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Maryland Board of Public Works approves contract with Alabama-based firm

The Maryland Board of Public Works includes, from left, state Treasurer Nancy Kopp, Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

The Maryland Board of Public Works voted unanimously Wednesday to renew a foster-care-placement contract with an Alabama-based company, despite earlier calls by Comptroller Peter Franchot to boycott the state over its strict new abortion law.

Franchot (D), who serves on the board, said he voted in favor of the $625,000 contract with Seraaj Family Homes of Montgomery, Ala., because he did not want to affect the services provided to the foster care children the company places.

“I appreciate the situation that you’re in and I don’t want to obviously affect even a small number of children,” Franchot told Gregory S. James, a deputy secretary for the state Department of Human Services. “But I hope we don’t see this situation down the road because I think this issue is going to become larger rather than smaller.”

Two weeks ago Franchot asked the panel to delay approving the contract with Seraaj, which has a local office in Towson, Md. The contract covers placement, payments to the foster parents and any additional costs for the children’s food, clothing and recreation.

“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 this month.

At the time, he asked the administration to consider an alternative for handling the 20 special-needs children placed by Seraaj each year, all of whom have serious emotional, behavioral, medical or psychological conditions.

The agency raised concerns about moving the children from their foster home placements for reasons that are not clinical.

“It is in the best interest of the state to approve the renewal options to ensure that continuity of care to youth in state custody is maintained in order to avoid any disruptions in their daily routines,” the request from the Department of Human Services reads.

State officials said the human services department, which spends $75 million contracting with 34 companies for foster-care-related services, will begin approaching all of Maryland’s current licensed providers about providing future services, including for the children now served by Seraaj.

The renewed contract with the Alabama-based company runs through June next year.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Franchot told James that he looks forward to him using “his expertise to figure out pragmatically” how to address the issue in the future.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) voted for the contract without comment.

In other action, the board approved a $27 million contract to demolish the closed portion of the Baltimore City Detention Center. Hogan said the state plans to build a drug abuse and mental health treatment center on the site of the Civil War-era jail.

The board also denied a request from a Howard County district judge to receive reimbursement for $86,000 in legal fees to defend a judicial ethics complaint.

This Democrat called for a boycott of Alabama. Will his actions match his words?

Maryland panel delays awarding contract to Alabama-based company

Alabama Senate passes nation’s most restrictive abortion ban, which makes no exceptions for victims of rape and incest

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