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Report: Foster Parents Play Key Role in Reuniting Families

A new report says foster parents need to have a bigger voice in the system. (Getty Images)
A new report says foster parents need to have a bigger voice in the system. (Getty Images)
November 17, 2016

BALTIMORE — Foster parents in Maryland should play a larger role in the foster care system, a new report says.

According to the report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, called "A Movement to Transform Foster Parenting,” foster parents are essential in helping children heal and reunite with their families.

Foster care is the most important service provided to families when a child can no longer stay in the home, said Dr. Denise Goodman, a child welfare consultant.

"The first line of therapy and healing is in the foster home, where on a 24 hour-a-day, basis foster parents are nurturing, loving, caring and healing,” Goodman said. "And they are critical members of the team since they know the child best."

She said agencies often underestimate the role these parents play in working to help reunite the child with their birth family.

Laura Mueller, director at Win Family Services in Baltimore, said that more and more children are coming into the system, and there may not ever be enough foster homes for all the children waiting for one.

"The needs of the children are becoming ever more increasing in need, both for behavioral needs, psychiatric diagnosis needs,” Mueller said. "And that child may need to be placed in three or four homes before there's a good clinical fit."

According to Mueller, the increase in the number of children being placed in foster homes in Maryland is due in part to an uptick in substance abuse and poverty.

"The very centralized blue collar working area of, like, the Dundalk, Essex, Middle River area experienced a big hit to its economy when Bethlehem Steel closed down,” she explained. "When that closed down, probably within six months, we started seeing a drastic uptick of the number of referrals from that area."

The Annie E. Casey Foundation report calls on states to ensure high quality foster care, help foster parents form strong relationships with the children, and identify and recruit more foster families.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD