Group home regulations tightened

November 19, 2004|By Kelly Brewington | Kelly Brewington,SUN STAFF

Declaring a renewed effort to hold group home operators accountable, the head of the state's Department of Human Resources, announced yesterday a handful of new regulations.

Christopher J. McCabe, the department's secretary, said the new policies would send a message to the operators of the 187 group homes his agency licenses that they are being watched.

"Maryland is raising the bar for residential facilities for youth," he said during the announcement at Aunt Hattie's Place, a northwest Baltimore group home that has received high marks from the state.

"The most important thing we can do is to convey the message that these are our children," McCabe said. "Not the government's children or the group home's children. They are Maryland's children. And when a child is mistreated ... it is really a reflection of us."

The annoucement was made the same day that one of the state's most gruesome child abuse cases was settled. Satrina Roberts pleaded guilty to second-degree murder yesterday in the December 2002 starving and torturing death of Ciara Jobes, a 15-year-old who was in Roberts' care. Roberts was Jobes' legal guardian, and the case exposed a host of problems within state and local agencies that monitor the care of displaced children.

Among changes at the state level announced yesterday is that the list of felony convictions that would disqualify a person from working in a group home has been expanded. Among the crimes added to the list are rape and spousal abuse. The current regulations prohibit only people convicted of child abuse or neglect from running or working in group homes.

The regulations add several new provisions. They require group homes to notify the state of any filing of bankruptcy and of any legal action against the operator. Also, they require that a majority of members of the board of directors of a group home corporation be unrelated to the chief executive.

The new regulations require state workers who monitor group homes to make sure the licensees correct problems that the monitors have found. They also require the three state licensing agencies to begin investigating complaints about group homes within 24 hours of receiving them.

The rules take effect the first of the year.

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