DHR Gets $2.6M Federal Grant to Boost Families Caring for Child Relatives

BALTIMORE (Nov. 24, 2009) - Maryland Department of Human Resources' (DHR) Secretary Brenda Donald announced today that DHR competed for and won a three-year, $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to build on the progress made under the agency's Place Matters reform agenda. Planning and implementation will begin immediately.

"Winning a competitive grant means that the federal government is taking notice of the progress we are making for our foster children," said Governor Martin O'Malley. "This alternative funding source will help strengthen child welfare services for families in need."

With Place Matters, Donald has brought to the department an unprecedented focus on finding permanent families for foster children.

The federal funding will be used to implement a Family Kin Connections program. The program will improve safety, permanency, well-being and family functioning by strengthening family ties, providing resource information and supportive services, involving family members in decision-making processes, connecting, and re-connecting children with their relatives.

Seven Maryland counties, with the highest kinship care population, will implement the program over the three-year grant period. Kinship care is defined as a blood-relative stepping in and providing care to a child who would otherwise come into the foster care system. In its first year, the program will be implemented in Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties followed by Baltimore City; Baltimore County; Charles County; Prince George's County; and Washington County.

The target populations are families receiving Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) services as well as those identified through Family Involvement Meetings. The program takes a holistic approach in addressing the needs of the entire family.

The Family Kin Connection program has three components. Component 1, the Kinship Navigator Program, will provide an information and referral mechanism to community resources, legal assistance, and day care assistance. Component 2, Intensive Family Program, will provide computer access to direct service providers and training. Component 3, Family Group Decision Making, will standardize this best practice model across the state.

Staff will facilitate service provider meetings with the family to establish common goals and activities for successful outcomes. Family Kin Connection involves individualized family assessments and tailors services to each family. These services will empower family members to decrease the risk of neglect, and manage effectively the multiple stresses and conditions within the family and in their neighborhoods.

A number of service providers and child welfare experts have collaborated with DHR on this grant, including: University of Maryland School of Social Work; Annie E. Casey Foundation; Casey Family Programs; Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services; Department of Aging; Child Trends and the University of Baltimore; and University of Maryland Baltimore Law School.

In addition, Local Management Boards, community, and faith based partners as well as caregiver groups and local domestic violence partners that already work closely with each LDSS will be involved.

"The Department is fortunate to partner with service providers that excel in their fields. Together, we will make significant improvements in the outcomes for the children in our care," said Carnitra White, executive director of the social services administration.

Source: Maryland Department of Human Resources

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