Social Services

Social Services Publications


Local Social Services Boards in North Carolina
Kristi Nickodem
Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Local Social Services Boards in North Carolina provides social services board members with the information that they need to understand their roles and legal responsibilities within North Carolina’s social services system. It may also be a useful reference for county social services directors, social services attorneys, county commissioners, county managers, and county attorneys. Among other topics, this book includes an overview of the laws governing the work of social services boards, the powers and duties of a county board of social services, the services and programs offered by county social services agencies, and the role of the county director of social services. 

This book, which revises, updates, and expands John L. Saxon's Handbook for County Social Services Boards, is the first in a three-part series from the School of Government that will also include books for local boards of health and consolidated human services boards.

Handbook for County Social Services Boards
John L. Saxon
Thursday, July 23, 2009

This book explains the duties, responsibilities, and regulations social services board members need to follow to improve their board's effectiveness. It will be especially useful during board meetings, as a training tool, and as a desk reference. Other than board members, social services directors and county commissioners will also find it a practical resource.

Social Services in North Carolina
John L. Saxon
Thursday, August 28, 2008

This book provides a general description of social services agencies and programs in North Carolina and the state and federal laws that affect them. A resource for county social services directors, state and county social services employees, social services attorneys, and county social services board members, the book may also be useful for county commissioners, county managers, and others who want to better understand North Carolina’s complex social services system. This title completely revises, rewrites, updates, and supersedes the fourth edition of A Guidebook to Social Services in North Carolina, written by Mason P. Thomas, Jr. and Janet Mason in 1989.

Internal Sharing of Information Within a County Department of Social Services
Kristi Nickodem
Tuesday, May 17, 2022

In North Carolina, county social services directors are responsible for administering and providing a wide variety of economic and social services. For a variety of reasons, staff for these programs and services often want to share information internally with their colleagues. This might include referring eligible clients for benefits, investigating fraud, consulting across programs on challenging cases, or coordinating services for clients. Department of social services (DSS) directors are placed in the challenging position of having to determine when and how information can be shared within their departments.

This bulletin discusses the framework of federal and state laws that govern when information can be shared internally within a DSS. DSS directors and staff often associate confidentiality laws with determining whether information can be disclosed externally—for example, to a DSS in a different county, to law enforcement, to another government agency, or to an individual who received services from a DSS. However, the laws governing disclosures of confidential information also apply to internal disclosures. Internal disclosures may occur when DSS staff share information across programs or between units or internal departments within the DSS. For example, income maintenance staff may ask the DSS director if they can review information about a family receiving child welfare services in order to assess a case of potential benefits fraud. Child welfare staff may request information from adult protective services (APS) staff for purposes of determining a case plan for a parent and a child. APS staff may ask for information from income maintenance staff to ensure that proper economic services are being provided to a vulnerable older adult. Each of these situations requires an analysis of whether an internal disclosure of the requested information is permissible.

Ethical Dilemmas in Client Representation for DSS Attorneys
Kristi Nickodem
Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Attorneys who perform legal services on behalf of a county department of social services in North Carolina face a unique set of issues with respect to client representation. Does a DSS attorney represent DSS, the DSS director, DSS employees, the DSS board, or the county itself? What happens when those parties have conflicting interests? What are the implications of a DSS attorney’s client also being the attorney’s supervisor? For DSS attorneys, determining the identity of the client and the scope of representation has implications for decision-making in litigation and advising, reporting malfeasance, protecting the attorney-client privilege, and evaluating conflicts. This bulletin discusses how the Rules of Professional Conduct of the North Carolina State Bar can guide DSS attorneys in making these determinations.

SSLB 48.pdf (pdf, 311.22 KB)
The Changing Face of Poverty in North Carolina
James H. Johnson, Jr.
Tuesday, April 1, 2003

North Carolina is widely recognized as a hub of international commerce and “transnational population movements” (movements of people from other countries, especially Mexico and other parts of Latin America). Emblematic of its enlarged role in the world economy, the state’s aggressive efforts to recruit U.S.–based multinational corporations and to attract direct investment from foreign companies reportedly harnessed $41 billion in new investment during the 1990s, including $6.1 billion from foreign companies. Moreover, during the same decade, large numbers of native- and foreign-born migrants flocked to the state to take advantage of the burgeoning employment opportunities. The state’s jobless rate hovered around 4 percent for most of the 1990s. That rate was indicative of a full-employment economy, one that was creating far more jobs than there were people to fill them. Under such tight labor-market conditions, wage rates typically rise as employers compete for available workers. That appears to have happened in North Carolina in the 1990s. Real personal income per capita (in 2001 dollars) grew from $23,600 at the beginning of the decade to $27,935 at the end, an 18 percent increase.

However, the 2000 Census revealed that the incidence of poverty in North Carolina also increased during the 1990s, by 15.5 percent (compared with a 6.8 percent increase nationally), creating
what some have called a “poverty paradox.” How could poverty increase so sharply amid such prosperity?

This article answers that question by analyzing post-1990 changes in the incidence of poverty and describing current manifestations of poverty in North Carolina. In this article, “poverty” is defined as insufficient family income to cover basic needs. The article assesses North Carolina’s contemporary poverty problem on three geographic scales (state, region, and place of residence) and on three demographic dimensions (age, family type, and race or ethnicity), using data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau. As background, it begins with a brief review of the recent history of the poor in America.

article2_10.pdf (pdf, 337.48 KB)
Essential Responsibilities of Local Governing Boards
Vaughn M. Upshaw
Sunday, January 1, 2006

What does it mean to say that North Carolina city council members and county commissioners “govern”? Local elected officials and their public managers give a lot of different answers to this question. A common one is “Local elected officials are responsible for policy, and public managers are responsible for administration.” Although this statement is true, it fails to capture the wide range of governing responsibilities that local elected officials carry out with the support of their top-level managers. 

Essential Responsibilities of Local Governing Boards (Essential Responsibilities of Local Governing Boards, 685.96 KB)
Hiring a Director for a Nonprofit Agency: A Step-by-Step Guide
Margaret F. Henderson
Thursday, June 1, 2000

Hiring an executive director is one of the most important actions that the governing board of a nonprofit agency takes. This guide, which includes model forms, provides boards with a systematic approach for recruiting, interviewing, and selecting an executive director.

Hiring a Director for a Small Community-Based Nonprofit Agency: A Step-by-Step Guide (Hiring a Director for a Small Community-Based Nonprofit Agency: A Step-by-Step Guide, 165.63 KB)
“How Are We Doing?” Evaluating the Performance of The Chief Administrator
Peg Carlson
Thursday, December 1, 1994
Suggested Rules of Procedure for Small Local Government Boards
A. Fleming Bell, II
Wednesday, December 2, 1998

A new edition of this publication is currently in production. To be notified when the book is available, please click here, and use the "Notify me..." button to recieve a notice when it becomes available for sale. 


This publication is designed for local boards, from ABC and social services boards to boards of elections, planning boards, boards of education, and area mental health authorities. It covers subjects such as the use of agendas, the powers of the chair, citizen participation in meetings, closed sessions, minutes, and the use of procedural motions. The book contains helpful appendixes that summarize the requirements for each procedural motion and list other statutes that apply to particular local government boards. Suggested Rules of Procedure for Small Local Government Boards, Second Edition, 1998, was reprinted and reformatted as a publication. This reprint adds to Rule 5 and Rule 23 new material that addresses 2005 legislation pertaining to public comment periods and that was originally included as an errata sheet to the 1998 edition. If you own the original 1998 edition and the 2005 errata sheet, you do not need to buy the redesigned publication unless you want the newly worded text.

Achieving Better Group Performance
John B. Stephens
Friday, June 1, 2001

Instead of trying to find common ground on a controversial issue, what if members of a committee or task force were to "reach for higher ground"? This metaphor describes an approach to group process that the author and some of his colleagues are promoting in their work with groups.

article4.pdf (pdf, 122.94 KB)
Serving on the County Board of Social Services
John L. Saxon
Saturday, January 1, 2000

Published in 2000, this publication was written for county residents who are considering an appointment to the county social services board as well as for the state and local government officials who make the appointments, this twelve-page pamphlet is designed to help prospective members decide whether to seek or accept an appointment to the social services board and, if appointed, to give new members a basic overview of their role and responsibilities. The publication summarizes, in a question-and-answer format, the powers and duties of the county social services board; the appointment, terms, and removal of board members; qualifications for service; potential disqualifications and conflict of interest prohibitions; and the nuts and bolts of social services board meetings. Prospective social services board members may obtain a hard copy of this book, free of charge, through county social services departments and the state Social Services Commission.

socservbds.pdf (pdf, 130.24 KB)
A Model Code of Ethics for North Carolina Local Elected Officials with Guidelines and Appendixes (print version)
A. Fleming Bell, II
Friday, April 30, 2010

In 2009, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law requiring all North Carolina cities, counties, local boards of education, unified governments, sanitary districts, and consolidated city-counties to adopt a resolution or policy containing a code of ethics to guide actions by the governing board members in the performance of their official duties as members of that governing board. Each governing board must adopt its resolution or policy by January 1, 2011.

This guidebook, the second title in the Local Government Board Builders Series, is intended to help local elected boards and their staffs develop codes of ethics that meet the requirements of this statute. It includes a Model Code with optional provisions, as well as commentary and discussion questions that boards are encouraged to use in developing and interpreting their own codes. The book is designed to be clear and unambiguous, simple, and easy to read and use.

A PDF version of this publication is available for purchase at this link.

See the Local Government Board Builders Series webpage for other books in the series and related School of Government publications.

Recruitment and Selection Tool Kit for Members of the County Board of Social Services in Selecting a County Social Services Director
A. Fleming Bell, II
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Warehouse Document
Topics - Local and State Government