Serving children and families focus of merger

Ken Tutterow
Ken Tutterow

Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N .C. — The Children’s Home Society of North Carolina and the Family Life Council, both in Greensboro, and Youth Homes in Charlotte, served a total of 12,000 families and children in 2009.

Now, effective Jan. 1, 2010, those three agencies have merged, a move designed to expand and improve services and meet growing demand from government and private funders to show the impact of those services.

The combined agency expects to increase the number of clients it serves by 10 percent to 15 percent this year and another five percent to 10 percent in 2011, says Ken Tutterow, CEO and president of the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina.

The merged Children’s Home Society will offer a continuum of services that combines the respective strengths and expertise of the three agencies, he says.

“The driving force was how we could do a better job serving families and children all across North Carolina,” he says.

Formed in 1902 and operating offices in eight cities throughout the state, the Children’s Home Society focuses on making sure children have permanent families though adoption services, foster care and extensive family services.

The Family Life Council, formed in 1968, focuses on education and prevention programs, including parenting education, prevention of teen pregnancy, and marriage
education and preparation.

And Youth Homes, formed in 1975, provides services that promote safety and stability for children and families through foster care and family-preservation for at-risk populations.

The combined agency will operate with an annual budget totaling $13.5 million and a staff of roughly 150 employees.

The Family Life Council and Youth Homes will keep their names and operate as divisions of the Children’s Home Society.

Rebecca Starnes, who was interim co-manager of the Family Life Council, will direct that division, while Frank Crawford, who was executive director and CEO of Youth Homes, will direct that division.

Tutterow says all three agencies were in sound financial health and that the merger did not stem from financial necessity or the need to eliminate duplication of services, although each group did make staff and budget cuts averaging roughly five percent in response to the recession.

The combined agency is not looking at major staff cuts, he says.

A major benefit of the merger will be the combined agency’s ability to develop more in-depth quality-assurance programs to evaluate service and therapeutic interventions, says Brian Maness, vice president of marketing and strategic initiatives at the Children’s Home Society.

“It’s how we improve our services, how we ensure we are having positive impact and improving impact on the lives of children and families,”  he says.

Tracking and improving the agency’s impact also is a demand and priority of its funders, he says.

The agency’s main funders include the state Division of Social Services, county departments of social services, private foundations and local United Ways.

Across the board, Maness says, those  funders “want to see exemplary quality-assurance systems, not just on providing services, but also to show those services have the desired positive impact for individuals and communities.”

He says the combined agency in 2010 will focus on integrating operations and programs and developing a long-term strategic plan.

The agency also will be seeking support from foundations that promote collaboration and mergers, he says.

Tutterow says the combined agency can serve as a model for the types of services that county departments of social services want and need.

And the agency, with offices in Guilford, Forsyth, Mecklenburg, Cumberland, New Hanover, Pitt and Wake counties, also plans to grow eventually by expanding into other counties.

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