DHR action comes too late for Rajahnthon but can help others

March 18, 2010

We thank The Sun for both the article and editorial that appeared in your March 18 edition ("State to extend review of those who have lost parental rights" and "Protecting our youngest"). They called attention to the need to move with haste to strengthen regulations implementing our state's current birth match law, bipartisan legislation that we authored. The lives of children hang in the balance.

We have been haunted by a cadre of questions since the death of one-month-old Rajahnthon Haynie, a death in which his mother has been charged with murder. At this point, we do not know if birth match could have prevented this death, as Ms. Haynie's whereabouts were unknown. What we do know, however, is that it's imperative we strengthen whatever tools we have to protect the most vulnerable.

Birth match alerts social services when children are born to parents who -- due to previous abuse and neglect -- have lost their parental rights to previous children.

We originally proposed this idea in the 2008 legislative session, and together with the Department of Human Resources, we passed a refined bill in 2009. DHR determined that the implementation date of October 1, 2009 required all aspects of the bill to be prospective. We are pleased to learn that Secretary Brenda Donald, in light of Rajahnthon's death, has decided to modify the regulations to be retroactive. This allows DHR to be notified of new births to parents who had their parental rights terminated from 2006 forward.

DHR's swift action widens the window of opportunity to intervene on behalf of a child who might be at risk. After all, that's why we sponsored the legislation and continue to work with DHR to protect Maryland's children.

Sen. Nancy Jacobs and Del. Jeff Waldstreicher, Annapolis

Senator Jacobs is a Republican representing Harford and Cecil counties, and Delegate Waldstreicher is Democrat representing Montgomery County.

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