The Department of Human Resource has closed Maple Glen, part of the D.C. Children's Center in Laurel, Md., and moved the youngsters it once housed into group homes in the District of Columbia.
The action was taken to preserve the city's eligibility for federal funds for the new facilities in the city. It was completed last Monday, the deadline set by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, the source of the federal money.
All of the children involved were committed to DHR's care by the courts because of noncriminal acts such as truancy and refusal to obey parents. They are part of the People In Need of Supervision (PINS) program.
Seven group homes - four operated by DHR, three with contractors - will provide 83 places for PINS children. However, two DHR homes have not opened but are undergoing renovations, and local residents are seeking to close a third home.
Three of the DHR group homes were opened this year with LEAA grant funds totaling nearly $200,000. An additional $124,000 will be provided later in the year. Failure to meet the Monday deadline would have made the city liable for the money already received and would have cost it future grants as well.
The D.C. City Council also appropriated $250,000 in funds for DHR's two new subcontractors.
Prior to 1977, DHR had operated one PINS group home for 12 youths and subcontracted with another group home for 15 youths. DHR's five new homes will provide 56 additional places, bringing the total to 83.
Over the years, Maple Glen, one of the three Children's Center institutions, has held 90 per cent of the PINS children.
J.L. Wyatt, chief of institutional care, said 28 youths went to group homes from Maple Glen Aug. 1 and one youth was sent to his own home. Maple Glen's 56 employees were transferred to positions in group homes and other DHR facilities.
The Maple Glen facility, he said, is being considered by the Department of Labor as a possible Job Corp training system.
During the past decade, DHR officials said, they have tried to establish group homes because they are a better vehicle for reintegrating problem youths into society. However, most admit they also need Maple Glen as a backup facility to make the program work. Without it, some officials say, many of the youths will return to the institutions as delinquents within the year.
"Many of the youths are so unstructured they need the structure of an institution during the early part of treatment," said one official.
In addition, DHR is also facing opposition from residents over a home located at 1375-77 Quincy Street NW, which is being operated by Charles E. Coleman under a one-year contract.
Philip Pannell, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission commissioner for the area, ward 4C, said residents are seeking to close the home on the grounds that DHR failed to give the community 30 days notice in line with city regulations.
Apart from that, Pannell said the reasons for not wanting the home are twofold: Some residents feel that the drugs and businesses they regard as disreputable in the area would be harmful to the girls. Others, he said, just don't want a group home.
"I fine it hard to believe that in all of D.C. the only place they can locate those kids is on 14th and Quincy Streets," said Pannell. "The problem is, people who live in bad neighborhoods are alienated. They have a sense of powerlessness. So the government feels they can do whatever they want in these communities."
At least one department official agreed, "I think it's ridiculous putting kids in neighborhoods like that," he think those were the neighborhoods least able to resist."
In a meeting held this week, more than 100 community residents met with DHR officials to discuss why they had to learn about the home in a newspaper.
DHR spokesmen Milton Douglas said, "There was no intent for us to be in violation of a process." Another official said that because the contract for the Quincy Street home was signed only on July 20, notification never went out.
"It is most unfortunate and very regrettable that because of this the contractors unwittingly did not touch base with the ANCs," said Albert P. Russo, director of DHR. "I certainly want to (assure) the ANCs about whatever concerns and fears they may have."