Maryland Juvenile Services Secretary Linda D'Amario Rossi has agreed to take a similar position in Rhode Island, but she has not officially resigned from her post here, which complicates the search for her successor.
Rhode Island Gov. Bruce Sundlun yesterday announced that he had offered Rossi her old job back, as director of Child and Family Services. However, because his offer includes a five-year contract and reinstatement in Rhode Island's pension plan, Rossi's appointment has to be approved by that state's legislature, a process that could take several weeks.
So Rossi will continue to serve in her Cabinet post here, and she said yesterday she hopes to have some input into the choice of her successor.
Rossi said that if the Rhode Island legislature does not approve her job package -- an unlikely scenario -- she will stay here.
"If the bill goes through and passes, then I'll leave," she said. "This is hard. I won't be upset if the bill doesn't pass."
Rossi came to Maryland in 1987 as the head of the Juvenile Services Agency. The agency then was elevated to a Cabinet department and Rossi became its secretary.
She said she has been happy here and had turned down other job offers, but the offer from Sundlun was simply too good to refuse, she said. Even Gov. William Donald Schaefer thought so, Rossi said.
The offer also carries emotional weight, coming from her home state, where her parents live. Rossi started as a social worker in Rhode Island in the early 1970s and worked her way up through the bureaucracy. When she lost her job in Rhode Island, she went first to Texas, where she oversaw that state's training schools.
After coming to Maryland, Rossi closed the scandal-ridden Montrose School and reduced the population at the state's remaining reformatory, the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in northern Baltimore County.
She says she is proudest of her agency's emphasis on alternative programs for its youths. Under Rossi, the Department of Juvenile Services changed markedly, moving away from institutional care for juveniles to more community-based programs.
When and if she leaves the department, Rossi said, she expects her successor to follow a similar path. "I believe the foundation here is solid. . . . People can carry it forward."