What happens to Baltimore City children in foster care when they are not able to return to their own homes and families? This is the question at the heart of
Other than the Baltimore City public schools, there is no public system more directly involved in the lives of more Baltimore City children than the Baltimore City Department of Social Services (BCDSS). Alongside ensuring the safety of these children, there is no goal more important to their successful development—as evidenced by research and as stated in law—than that they grow up in permanent, stable, and supportive families. Children served by BCDSS are our children; they have been removed from their families in our name. If we care about the future of our city—about its ability to grow and prosper—we must also care deeply about these children, about their own opportunities to prosper and to grow.
This analysis, we hope, is also a timely one given:
- The expressed policy goal of the administration of the Department of Human Resources in Maryland(DHR) and of BCDSS, under its Place Matters initiative, launched in 2007, “to increase the number of permanent places for children to live and the number of reunifications, guardianships, and adoptions;”
- The passage, in October of 2008, of the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which seeks to promote permanent families through guardianship and adoption, improve education and health care for children in foster care, and expand federal support to guardians and adoptive families;
- The recent renegotiation of terms under the long-standing consent decree LJ v. Massinga concerning the well-being of children in foster care in Baltimore City and the enumeration of a set of performance standards for exiting the decree, a number of which have to do with securing permanent homes for children in care; and
- The efforts of new leadership in the BCDSS and at the Baltimore City Juvenile Court, which have resulted in increases in adoptions in the last two years over the previous three, and a substantial reduction of backlogged child welfare cases at the courthouse—demonstrating that further progress is indeed possible.