Tensions were high between freshman and veteran state legislators in the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee Wednesday.
A bill sponsored by state Senator Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, would require the Maryland Department of Human Resources to spend special funds received by individual children in foster care exclusively on the intended child, instead of adding the funds to a general foster care fund. The bill was a strong compromise developed over years of debate, Raskin said.
Maryland Secretary of Human Resources Sam Malhotra, appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan and confirmed by the state Senate on Friday, said he supported the concept of the bill, but proposed the creation of a taskforce to study the unfunded proposal.
Maryland would be the first state to enact such a bill, and Malhotra touted the importance of a holistic approach.
“We should not experiment with such a plan without thorough examination,” he said, proposing to gather further input from foster children.
“The state runs a business, and these kids are our customers,” he said. “We have to take care of them. It’s an analogy that I understand.”
State Senator James Brochin, D-Baltimore County, urged Malhotra to ask Hogan, a Republican, for a supplementary budget that would allow the bill to work.
“At the end of the day, it’s not your money,” Brochin said. “Do what your predecessor didn’t. The governor I know would support this.”
–By Deidre McPhillips
‘Rehoming’ Bill to Protect Adopted Children Could Fill Gap in Abandonment Laws
The adoption community finds the term “rehoming” as offensive as the act, adoption attorney Peter Wiernicki from Rockville told the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee Wednesday.
“Rehoming” occurs when adoptive parents transfer physical custody of the adopted child to another individual without prior approval of a court, and state Senator Ronald Young, D-Frederick, has sponsored a bill that would make the act punishable by up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Wiernicki said that the bill should be expanded to protect all children, not just adopted children, and become part of abandonment laws.
During the testimony, committee chair state Senator Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, was flipping through the shelves of law books behind him, looking for the criminal law on abandonment.
“It seems there is a gap,” he said. “It goes from neglect to sale of a minor to leaving a baby in a safe haven.”
Wiernicki said that there is no data or way to track how many times this has happened.
But Deborah Ramelmeier, acting executive director of social services for the Maryland Department of Human Resources, said that it is a problem each time it happens.
“These people are not addressing their child’s needs,” she said. “They owe them a lifelong commitment, but they’re walking away from the children and giving them to people who are not any more equipped to care for them.”
— By Deidre McPhillips