The boy did not want to take a shower. After being asked to wash up, the 10-year-old began throwing glass cookware in the kitchen, turned on the stove and started a small fire, according to state records. His foster father wound up in the hospital with chest pains.
The violent incident in Wicomico County was one of several detailed in documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun as it investigated foster home violence that gained increased attention after a 2-year-old’s death this summer.
The Sun requested last year’s incident reports for homes under the watch of the state’s three largest social services agencies. The files offer a glimpse into the challenges faced by families who take in children from troubled homes.
The state Department of Human Resources could not immediately provide additional information on the number of violent incidents in foster homes across the state or among the three largest providers
There are about 7,000 children in the state’s foster care system, and about 400 were served in 2011 by the three agencies: Mentor Maryland, Contemporary Family Services and Arrow Child and Family Ministries of Maryland.
Contemporary Family Services no longer works with the state; Maryland cut ties with the company after The Baltimore Sun revealed the company failed to pay its federal taxes, among other issues.
The death in July of 2-year-old Aniyah Batchelor in her Fort Washington foster home is one of at least two deaths this year. The girl was allegedly beaten to death by a 12-year-old boy who also lived there. The state has not identified the foster-care provider.
In January, a 3-year-old in the care of Contemporary Family Services died in a Glen Burnie foster home after suffering an asthma attack and going into cardiac arrest.
Of the 16 violent episodes revealed in the heavily redacted 2011 reports, none were fatal. Two resulted in injuries to an adult and two resulted in arrest.
In the Wicomico County case, he boy was taken into police custody and hospitalized for short-term stabilization. The foster family asked that he return to their home after he was treated.
Elyn Jones, deputy communications director for the Department of Human Resources, said foster parents regularly welcome children back into their homes after an incident.
“Keep in mind that many of these incidents, had they occurred in a traditional family environment, may likely have been addressed by the parents without any formal record,” Jones said in a statement. “Many of these children are teenagers that are prone to the usual events that occur during the teenage years, including mood swings, pressure from peers and the need to challenge adult authority.”
The records show that in another incident a 10-year-old boy in Westminster was taken for emergency psychiatric hospitalization after an incident at 4 p.m. on Aug. 25, 2011. The boy became agitated when he was asked several times to turn down the television, according to the incident report.
The boy cursed at his foster parent, ran outside in the rain and then back into the house, where he turned on the kitchen stove and threatened to blow up the house. The boy struck the foster parent in the head with a candleholder and broke a flat-screen television, the report said.