State won't renew contract with major foster care provider

Contemporary Family Services faulted for past performance

May 02, 2012|By Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun

Maryland's second-largest foster care provider will lose its contract with the state to place children in homes, a Department of Human Resources spokesman said Wednesday.

Any children placed with Contemporary Family Services must be transferred to the care of another placement company before the contract expires June 30, according to a letter from the department to the company's executive director, John L. Monroe. A transition plan is being developed for the foster children and parents.

The move follows a series of troubles at the Hyattsville-based company — including failure to pay federal taxes — that were detailed in a Baltimore Sun investigation. The state announced in late February that it would not relicense Contemporary Family Services, a decision the company is contesting.

Ian Patrick Hines, communications director for the Department of Human Resources, said the department won't renew the company's contract for several reasons, including the decreased need for such companies and Contemporary Family Services' performance.

The state has paid Contemporary Family Services more than $26 million since 2008 under the contract to license foster care homes and place children in them. As of late February, the company had oversight of 157 foster children and 99 foster parents in its network; state officials did not provide an updated figure.

"We're fortunate that in recent years we've been successful in getting more and more of our foster children into permanent homes, reducing our need for beds and putting us in a position to be more selective about our providers," Hines said in a statement. "In particular, our decision not to renew CFS' contract was absolutely informed by our experience with them over the past several months, and we believe that it's in the best interest of Maryland's foster children."

Messages left for Monroe, another company executive and an attorney for Contemporary Family Services were not returned Wednesday. A second attorney, reached by phone, said he was not in a position to comment.

Hines said local social services departments will work with the foster parents to shift them to another child placement company. If a foster parent chooses not to make that transition, Hines said, the child will have to be placed in a new foster home.

Hines said the action is not a reflection on the foster parents licensed through Contemporary Family Services.

Trouble for Contemporary Family Services dates back a decade. A payment plan with the Internal Revenue Service, along with other information provided by the company, shows that Contemporary Family Services failed to pay taxes withheld from employee paychecks as early as September 2002.

The Department of Human Resources has said that company officials falsified board meeting minutes, neglected to pay foster parents and employees on time, and failed to track whether all of its foster parents met requirements such as up-to-date criminal background checks and first-aid training.

The company remains under investigation by the inspector general at the Department of Human Resources, Hines said.

Company executives are fighting the state's decision to terminate its license, which expired March 16. The action is on hold pending a hearing before an administrative law judge in late July.

An attorney for Contemporary Family Services has called the state's accusations arbitrary and capricious.

Monroe said this year that the company was moving to correct problems, which he attributed to former employees.

A spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services said Wednesday that the recent action by the Maryland Department of Human Resources — laid out in an April 11 letter to Contemporary Family Services — is not expected to affect placements the company has made in the District of Columbia.

As of late February, the company oversaw the placement of 11 foster children there; updated figures were not available.

Dori Henry, director of communications for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the agency has terminated the approval to operate that it had issued to Contemporary Therapeutic Services, which is part of Contemporary Family Services. The action was taken after Contemporary Therapeutic Services told the agency last week that it was no longer operating as an outpatient mental health clinic.

The affiliate has billed the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene more than $15 million over the past three fiscal years for services it provided. A routine audit of Contemporary Therapeutic Services in 2011 by the agency's Office of Health Care Quality turned up only minor deficiencies that did not impact the quality of services provided to clients, Henry said.

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