Maryland Gets Access to Flexible Foster Care FundingGovernor Martin O’Malley and Lieutenant Governor Brown announced Sept. 30 that Maryland is the first state this year authorized by the federal government to conduct a five-year, $650 million demonstration project that allows Maryland more flexibility in using federal foster care funds to achieve improved safety, permanency and well-being of vulnerable children.
Under federal law, federal foster care grant awards made to states under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act can only be used to provide services to children in out-of-home care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can approve up to ten states per year to conduct demonstration projects that instead allocate IV-E funds as a block grant and that allow states to more flexibly spend these funds on services that keep children safe at home. The project includes an extensive planning process and can begin as early as July 1, 2015.
“Every child deserves a home. Maryland’s Child Welfare Demonstration project will help us keep more children safe and help keep more families whole,” O’Malley said in a press release. “We would like to thank our federal partners for selecting Maryland to take part in this innovative initiative and for the additional flexibility the waiver allows to invest resources in what works best for strengthening families, protecting children and supporting thriving communities.”
Maryland’s proposal was accepted by DHHS Sept. 29 and includes new approaches to the delivery and financing of child welfare services. Underlying the project is a new trauma-informed child welfare system in which workers are trained to consider the traumatic stress child victims of abuse and neglect experience so that the response is appropriate and minimizes additional stress. Preventing child abuse, reaching as many at-risk children and families as possible and avoiding out-of-home placements requires enhancing the current community-based service array. Maryland’s flexible funding Demonstration Project creates a system that allows the state to strategically allocate resources to family-centered initiatives that keep children safe within their own families and prevent maltreatment and the secondary trauma often associated with foster care.
“This Federal funding will support the resources and family-focused programs which will help us find a safe, permanent place to call home for every child in Maryland,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “While we’ve driven the number of children in foster care down to 27-year lows, we will not rest until every child in our state has a place to call home.”
The state’s proposal focuses on children up to 8 years old and 14-17, which represents 80.5% of all entries into out-of-home placement. The older group represents a growing proportion of the population of youth in foster care. The Demonstration Project will enhance Ready by 21, Maryland’s initiative to ensure that teenage foster youth are prepared for the transition into adulthood, by fostering new and effective avenues to collaborate with public, private, faith-based and other organizations to strengthen families and better prepare children to succeed in life.
The new, flexible financing mechanism will help Maryland address the needs and strengths of each family that comes in contact with the child welfare system. With the waiver, Maryland can now tap federal funds to implement evidence-based interventions aimed at diverting children from foster care when it is safe to do so. DHR’s proposal includes several new programs for serving at-risk families, including:
- Family Connections: A multi-faceted, community-based program that works with families experiencing difficulty in meeting the basic needs of their children and at-risk for child emotional and/or physical neglect.
- Homebuilders: An intensive family preservation program that works with the caregivers to provide in-home crisis intervention, counseling, and life skills education over a short-term period.
- SafeCare: An in-home parenting model for parents with children ages 0-5 who are at risk for or have a history of child abuse or neglect. SafeCare provides direct skill training with parents using four modules: health, home safety, parent-child/parent-infant interactions, and problem solving and communication.
- Functional Family Therapy (FFT): FFT is designed for 11-18 year olds with behavioral health problems including conduct problems and substance abuse problems. FFT improves family relationships by teaching families how to promote the safety of their children, improve communication skills and skills for solving family problems.
For more information, visit our website at dhr.maryland.gov.