North Carolina.

“We are improving outcomes for children. That’s not in your traditional sense of providing direct service or care. We do so more at a macro level by breaking down silos and facilitating communication and partnership between community members and stakeholders,” says Jasmine Cain, a Benchmarks NC senior consultant and Partnering for Excellence project coordinator for Cleveland County.

Benchmarks NC is an alliance of nationally accredited agencies committed to providing quality care, leadership, and accountability in services to children, adults and families in North Carolina. These agencies provide an array of services in child welfare, mental health, intellectual/developmental disabilities and substance abuse treatment.

“Helping children and families is really hard work. We all care. We’re all doing the best we can. We [Benchmarks NC] go about doing that a little bit differently,” says Jenny Cooper, chief research and development officer. Three core efforts illuminate what “a little bit differently” means at Benchmarks NC:

  • The Center for Quality Integration (CQI) — an innovative clearinghouse of credible data, accurate information and supportive resources that Benchmarks NC gathers and shares with behavioral health, child welfare, education, developmental disabilities and residential support service agencies across North Carolina.

  • Partnering for Excellence (PFE) — a groundbreaking collaborative initiative that first provides trauma assessments for children and families who have experienced trauma, and then rapidly pairs trauma victims with vital mental health services. Since the launch of Partnering for Excellence in 2012, nearly 1,500 trauma-informed assessments have been completed by participating Benchmarks agencies.

  • Expertise in research, policy and practice — knowledge shared with North Carolina elected officials and policymakers to help improve health and human services systems in the state.

“We are improving outcomes for children that’s not your traditional sense of providing direct service or care. But we do so more at a macro level by breaking down silos and facilitating communication and partnership between community members and stakeholders and helping people understand that children and families don’t exist within a vacuum.”

Jasmine Cain, Senior Consultant

These Benchmarks NC supports are available only to nationally accredited agencies in the state that are committed to providing quality care, accountability and collaboration.

“When we got people to the table, we saw change begin to happen. People started realizing, wow, there really is work here that we need to do. This can look different. We can get some successes here that originally, we didn’t think were possible,” says Benchmarks NC President and CEO Karen McLeod.

At the center of attention across Benchmarks NC’s programs and its alliance of organizations are modern insights derived from clear evidence and clinical studies that make the negative effects of trauma clear.

“Folks thought when they saw children throwing tantrums or tearing things up, they were just being difficult children. This behavior as a result of trauma was something that took research and time and study to really begin to understand. So that was built into our pipeline of whomever is having contact with these children, such as judges, and schools, and foster parents. They all needed to be trained in trauma so they understood how to respond appropriately,” says McLeod.

“I honestly believe that Mr. Duke would be applauding the move towards trauma-informed work, keeping kids with families wherever possible, ensuring that the work is evidence-based, and I think that’s what he intended when he started [the Endowment] for people, for children and for families,” concludes McLeod.

Learn more about Benchmarks NC.

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