August, 18 2018

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Report Says Facilities for Troubled Youth in Baltimore Aren't Clean

Maryland taxpayers fork over millions of dollars to house the state’s troubled youth, but a new report shows juvenile offenders live in facilities plagued by insects, rodents, moldy showers, worn-out bathrooms and leaky ceilings.

“We believe these conditions result from many years of severe neglect by the state of Maryland, the public’s ignorance of these conditions, and the ‘forgotten’ status to which we relegate children who have broken the law,” according to a recent report from the attorney general’s Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit highlighting the 12 worst facilities.

An Example of Dilapidation

Youth at the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Cheltenham are housed in “old, dilapidated cottages” with heavy steel, prison-style doors and small, high-placed windows clouded with age.

The facility also suffers from insect and rat infestations.

At the state’s facility for girls, the Thomas J.S. Waxter Children’s Center in Laurel, youth often urinate and defecate on themselves, because their cells do not have toilets and they can’t wait any longer for someone to let them out.

The bathroom leaked so much at the Maryland Youth Residence Center/William Donald Schaefer House in Baltimore City that the ceiling collapsed on the dining hall.

The Thomas O’Farrell Youth Center in Marriottsville lacks air conditioning in one of the living units and uses tape on windows for insulation.

At J. DeWeese Carter Children’s Center in Chestertown, youth sleep on the floor in mattresses cradled in plastic containers called “boats.”

The centers are unsafe, ineffective for rehabilitating youth and expensive, said Linda Heisner, deputy director for the nonprofit Advocates for Children and Youth.

Cost of Rehabilitation

Every year, it costs between $50,000 and $60,000 for each child, eating up the majority of the Department of Juvenile Services’ $200 million budget.

Community-based services, which youth attend while living at home, cost $8,000 to $9,000 per child, Heisner said.

Future for Troubled Teen Services

Such a program will launch this year in Baltimore County, Juvenile Services spokeswoman Tammy Brown said.

Juvenile Services Secretary Donald DeVore has approved a $600,000 project to renovate Waxter’s bathrooms to improve safety and privacy.

“We don’t have the funding to make all the improvements that need to be done because they have been ignored for so long,” Brown said.

The deficiencies persist because new administrations take office every four years, said Marlana Valdez, director of the monitoring unit.

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