I found out from our home study worker that our certification date as a foster/adoptive family is actually September 7, 2007. This is four months to the day from our orientation session–our first contact with Baltimore City Department of Social Services (BCDSS). Our worker reiterated how fast this certification has been and thanked us for doing so much work ahead of time. She said that information regarding the next steps in the process would be mailed to us along with our certificate. A continuing home worker would be assigned who would facilitate the placement of a foster child in our home. She said that we could expect a call from the continuing home worker sometime next week.

All of the data and documentation regarding our certification is included in the Children’s Electronic Social Services Information Exchange (CHESSIE). Through this system social workers of individual children in foster care in Baltimore City can access information regarding our status as a foster/adoptive resource family and can contact our worker regarding the placement of a child. Additionally, we are certified not only for the City of Baltimore but for every county in the State of Maryland. Information regarding our certification has been entered into the Maryland Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) database. Through that database a social worker in any county in Maryland can access information regarding our certification and talk to our worker about a child needing foster care.

Last week we attended “While You Wait” a training/discussion group specifically for people who have completed certification with BCDSS and are awaiting placement. Many of the people who were at the meeting both those with recent placements and those still waiting, had been certified for three years–some even longer. It was pretty disheartening to hear how long these families had been waiting, how some had changed their criteria choosing to adopt older children because they were not getting a placement for an infant. It appears that most if not all of the families in this group were only open to placement of children whose permanency plans ruled out the possibility of reunification with the biological parents. Since they were only willing to accept children with permanent adoption as the court approved course of action, it could explain the long waiting periods. In addition we did not know the specific criteria that each family had indicated in their placement. Did they have age or gender restrictions? Were they willing to accept certain medical, emotional, behavioral or developmental issues? In taking a placement of a child still in the foster care system, how much risk were they willing to assume that the child could be returned to the biological family? It seems that the families in the room were looking for children who were free and clear for adoption.

After the meeting we introduced ourselves to the facilitator of the group who is also one of the key workers within BCDSS in the adoption placement office. She indicated that our home study worker had spoken very highly of us and seemed genuinely happy to meet us. Besides her role as a facilitator for the group, this woman manages the space available foster/adoptive resource list; manages the MARE database information; and works to connect social workers who represent individual children with prospective adoptive families. She seemed very positive about our prospects for placement and said that the long waiting period for families in the group was not representative of all placements. There have been situations where families have been certified and gotten a placement the next day.

We left with mixed feelings, unsure if we should feel optimistic as indicated by the group facilitator or concerned by the stories shared by people in that room. There are more administrative steps that have to take place at BCDSS and our continuing home worker has to be assigned. We expect that as the process moves forward we will have a better idea how quickly things might progress.