ANNAPOLIS – Between 2003 and 2007, Maryland lost more than 1,000 foster parents.
In an effort to replenish those ranks and put more foster children in family settings, the state has recruited and trained about 200 new parents this year as part of a three-year campaign called “1,000 by 10”.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown visited the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services Tuesday to find out how the campaign to recruit 1,000 new foster parents by 2010 is going and to learn about new work being done for foster children.
“It’s our goal to visit as many departments of social services as we can to see the good works being done, to look at the operations, and to meet with foster parents,” said Brown, who adopted one of his two children.
Brown visited Prince George’s to meet members of the staff, talk with foster parents in the county and film a public service announcement encouraging people to become foster parents or adopt children.
During his meeting with Department of Human Resources Secretary Brenda Donald and staff members for the social services department, Brown learned about a new program called Family Finding, which searches for family members of foster children so they can have them as a support system.
“[It involves] searching for relatives and parental figures to make the commitment to become involved in a child’s life, someone who will work for them and be a parental figure for them,” said Karyn Lynch, director of Prince George’s County Department of Social Services.
Several social service departments in local jurisdictions, including Prince George’s County, sent staff members to be trained by one of the creators of Family Finding, Kevin Campbell. The program is used for older children who have been in foster care for a long time or have been referred to the staff by social workers.
Since Prince George’s implemented the program six months ago only one child has been adopted by relatives. But many foster children have had relatives they never knew about become involved in their lives, even just as a support system.
“The goal is the possibility of guardianship,” Lynch said.
Since January 2008, Prince George’s has trained 37 of the 45 new foster parents it has been asked to recruit.
Recruiting and retaining foster parents is difficult, but Maryland has recently increased the monthly stipend that parents get and worked to create a more supportive environment.
Brown met with several current foster parents after touring the county’s social services office.
“For him to come here and meet us, it’s really great for all of the foster kids in Maryland,” said Jacque Thompson, a foster parent for four years.
Brown was appreciative of the meetings.
“One of the things I’m pleased to observe is the positive relationship between foster parents and the department,” Brown said. “As I met with the foster parents, it has hit home to me that real relationship that exists.”
After the meetings, Brown filmed the public service announcement which will be used in recruitment efforts.
“He has actually done this himself so future adoptive parents can relate,” Lynch said.