BERLIN – Worcester County’s Department of Social Services was among nine departments around the state honored this week by Governor Martin O’Malley for the progress they have made in reforming Maryland’s child welfare system.
On Tuesday, O’Malley honored nine local Social Services departments around the state including Worcester for accomplishments in meeting or exceeding state mandates for child welfare reform. Nearly three years ago, state officials launched an aggressive “Place Matters” initiative to reform child welfare systems in Maryland by focusing on the importance of finding permanent families for foster children.
“Nothing is more important to a child than having a place to call home,” O’Malley said this week. “I want to thank the directors here today for the work that they do in reforming Maryland’s child welfare system.”
Since the launch of the Place Matters initiative, O’Malley said the state has successfully reduced the number of children placed in group homes by nearly 39 percent while decreasing the number of children in foster care by 15 percent. Naturally, some jurisdictions, including Worcester, have been better at meeting the stated goals than others.
“Working together with our local partners, we are putting our children first, ensuring that they receive access to the services they need and the care they deserve,” the governor said.
Local Social Services departments were grouped in categories of small, medium and large jurisdictions based on the respective numbers of foster children in their systems. Awards were given to jurisdictions in each group in a wide variety of categories including reducing the number of children in foster care; increasing the number of children reunified within 12 months; meeting the fiscal year 2009 adoption goals; reducing the number of children in group homes; and increasing the number of children in family settings. Worcester was recognized as a small-sized jurisdiction in the latter two categories.
For example, an award was presented in each size group to the jurisdiction that realized the highest percentage reduction in the number of children they placed in group homes from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009. During the time period, Worcester reduced the number of children placed in group homes by 63 percent.
In addition, an award was given to a jurisdiction in each category that most exceeded the statewide average of placing children in family settings. Worcester placed 85 percent of its children in family settings, exceeding the statewide average of 73 percent.