(Baltimore Police Department )
State officials announced Friday morning new safety rules in the aftermath of this week's stabbing of an 8-month-old child, allegedly by the mother during a supervised visit at an East Baltimore social services office.
The new rules give social workers more leeway in deciding whether to have security present at meetings and all bags will have to emptied and then checked before visitors are allowed inside.
Union representatives had complained that private security guards are inadequate given that social workers routinely meet with distraught parents who in many cases have had their children taken away.
Read the chilling account of the stabbing and efforts by social workers to save the baby and subdue the suspect.
Friday's announcement does not address how a woman got into the building with what police said was a long silver-bladed kitchen knife hidden in her bag. Police said she used the knife to repeatedly stab her child after becoming angry that her hour-long visit was over. Kenisha Thomas, 29, has been charged with attempted first-degree murder; the child is recovering at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Authorities said that visitors to the East Biddle Street offices are supposed to go through a metal detector, show identification and be subject to a bag search. State officials say they're still investigating what went wrong in Tuesday's attack.
Here is the statement from the Maryland Department of Human Resources:
"The tragic events this week at our Baltimore facility on Biddle Street highlight the need for us remain vigilant in our efforts to safeguard the children it is our mission to protect. While our staff performed heroically and without regard to their own personal safety, this incidentdemands that we review our safety protocols and find ways to enhance them to prevent a repeat of anything like this from occurring again."
Today, we are announcing steps we are taking to augment existing safety procedures that already include the use of a metal detector and on-site security personnel to monitor all those participating in visits with children. Specifically, we are taking the following steps at four of our facilities in Baltimore effective Monday, April 30:
1. All bags will be stored in lockers prior to entering these facilities and before passing through the metal detectors already in the building. Until these lockers are installed, security at the buildings will require that all bags are completely emptied in the presence of security staff and thoroughly searched prior to entering the facility; and
2. Caseworkers who in their professional judgement have reason to suspect a safety concern can have a second caseworker be present during a supervised visit with a child and, as needed, to have a member of the on-site security personnel stationed immediately outside of the meeting room.
The Department will closely monitor these changes in policy and their impact on security and adjust them accordingly over the next few months. We will also review security at other facilities across the state and implement any enhancements that are necessary.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with the infant that was the victim of this horrible incident for her speedy recovery. We also understand the impact that this incident has had on our staff and the broader community. The overwhelming majority our families work cooperatively with the Department to rebuild their lives and form stable and loving relationships with their children."