BALTIMORE, JULY 28 -- A federal judge, in the wake of allegations of widespread abuse in state-run foster homes here, ordered Maryland foster care officials today to monitor children in all Baltimore foster homes at least once a month and report any maltreatment complaints to juvenile court authorities.
In a wide-ranging order, U.S. District Judge Joseph C. Howard also ordered officials to submit a plan within 20 days for review of each foster home in the city to see that it meets licensing standards. In addition, he directed the state Department of Human Resources to assign sufficient staff to ensure that medical histories of foster children are obtained and provided to doctors and foster parents.
A departmental spokesman said officials were studying the order to see if it is limited to Baltimore or applies to the 5,000 to 5,500 foster children placed in homes across the state, including hundreds in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
The order came in an $18 million lawsuit filed by the Baltimore Legal Aid Bureau and other organizations, in which they contend that up to 30 percent of the 2,800 foster children in the city suffer physical, sexual or emotional abuse in their assigned homes.
A trial at which the allegations will be raised is scheduled before Howard in November. The judge ruled today that state officials are not immune from possible monetary damages in November's trial.
Howard also said the state has failed to improve foster care in Baltimore, despite prodding by legal aid attorneys, and has provided an inadequate number of foster homes, dumped unacceptably large caseloads on its workers and given them inadequate training.
State officials said in court papers they have taken measures to improve foster home care in Baltimore and that reports of child abuse reflect isolated incidents.