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Board of Public Works renews push to keep juvenile placements in state

Sam Abed, secretary of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services. (Maximilian Franz/ The Daily Record).

Sam Abed, secretary of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services. (Maximilian Franz/ The Daily Record).

ANNAPOLIS — Comptroller Peter Franchot Wednesday called on the state Department of Juvenile Services to find a way to transition more than three dozen juveniles in out-of-state facilities back to Maryland.

The Board of Public Works Wednesday approved 39 contracts valued at more than $249.3 million for placement of youth in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Services in both in-state and out-of state facilities.

But Franchot was concerned about roughly 37 juveniles covered by nine contracts who are in facilities outside of Maryland. He called on Juvenile Services Secretary Sam Abed to bring the youth back to the state.

“I find it hard to believe that you can’t, within those resources, locate the revenues necessary to bring these kids home,” Franchot said. “Sure they’re challenging but we can take care of them at home. Out of state, out of mind. That’s the problem.”

Abed told Franchot and the board that his agency has already made strides in reducing the number of out-of-state placements. The secretary said that a project to add a fence to an existing state facility will open up as many as 24 beds in a secure building.

“I understand and I share your concerns, and we are working very diligently to bring those kids back,” Abed said. “I think with that fence contract and the ability to house kids in another in-state secure program we can significantly reduce that utilization again.”

In 2012, there were 123 juveniles in facilities out of state. This year, there are 37, he said.

“The kids who are going out of state now are largely kids that are security-need or behavioral issues where they can’t be managed in a low-security or none-secure facility,” Abed said. The agency is also working to increase the number of in-state contractors that can take additional youths, he said.

Franchot’s concerns are similar to those he raised earlier this year, after the deal of a Maryland teen housed in Delaware, related to nearly 40 developmentally disabled youths placed in facilities in other states.

It’s a sentiment shared by Gov. Larry Hogan, who along with Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp is on the three-person Board of Public Works.

“It’s really about the safety of the children and we really haven’t been able to take care of these kids in the state, but you’ve been working towards that goal,” said Gov. Larry Hogan said. “I guess the comptroller’s expressing frustration about the pace at which we can improve our facilities and create more opportunities here especially for those more troubled kids, but I’m impressed that we’ve driven the numbers down so far from where we were a couple of years ago. Still, I share the concern. Let’s get them all back here and provide them services in the state if we can.”

Franchot promised Abed that he would continue to make inquiries.

“I guess you’ll keep appearing on different contracts and I’ll keep asking the same question, which is how quickly you can get these kids home,” Franchot said.



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