We Can, Because of You: Finding Family for Children in Baltimore City Foster Care

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.


An Interview with Adoptions Together’s 2016 Heart Gallery Ambassadors!

This post is an interview with our 2016 Heart Gallery Ambassadors.  Adoptions Together’s Heart Gallery is a traveling and online portrait exhibit of adoptable children in foster care living in the Maryland, District of Columbia, and Virginia region.  As Heart Gallery Ambassadors, Joe, Wes, and Jake are advocates for foster care adoption in our community and do everything in their power to support the mission of older child adoption.  Read about how they’ve grown the Heart Gallery here!

 

Jake and the Heart Gallery, 2016.

 

Liberty:  As 2016 comes to an end, it’s time to check in with our Heart Gallery Ambassadors Joe, Wes, and their 11 year old son, Jake.  Hi guys, and Happy New Year!

 

Joe, Wes, & Jake:  Happy New Year, Libby.

 

Liberty:  So, Jake.  You have participated in a lot of Heart Gallery events this past year.  Which one was your favorite and what did you like most about being a Heart Gallery Ambassador?

 

Jake:  I would have to say that my favorite part was welcoming people at the Taste in Potomac event.  I shook almost everyone’s hand.  Since they were coming to support the Heart Gallery and Adoptions Together, I wanted to let them know how much I appreciated them coming.

 

Liberty:  That was a fun night, and you did a great job greeting folks.

 

Jake:  I think that my second favorite part was riding the Zamboni at a Washington Capitals game as the Heart Gallery Ambassador.  People waved at me and cheered, and I waved back.

 

Liberty:  That sound cool.  Do you like hockey?

 

Jake:  I like hockey and my favorite player is Alex Ovechkin – I have a home team bias.  But, I really like soccer and American football.  My favorite soccer player in Lionel Messi; and my favorite American football player is Bronco’s Von Miller – by birthfather lives in Denver.

 

Liberty:  Have you met your birthfather?

 

Jake:  Yes, we have an open adoption so I know both my birthfather and birthmother.  I even know my birth-grandfather and cousins.  They recently came to visit me, and I showed them around the city.  Between my birthparents and my adopted parents, I have the largest family tree of any one of my friends!

 

Liberty:  Wow!  Do you ever talk to your friends about being adopted?

 

Jake:   Yes, at the end of our school soccer season, we played a kids vs. parents match.  The kids wore t-shirts with the Heart Gallery logo, and we handed out Heart Gallery knapsacks and water bottles.

 

Liberty:  Did your friends ask you about the Heart Gallery?  And what did you say?

 

Jake:  I told them that it is a special place where children who don’t yet have forever families still have a chance to go all out and hopefully get adopted.

 

Liberty:  That sounds great!  Other than riding the Zamboni and hosting a soccer game, what are some ways that people can follow your lead and bring awareness to the Heart Gallery?

 

Jake:  For me, whenever I get into a conversation with a friend or their parents or my teachers about families, I always talk about the Heart Gallery.  My advice is to keep talking about it.   Because every kid needs someone to love you; to take care of you; to look out for you; and to have fun with you.

 

Liberty:  Joe and Wes, your family decided to start sponsoring the Heart Gallery in 2015. Why are you choosing to continue your support in 2017?

 

Joe:  We are really inspired by the number of children that were placed in forever families this past year because of the Heart Gallery.  A total of fourteen children were placed in homes, and an additional twenty-one new children were placed onto the gallery.  To answer your question, we support the Heart Gallery because we know how important it is to have a family.

 

Liberty: Can you share with us some of the exciting things that will be happening with the gallery in 2017?

 

Joe:  Absolutely.  In 2017, the Heart Gallery will begin using new mediums to reach the public.  For example, we will be introducing two digital displays in DC which will show the photos of Heart Gallery children – and provide information about how to adopt them.  We are hoping these displays can be located in high foot traffic areas, such as a children’s hospital or outside a family court.  Later in the year, we are hoping to install similar displays in Baltimore and Northern Virginia.

 

Wes:  Folks can also still see the actual gallery, in person, next year.  It will be at several locations, including the Metropolitan Council of Governments in January and at the Annapolis Public Library in February, as well as the Crofton Public Library in April, with more locations to be announced.

 

Liberty:  What is your hope for the Heart Gallery going forward into 2017?

 

Wes:  We’d love to see an increase in the number of Heart Gallery children placed with families.  In 2016, the Heart Gallery prompted ninety-nine inquiries from potential families, up from fifty-three in 2015.  For us, the sad part is when a child is removed from the gallery but doesn’t end up in a home.  Some of these children are removed because they have aged out of foster care.  This is heartbreaking because they still need a family.

 

Liberty: What is everyone’s New Year Wish?

 

Joe:  I wish for a record number of children adopted from the Heart Gallery.

 

Jake:  I’d like to see the Broncos or the Ravens make it to the Super Bowl!

 

Joe, Wes, & Jake:  Happy New Year to everyone, and thank you for supporting the Heart Gallery in 2016.

 

Just a few of the children who’ve found permanent, loving homes with the help of the Gallery this year.