Md. restores foster care contract

July 27, 1995|By Thomas W. Waldron and Lisa Respers | Thomas W. Waldron and Lisa Respers,Sun Staff Writers

State officials reversed course yesterday and restored a contract with a Baltimore foster care program a month after abruptly canceling it after a negative news report.

The Board of Public Works approved a revamped contract with New Pathways, a private firm that supervises former foster children 18 to 21 years old.

The board killed the contract June 30 after a television station reported that several New Pathways clients had trouble with the law while under the organization's supervision.

The revised contract with New Pathways requires the firm to monitor its clients more intensively.

"They should have been doing this before," said state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, one of the three members of the board.

"It's a different contract. It has much stronger controls in it," said state Treasurer Lucille Maurer, another board member. The third board member, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, also voted to approve the redrawn contract.

Among several added provisions, the contract requires New Pathways to report promptly to state officials any arrest of its clients or serious infraction of program rules. It also requires clients to be employed or enrolled in school or vocational training.

New Pathways provides an apartment, clothing and $90 a week for food, living expenses and savings for each young adult trying to make the transition from foster care to independent adult lives.

WJZ-TV (Channel 13) reported last month that several clients had been charged with crimes, including assault, drug possession, car theft and having sex with a minor.

New Pathways Director Barbara Chappell said she was "thrilled" the program would reopen Aug. 1.

The new contract calls for the state to pay the company $1.4 million over the next 11 months to provide services for up to 55 people.

New Pathways, which has contracted with the state since 1990, lost about $130,000 because of the contract suspension.

Ms. Chappell said 10 of the 15 staff members were terminated; the five remaining staffers assisted in gathering data requested by the state for its investigation. Several of the caseworkers found other jobs but might come back, she said.

Program expenses for the month and salaries for the remaining staff were paid from the organization's savings account, Ms. Chappell said.

Bernard Clubb, 19, participated in New Pathways for 10 months and said he lost his job working for the program when its doors closed. He said that while he was happy the program was reopening, he worried that another incident could cause it to shut down again.

"It was a beautiful program, and it should have never been closed," Mr. Clubb said. "I'm just scared that someone else is going to do something to cause trouble again."

Mr. Clubb said he was able to stay in his apartment because the state Department of Human Resources paid his rent while it sought another program for him.

State officials said they will require similar programs to provide stricter supervision. In all, more than 1,400 people 16 and older take part in various state "independent living" programs at an annual cost of $10.7 million, said J. C. Shay, a spokesman for the Department of Human Resources.

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