The Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) announced that Maryland was awarded a four-year grant by the federal Children’s Bureau to create a Center of Excellence for Foster Family Development — the only grant of its kind awarded in the country.
The program being created by the Department of Human Services will serve as a national model for states on the selection, development, and support of foster families who will work in close collaboration with birth families to preserve and nurture critical parent-child relationships and support safely reunifying birth families with their children.
Five local Departments of Social Services in Prince George’s, Montgomery, Carroll, Frederick, and Baltimore counties were selected by DHS to implement this innovative approach to foster care services.
“The Children’s Bureau has entrusted Maryland with developing a new model for transforming the role that resource foster parents play in the lives of children and families who are struggling,” said Lourdes R. Padilla, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Services. “We are putting in place programs that work toward breaking the cycle of multi-generational dependency. By addressing the needs of the entire family, we help ensure that when children and parents leave our care, they have the tools needed to thrive.”
The federal Children’s Bureau set forth priorities for child welfare to help strengthen families, prevent maltreatment, and prevent unnecessary family disruptions. The vision for a re-imagined child welfare system includes a foster care system that supports entire families in contrast to one that acts as a substitute for parents. This is based on an understanding that most families can learn to care for their children in safe and healthy ways even when foster care is necessary. In Maryland, resource foster families will play an important role in supporting parents’ efforts to regain custody of their children.
“I am honored that Maryland was chosen to implement this grant. It supports the practice transformation we have underway,” said Michelle L. Farr, Executive Director of the Social Services Administration at the Department of Human Services. “This exciting project is being designed by Maryland to change the way child welfare agencies across the nation recruit, train, and educate resource foster families and the way in which they support vulnerable families in need of assistance.”
The participating local Departments of Social Services at Prince George’s, Montgomery, Carroll, Frederick, and Baltimore County, will target neighborhoods and communities with the highest rates of removal, and recruit resource foster families who will be committed to partnering with birth parents and addressing the challenges those parents and families have faced. By nurturing and strengthening parent-child relationships and supportive community connections and resources, Maryland’s Center for Excellence For Resource Foster Family Development will support the successful reunification of vulnerable children and their families across the state thus keeping families safe and together.