DURHAM, N.C. – Building on its ongoing commitment to improve the health and well-being of children and families in foster care across the state, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) has formed a new Foster Care Advisory Council to work with and advise its Healthy Blue Medicaid plan. The Advisory Council will serve as a valuable resource in ensuring those in foster care are receiving the highest quality, timely and responsive trauma-informed care and treatment to promote family safety, healing and recovery. 
As North Carolina’s Medicaid transformation continues, Blue Cross NC is committed to making sure children and families that are part of the foster care system have access to care that works specifically for them. The Advisory Council, comprised of eight North Carolina leaders with diverse professional and personal experience in foster care, behavioral health and family welfare, is designed to help accomplish this objective. Their work is focused on the unique needs of children and families across all 100 North Carolina counties, with notable expertise in the integrated physical and behavioral health needs of this vulnerable population.
“Blue Cross NC is redoubling its commitment to ensuring children and families that are part of the foster care system have access to specialized care that benefits their unique needs, where and when they need it. We are pleased that this group of experts from across North Carolina will help inform, advise and support Blue Cross NC to deliver a stronger, healthier future for children and families in foster care across our state,” said Fran Gary, Senior Vice President of Government Markets for Blue Cross NC. “Our goal is to create a more seamless system that addresses the particular physical and mental health care challenges facing North Carolina’s foster children and families.” 
This collaboration builds on Blue Cross NC’s focus to be one of North Carolina’s valued health partners and engage individuals and communities in all forms. Addressing the foster care system is a critical part of this commitment. This most vulnerable population included more than 30,000 children and families in 2020, with an increasing number requiring support for behavioral and emotional conditions. 
The Healthy Blue Foster Care Advisory Council consists of the following members:
Jacqueline McKnight, PhD, MSW – Deputy County Director, DSS, Child Welfare Division, Mecklenburg County 
Jan Elliott – County Director, DSS, Pitt County
Will Jones – CEO, Thompson Child & Family Focus, Matthews, NC
Craig Bass – CEO, Alexander Youth Network, Charlotte, NC
Billy Lassiter – Deputy Commissioner of Juvenile Justice at NC Department of Public Safety
Dana Marie Hagele, MD, MPH – Co-founder, NC Child Treatment Program; Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Maternal and Child Health, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Cheryl S. Emanuel, MS, CSAPC – Director/Senior Health Manager Office of Community Engagement Mecklenburg County Public Health
Trent Taylor – Student at Wake Technical College and Fostering Bright Futures (FBF) Program Member  
“Children who are part of the foster care system have a right to be safe and have their well-being addressed. They have often endured adverse experiences both physically and psychologically, with their emotional health rooted in childhood trauma,” said Jacqueline McKnight, PhD, MSW, Mecklenburg County DSS. “Their unique issues often go untreated because of a lack of access to resources, and because foster parents are not properly supported to provide the required care. Blue Cross NC’s Foster Care Advisory Council will focus on providing recommendations to inform service delivery to address the needs of these children and families, with an emphasis on equity through access to integrated health care. The goal is to ensure the right resources are provided at the right time to better support those we are charged to serve.”
Advisory Council members will bring their commitment, expertise and experience in integrated foster care health and welfare needs to inform the future of Blue Cross NC’s programming for foster care families statewide. Above all, the Advisory Council will augment the compassion that Blue Cross NC brings to effectively care for individuals across the state.
“Improving the capacity and delivery of treatment services for the child welfare population requires better and continuous access to effective, coordinated care that emphasizes child and family well-being and recovery from trauma,” said Dr. Dana Hagele, pediatrician and co-founder of the North Carolina Child Treatment Program. “The Foster Care Advisory Council’s focus is to provide recommendations to help ensure all foster children and families have better opportunities for the future. I am greatly appreciative to be a part of an initiative that will serve this vulnerable population.” 
Specific functions of the Advisory Council will include: 
Identifying gaps in existing protocols and approaches to caring for foster children and families;
Reviewing and providing recommendations on the current state system of care;
Working with Healthy Blue leadership to develop and oversee planning for future responses to Statewide Foster Care Plan initiatives; and  
Supporting synergy among foster care-related initiatives and coordinating with community groups to promote an effective system of care, consistent with community needs and program goals. 
Any reference in this press release to any person, organization, activity, or services related to North Carolina Medicaid does not consitute or imply the endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) is committed to making health care better, simpler and more affordable. We have been driving better health in North Carolina since 1933, working to tackle our communities’ greatest health challenges. Blue Cross NC serves its customers and communities of more than 4.2 million members, including approximately 1.1 million on behalf of other Blue Plans. Blue Cross NC is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit Blue Cross NC online at www.bluecrossnc.com. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.