Social services to extend review of some child-abuse cases

March 18, 2010|By Brent Jones | brent.jones@baltsun.com

Addressing a loophole in state law, Maryland social services officials moved Wednesday to extend the supervision of mothers who have lost parental rights due to neglect or abuse.

Since October, state agencies have been checking birth records against a database with names of individuals who have had their parental rights terminated. Matches are investigated by child protective services workers. But the state did not examine termination cases that occurred before October 2009 - a gap brought to light this week when a Baltimore woman who had lost custody of four children was charged with killing her infant son.

Now, Department of Social Service employees will include cases that occurred since 2006.

Human Resources Secretary Brenda Donald said the department did not believe it had the authority to do so before reviewing the law in the wake of the infant's death.

"Before, we determined that the implementation date should be the same as the effective date of the law, which is typically what happens," Donald said. "That's how we had interpreted the law and how the regulations were written."

Sponsors of the law passed by the 2009 General Assembly argue that Social Services has always had the capability to send old cases to health officials, and should have.

"It's unfortunate that it took this incident to bring about what should have been the policy since last October when the bill became law," said Del. Samuel L. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat.

Donald said the agency reviewed its policy after police arrested Lakesha Haynie and charged her with the first-degree murder of her baby, Rajahnthon Haynie, who was found Sunday buried in a shallow hole at Druid Hill Park. Donald added that the department's computer system allows workers to submit records of unfit parents only after 2006.

Haynie first came into contact with the city's Department of Social Services eight years ago, when two children were removed from her custody. Haynie subsequently lost parental rights for two kids.

A source with knowledge of the investigation said Haynie gave birth to son Rajahnthon Haynie at her home in January and the baby was never registered with the state.

Lakesha Haynie is being held without bond, and prosecutors have said that she was considered suicidal.

Donald said social workers had attempted to contact Haynie last year by home visits and sending registered letters but were unable to find her.

"In light of this terrible tragedy, we stepped back as we would do in any situation to learn as much as we can to see if legally if we could go back further and apply retrospectively," Donald said. "In this case, it wouldn't have made a difference because [the infant] was not listed in the vital records."

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