Carroll County is one of five jurisdictions selected by the state to participate in a pilot foster parent program which supports collaboration between foster families and birth families in an effort to preserve parent-child relationships.
The Maryland Department of Human Services announced that the State of 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 U.S.
The program being created by the department will serve as a national model for states on the selection, development, and support safely reunifying birth families with their children, according to a news release.
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.
“I am honored that Maryland was chosen to implement this grant,” Michelle Farr, of the Maryland Department of Human Services, said. “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.”
Other Maryland jurisdictions participating in the pilot program include Prince George’s, Montgomery, Frederick and Baltimore counties.
Westminster residents Rick Candy and his wife, Ashley, decided to become foster parents three years ago, wanting to help some of the children in need. Rick Candy said the couple has fostered five different children so far, all for different lengths of time.
“It’s not an easy process,” he said. “It takes a lot of preparation and flexibility … Your life can change with one phone call.”
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Candy said he could receive a call from the department of social services at any time and mentioned the importance of having age-specific items, like clothing or toys, ready to go.
Although foster parents will sometimes adopt their foster children, the system is really “designed for reunification” of the child with their biological parents, Candy said.
Foster parents often collaborate with birth parents, keeping them informed of milestones, sending pictures or scheduling calls or visits.
“It’s important to develop a good relationship” with biological parents, Candy said. “Let them know you are there to take care of their child” until they get back on their feet.
He said he supports the pilot program as it will work to strengthen those relationships and in-turn, parent-child relationships.
The local department of social services 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.
Those interested in becoming foster parents should contact the county’s department of social services at 410-386-3300.