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Maryland Awarded Five-Year $650 Million Federal Demonstration Project to Improve Child Safety, Prevent Abuse and Reduce Need for Foster Care

Media Contacts:
Nina Smith, Governor’s Office: 410-974-2316
Lauren Gibbs, Lt. Governor’s Office: (410) 260-3847
Brian Schleter, Department of Human Resources: (410) 767-8944

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BALTIMORE, MD (SEPTEMBER 30, 2014) — Governor Martin O’Malley and Lieutenant Governor Brown today announced Maryland is the first state this year authorized by the federal government to conduct a 5-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. 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,” said Governor O’Malley. “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.”

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 (DHHS) 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.

“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.”

Maryland’s proposal was accepted by DHHS yesterday 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.

“Maryland’s Child Welfare Demonstration Project is a catalyst that will help move Maryland forward,” said Department of Human Resources Secretary Ted Dallas. “The waiver will allow us to serve more children and families in their homes and communities by using proven and cost-effective interventions that meet the unique needs of our families better than out-of-home-placement.”

The state’s proposal focuses on children age 0-8 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. Under the O’Malley-Brown administration, DHR has teamed with stakeholders and community partners to implement reforms that have enabled more children to be served through shorter lengths of stay in out-of-home care and in more family-based settings. As a result, there are fewer children in foster care today than any time in the last 27 years.

“We are pleased to approve 10 new demonstrations this year,” said JooYeun Chang, Associate Commissioner for the Children’s Bureau at HHS. “This is an exciting time for child welfare reform. These projects offer a tremendous opportunity to improve child welfare services for children and families in the participating jurisdictions, while also generating knowledge that can benefit children across all states. We look forward to working with Maryland to ensure successful implementation of the project.”

Since 2007, Maryland has seen dramatic improvement in several key child welfare outcomes:

  • More than 19,300 children have found permanent homes through adoption, guardianship or reunification with families;
  • The number of children in foster care has been reduced by 48%; and,
  • The percentage of children placed in group homes has been driven down from 19% to 10%.

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.

Casey Family Programs supported DHR in applying for the federal demonstration and will continue to provide technical assistance during the planning and implementation phases of the project.

Click here to view Maryland’s full proposal. For more information, visit our website at dhr.maryland.gov.

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