Concerns Over Ala. Abortion Ban Postpones State Foster Care Contract

    The contract for placements of 20 foster children in the state of Maryland has been postponed for two weeks after top Democrats asked officials to explore transferring a contract from an Alabama-based company.

    Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) promised last month that he would seek to steer state investments and contracts away from companies based in Alabama after lawmakers in that state passed legislation to essentially outlaw abortion entirely and impose severe criminal penalties on medical professionals who perform the procedure.

    “The radical anti-abortion bill that was passed and enacted into law in Alabama is a malicious assault on the rights and protections of women everywhere in the United States. Simply put, Alabama’s values are drastically different than the values of people in Maryland, therefore I don’t think Maryland tax dollars should be subsidizing, directly or indirectly, Alabama’s assault on women,” Franchot said Wednesday.

    On the Board of Public Works agenda Wednesday was a $625,000 contract with Seraaj Family Homes, a company based in Montgomery, Ala., for the placement of 20 foster children with Maryland families. It was part of a $75 million contract with 34 other companies around the country.

    Franchot, joined by Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D), said they want the Department of Human Services to see if the contract for those children could be transferred from the Alabama-based company to a Maryland company.

    Gregory S. James, the department’s deputy secretary for operations, said the delay will not cause any immediate harm to the foster children involved in the contract, but warned about unnecessary changes to placements.

    “Every time we move a child from a placement, that’s very disruptive to that child. And it’s traumatic for them. And they’ve already been traumatized,” said James, who noted that some of the children have been with their foster families for as many as four years. “…In general, we strongly oppose any change in a placement when it’s not clinically required.”

    James also noted that Seraaj Family Homes has an office in Towson, which the state contracts through, and the company is licensed in Maryland to serve children placed in Maryland.

    Franchot said since there are more than 2,000 other kids covered under other contracts, administrative shuffling should be possible without disruption to the children or families.

    “I can’t imagine that something can’t be constructed that would allow this company to keep the kids in the same families, but move them off of the Alabama company’s rolls,” Franchot said. “…I would like to see some alternative brought back to us that would allow the state to put these 20 kids somehow in their same homes with these other Maryland companies.”

    Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) agreed to the two-week delay, but urged caution as the board moves forward.

    “These are kids who are already traumatized and I don’t want to do anything that’s going to be extremely disruptive to these foster children,” Hogan said.

    Contracts for the other providers were approved 3-0 Wednesday.

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    Danielle E. Gaines
    Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.