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DHR is not 'robbing' any children

I am writing in response to the recent commentary regarding foster care, "How Maryland robs its most vulnerable children," (Oct. 14).

The author incorrectly asserts that the Department of Human Resources is improperly taking assets from children in its care. The truth is that Maryland is among at least 39 states that routinely apply for Social Security benefits on behalf of the children in its custody and use those benefits to partially cover the cost of their care. Every dime goes to helping that child.

The department has used these and other public funds to help provide services to the children in its care for decades. This practice is based on long-standing federal law and is spelled out publicly in both federal and state regulations. Far from being something done in secret, the department's efforts and similar efforts in other states have been validated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 and the Maryland Court of Appeals in 1984.

On Sept. 26, the Maryland Court of Appeals again held the department is using these benefits appropriately. In its decision, the court also instructed the department to notify the child's attorney whenever it takes this step in the future. As the department has never made a secret of this practice, we are happy to comply with this simple requirement.

Over the past five years, the hard work of thousands of the department's employees has helped find a permanent home for over 13,000 Maryland children, either through adoption, guardianship or family reunification. As a result, there are the fewest number of children in foster care in Maryland in at least 25 years. Further, surveys of Baltimore children exiting the department's care at age 21 found that 93 percent have stable housing, 89 percent have access to health care and 89 percent are in school or have a job.

While we disagree in this instance, I appreciate the author's advocacy for children and its importance to the health of the child welfare system. I look forward to our continued collaboration in the areas where we agree.

Ted Dallas, Baltimore

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Resources.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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