"We're committed to using the mediation program and every tool at our disposal to help customers avoid foreclosure when there is a viable alternative," he said.

A 2012 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found that 24 states and the District of Columbia had implemented some form of foreclosure mediation, with varying degrees of success. In Connecticut, which instituted foreclosure mediation in 2008, more than 12,800 cases have completed mediation, with 8,500 of the agreements allowing homeowners to remain in their homes. New Hampshire completed only 100 mediations, with all but 14 leading to foreclosure.

DHCD assistant secretary Carol Gilbert said her agency has been satisfied with the results of Maryland's mediation program, particularly since it is a last-resort option for homeowners who have already gone into default and been rejected for a loan modification.

"I'm not going to say it's the best we might expect, but I think it's surprisingly high considering how late in the game this process is," she said. "This tool was never meant as a magic bullet to save people from foreclosure. It was meant to make sure that lenders have thoroughly reviewed a homeowner's full set of options."

Mark Kaufman, the state commissioner of financial regulation, said he has heard complaints from advocates about Maryland's mediation program, and his office is looking at some of the issues.

He declined to comment on any potential regulatory changes, but said some of the concerns can't be fixed by his office because they go back to the way the legislature designed the program.

"We're always trying to look at it and make it more effective," he said. "The program has limitations by the nature of a mediation."

After a call from a Legal Aid attorney and the submission of more documents, Guernica Williams' foreclosure sale was rescheduled for January. She still hopes her loan will be modified, but said she is looking at her options, including filing for bankruptcy, in order to save her house.

"I'm determined to keep my house. I'm not going to uproot myself," she said. "Something's going to be done."

nsherman@baltsun.com