Since 2012, the Family Find Step Down Project has worked in partnership with the Baltimore City Department of Social Services to connect children living in foster care with permanent families before they age out of the system. The Family Finding team collaborates with Baltimore City caseworkers to create tailored plans for children in need of permanent, loving family connections. The types of family connections that result from the Family Finding Project take many forms such as adoption, legal guardianship, kinship adoption and the formation of lifelong, committed connections.
The Family Finding team consists of highly-skilled professionals known as Permanency Specialists as well as an Investigator who helps caseworkers identify important information, documentation and individual people during the Family Finding process.
This year, our Family Finding team helped to connect dozens of children living in Baltimore City Foster Care to permanent families. The unique mission of Family Finding has inspired us to share some of those stories with you this National Adoption Month.
Kinship Care: Using the Resources that Work
In early 2019, the FFSD team received a referral about a three-year-old who had been removed from her mother’s care along with her 4 siblings due to her mom’s substance abuse challenges. Although her siblings were able to return home after her mom sought treatment, the three-year-old’s developmental needs required specialized care that her mother was unable to provide. In order to create the best possible environment for the child, she was placed in the care of her biological grandmother. When FFSD received the referral, concerns about long-term permanency for the child were voiced because the grandmother’s home was undergoing long-term renovations. Despite the child thriving developmentally and her grandmother expressing a desire to legally adopt her, the condition of her home was a barrier to establishing permanency.
Our team assisted the grandmother with finding appropriate resources and with establishing a reasonable timeline for finishing her home renovations. We also helped her to become an advocate for herself while working with her DSS caseworker, ensuring she is capable of remaining the most stable resource for her granddaughter as her adoption becomes final. Although this child experienced the trauma of being removed from her biological mother, she is now able to remain in the permanent care of her biological grandmother, who continues to learn to advocate for herself and her growing family member.
Family Finding: Investigation Pays Off
Over the summer, our Family Finding team received a referral about a 16-year-old who’d been living in Baltimore City’s foster care system for several weeks. He provided his name and birthdate to his caseworker, but DSS was unable to confirm his identity. Despite providing other details about his childhood, family and upbringing, his caseworker was unable to locate any of his identifying documents or information using traditional avenues and asked our team to help.
Our Specialist met with the boy and turned up little more- he reported never having attended school, remembering very little about the surroundings where he lived and knowing almost nothing about the people he grew up with. We needed more help. That’s where our Investigator came in.
The job of the Family Find Investigator is extremely unique- she helps to find important documents and records, information about cases, and people related to investigations whenever a team member feels like we’ve hit a dead end. When this case seemed like there was no stone left unturned, using a single deleted email, our Investigator managed to reveal an entire story that no one expected.
To protect the identities of many people involved in this case, we’re jumping ahead to the end. Through the discovery of a single deleted email, our Investigator discovered the true identity of the boy. For many reasons, he’d concealed his identity in order to find stability and support through the services provided to him by DSS. Our investigator was also able to locate his biological father, who is now working toward reunifying with his son using the services of our team.
At this time, the boy is attending school and forming a supportive relationship with his foster family. We are proud to have been a part of this complex story which resulted in building a unique foundation of support for a child who expressed his needs in a very different way.
Family Finding: A Replicable Model Across the United States
Each year, more than 440,000 children enter public foster care systems across the United States. While most of these children will return to their families of origin, when that is not possible, finding safe and creative solutions to permanency is critical for ensuring children who’ve experienced life in care have the opportunity to reach stability and thrive.
Family Finding is a replicable model that can be deployed in systems across the country to the benefit of children and Departments of Social Services. By working together to locate permanency resources for some of the most vulnerable children living in foster care, Family Finding teams use an array of resources unavailable to traditional casework models in order to establish stable permanency that works.
For more information about the long-term success of our Family Finding team or implementing Family Finding in your jurisdiction, contact us today.