New Parent Advisory Council members speak up for children’s health

By: La-Mine Perkins | March 2021

Post Author

Nearly half of all children in our state – 1.2 million children – rely on Medicaid and NC Health Choice for their health care. Medicaid helps ensure that every child has the care they need to thrive. The program results in improved health outcomes for so many children across the state: low-income children, children with special needs, and children in foster or adoptive care.

NC Child’s Parent Advisory Council (PAC) plays a crucial role in advocating for families who use the program. The group is comprised of parents who are experts in public health insurance programs, because their children rely on Medicaid and NC Health Choice for their care. The PAC’s goal is to ensure that the state’s Medicaid program is listening to and meeting the needs of North Carolina’s families and children.

The PAC has had a big job, as North Carolina transitions away from fee-for-service, to Medicaid managed care. This month, families who depend on NC Medicaid and NC Health Choice will receive a letter in the mail informing them about their options for new health insurance plans under managed care. This long-planned “transformation” is getting underway for families now. Coverage is scheduled to start on July 1, 2021.

Meet some of our Parent Advisory Council Members

Over the last year, the PAC has welcomed 11 new members who are passionate advocates for children’s health care. Here are a few of them:


LaRhonda lives in Stanly County with her husband, and is a mother of two. Her son, who is diagnosed with Down syndrome and autism, lives with her (her adult daughter lives in Florida). After many years of working in the corporate world, LaRhonda has shifted her focus to disability advocacy. LaRhonda’s wish is to make services equal and accessible for everyone with disabilities, no matter their economic status. According to LaRhonda, “We need to be the voice for those who have no voice. [It’s important to] stand up as parents and professionals and let the ones making the laws know how their laws affect our lives – as family members, and most importantly the lives of our loved ones.”


Taya lives in Guilford County with her three children. She and her husband have cared for multiple children with special needs as a foster family. Her oldest son has multiple special needs and many medical issues that are covered by Medicaid under the Innovations Waiver. She also has a young son with autism on private insurance and a young daughter with Medicaid via adoption assistance. She also works with many families as a classroom teacher. These experiences have shown her firsthand the struggles that families can face when they don’t have access to Medicaid waiver programs for their children with complex health care needs.


Rachel is a family advocate in Wayne County who volunteers her time to help families with special needs. She began her journey six years ago when her oldest son was in kindergarten and she needed assistance during an IEP meeting. She now assists in IEP meetings for other special needs families, and participates in local and state meetings as a voice for families. As mom to two sons diagnosed with autism, Rachel knows the importance of being an advocate for children’s health. She believes our state can grow toward a more equitable future for all North Carolina families. According to Rachel, “I feel empowered as a mother by NC Child, and by my fellow parent advocates on the Parent Advisory Council, because I know I can be a voice for my family and other special needs families in my community.”


Adrienne lives in Mecklenburg County and is the married mom of four children, all of whom have health coverage thanks to Medicaid. She has firsthand experience with being uninsured herself, and knows the challenges that families face getting affordable and quality health care. Because her children are not old enough to speak for themselves, Adrienne recognizes the importance of speaking up for their needs. She believes that all children deserve the chance to have a healthy future. She wants to use her voice to speak up on behalf of other families who are facing challenges too. Adrienne knows that using her voice helps to ensure that all children in North Carolina receive quality care.


Magnolia is originally from Peru and currently lives in Cabarrus County. She has three children, two girls and a boy. Her 13-year-old daughter has Down syndrome and autism. She has learned a great deal about the community services and resources that exist to help her daughter – and children like her – have a better quality of life. In her local community, she helped create a support group for Latino parents. This group provides a space for families to learn together and share their experiences as parents of children with special needs. As a PAC member, she wants to learn more — not only to help her daughter — but also to help more parents in the Latino community.

Together, these parents use their expertise to speak up for children to get the care they need to reach their full potential. As North Carolina begins a new chapter of managed care, and struggles to cover parents and caregivers currently without health coverage, the PAC is a voice for children in North Carolina.

Learn More About Managed Care

Interested in learning more about what’s next with managed care? Check out the following upcoming webinars:

  • Friday, March 12th at 7 pm: Grupo de Apoyo Poder y Esperanza, a local support group for Spanish-speaking families led by a PAC member, is hosting a Spanish-language presentation about managed care with NC DHHS on Friday, March 12 at 7 pm. Join the call here.
  • Friday, March 19 at 12:00 pm: Join NC Child and partner organizations for a webinar about NC Medicaid’s Move to Managed Care. Topics include how advocates can support Medicaid beneficiaries during the enrollment process — register here.