Family sues, says officials failed to place retarded son Parents say state law, judge's ruling violated

May 03, 1992|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff writer

The family of a mentally retarded Columbia man claims that state and county social services officials have violated the ruling of an administrative judge, state law and the man's constitutional rights by failing to place him in a supervised residential home.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Howard County Circuit Court, Mary and Vincent Finan of the 9200 block of Bellfall Court, allege that their son, Dennis J. Finan, 28, has deteriorated significantly since the Howard County Department of Social Services decided that he could not return to a group home in Columbia where he was formerly a resident.

The Finans claim that Social Services officials have not complied with a Sept. 4, 1991, ruling of an administrative law judge, who ordered officials to reinstate Finan in a residential program.

In the meantime, Finan has been living with his parents and has lost many of his skills, including the ability to perform routine household responsibilities. He is suffering from clinical depression, a condition stemming from his removal from a community living situation, the lawsuit claims.

"This dispute has been going on for a year-and-a-half. They just refuse to settle, and they are at fault," Vincent Finan said of Social Services officials.

"They make promises and stall and fail to do anything. Going to court is the last resort," he said.

The Finans, who are represented by the Maryland Disability Law Center, are seeking an injunction ordering Social Services officials to provide their son with an appropriate placement immediately.

They are also seeking an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages.

State and county Social Services officials said they had not

seen the lawsuit and declined to comment on the case.

The Finans claim that Social Services officials breached a 1989 contract with their son to provide him with daily staff contact, required supervision and 10 to 25 hours weekly of direct aid and teaching by staff.

The suit also alleges that the Columbia residential program in which Finan lived did not have the proper license to care for developmentally disabled adults.

In July 1989, Finan moved into a community program run by Adaptive Living Inc. at 10649 High Beam Court in Columbia. He had two roommates and a live-in counselor.

He made satisfactory progress until May 1990, when he told Denise O'Connell, the county social worker charged with monitoring him, that he was having problems. Social Services officials failed to respond, and Finan experienced insomnia and weight loss and showed signs of stress and fatigue, the suit states.

In June of 1990, O'Connell went on extended sick leave, and Social Services officials failed to assign another caseworker to Finan, his parents allege.

Concerned about his physical and mental condition, his parents removed him from the home in August 1990.

At a meeting that October between the Finans, Social Services officials and Adaptive Living Inc., it was agreed that Finan could return to the home if he met certain conditions, including obtaining a psychiatric evaluation.

On Dec. 29, the suit states that county Social Services officials authorized Adaptive Living to dismiss Finan from the program.

Finan's parents appealed the decision and on Sept. 4, 1991, Administrative Law Judge Marvin L. Teal ruled that the Howard County Department of Social Services had violated state law by failing to provide Finan with the services he was entitled to.

Judge Teal ruled that Finan should be reinstated in the program. The county did not appeal the ruling.

Linda Zumbrun, a Social Services supervisor, indicated that the department would try to locate an appropriate placement for Finan. Despite constant inquiries by Finan's parents and their attorney, the suit alleges that the department has failed to provide services for Finan.

In addition, the suit charges that state officials violated Finan's constitutional right to due process.

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