Md. girl dies in Del. fa­cil­ity for dis­abled chil­dren

State had can­celed con­tract but still kept youths there

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Mered­ith Cohn mered­ith.cohn@balt­

A 15-year-old Mary­land girl died at a fa­cil­ity in Delaware for severely de­vel­op­men­tally dis­abled youths, au­thor­i­ties said Tues­day, af­ter the state al­ready had de­cided to sever ties with the op­er­a­tors.

The Mary­land Depart­ment of Hu­man Re­sources said that it had can­celed its con­tract with Ad­voServe ef­fec­tive Oct. 31, but had not found ap­pro­pri­ate places to send all of the 31 youths housed in com­pany in­sti­tu­tions when the girl died.

The uniden­ti­fied girl died at the Bear, Del., fa­cil­ity in mid-Septem­ber, au­thor­i­ties said. Nei­ther Ad­voServe nor the Depart­ment of Hu­man Re­souces would pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion Tues­day.

“Un­der­stand­ably, our agency and case­work­ers were hit hard by this tragedy,” Depart­ment of Hu­man Re­sources spokes­woman Kather­ine Mor­ris said in a state­ment.

“The death of a child is never news that is easy to process,” she said. “We are tak­ing this case very se­ri­ously, as the safety and well-be­ing of youth in our care is our top pri­or­ity. DHR is in close con­tact with the au­thor­i­ties in Delaware who are in­ves­ti­gat­ing this in­ci­dent.”

The Delaware State Po­lice and the of­fice of the med­i­cal ex­am­iner are in­ves­ti­gat­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Delaware at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice. There have been no charges.

Mor­ris said the Depart­ment of Hu­man Re­sources had can­celed its con­tract and in­sti­tuted a mora­to­rium on new place­ments “as a re­sult of an in­ten­sive re­view of the pro­gram, in­clud­ing sev­eral unan­nounced vis­its DHR made to Ad­voServ.”

She did not spec­ify when the de­ci­sion was made to can­cel the con­tract, but said it was be­fore the girl died.

All but one of the Mary­land youths has been placed else­where, Mor­ris said. One was moved from a Ad­voServ fa­cil­ity in Florida to another in that state.

Mary­land’s three-year con­tract with Ad­voServ was ap­proved in 2012 with two one-year ex­ten­sions, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments pro­vided by the Depart­ment of Hu­man Re­sources. The con­tract was sched­uled to ex­pire in Fe­bru­ary. Pay­ments to Ad­voServe were not sup­posed to ex­ceed about $7.9 mil­lion a year and were capped at about $39.8 mil­lion. It’s un­clear how much was paid to the com­pany.

Ad­voServ de­clined to an­swer ques­tions about the death.

“Our staff is heart­bro­ken over the loss of the young woman in our care, and our deep­est sym­pa­thies go out to her mother and ex­tended fam­ily,” the com­pany said in a state­ment.

This is not the first time that a child has died in a group home man­aged by a state con­trac­tor. Da­maud Martin, a 10-year-old Bal­ti­more boy, died in July 2014 at a Lau­rel-area group home for dis­abled foster chil­dren.

Mary­land health reg­u­la­tors later said that they found se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tions at the Life­Line group home, in­clud­ing con­flict­ing records on his care and mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween staff and the emer­gency re­spon­ders and med­i­cal per­son­nel who la­bored to save him. How­ever, they said none of the vi­o­la­tions con­trib­uted to his death. That con­clu­sion sur­prised child ad­vo­cates who called the in­vest­ga­tion flawed.

Ad­vo­cates for youth say the lat­est in­ci­dent demon­strates the dif­fi­culty of pro­vid­ing ser­vices for chil­dren with the some­times se­vere emo­tional and be­hav­ioral prob­lems.

Wash­ing­ton at­tor­ney Chris Gowan has filed a law­suit on be­half of another Mary­land child who he al­leges was as­saulted at a Ad­voServ fa­cil­ity.

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