WASHINGTON – Howard County officials hope to place 100 black kids from Baltimore in new homes in the wealthier suburban enclave, under a new program aimed at easing the city’s crushing adoption caseload.
Finding homes for Howard County children will remain a priority, officials said.
But where Howard County has no children waiting for adoptive homes, Baltimore had 509 minority children waiting for adoption as of March.
“We think that the community will accept and embrace this program,” said Samuel Marshall, the director of the Howard County Social Services Department. “The families have always been responsive.”
Under the three-year, $600,000 program, funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Howard County Department of Social Services will focus its outreach on the middle- and upper-middle class black families that comprise 17 percent of the county.
The program, set to begin in January, will also promote adoption of children who traditionally are harder to place: sibling groups, older children and children with special needs.
Baltimore City officials are excited about the initiative, and said that the sheer numbers of children up for adoption in the city surpasses their efforts to place the children.
“We think it is a wonderful resource for our children,” said Sue Fitzsimmons, spokeswoman for the Baltimore City Department of Social Services.
Howard County has the second-highest median income in the state at $54,000 per year, compared to Baltimore’s average income of $24,000, Marshall said.
Howard County will hire a coordinator to establish programs aimed at reaching black families through church groups, parent and teacher organizations and an advertising campaign, video and newsletter.
The grant was part of $7.9 million awarded by Health and Human Services to 40 projects under the Adoption Opportunities Program, and is part of President Clinton’s “Adoption 2002” initiative, which seeks to double the number of children adopted by the year 2002.
“This is money to start up programs that have shown initiative in ways to increase adoption,” said Michael Kharfen, spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families.
Kharfen said that minority children wait longer for adoption, and as a whole represent about 52 percent of the total children waiting for adoption.