Woodbourne Center's financial woes continue

The Woodbourne Center, one of Maryland's oldest nonprofit agencies, has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization, in a continuing attempt to grapple with $2 million in red ink.

In April, the center and its supporting foundation laid off 66 employees - about a fifth of the staff - and closed eight programs to deal with the debt. For a time last fall, employees did not receive distributions to their 403(b) retirement plans, which operate like 401(k) plans.


The Woodbourne Center Inc. started as an orphanage two centuries ago and is the fifth-oldest child-care agency in the country. During the past few years, it expanded its mission and its spending - renovating its Northeast Baltimore campus for $3.2 million, adding in-home counselors, running several city public schools and opening a for-profit subsidiary designed to help welfare clients get permanent jobs.

Linda Smeyne, executive director and vice president of the Wood- bourne Foundation, said the reorganization filing should not affect the center's core programs.


"We're doing it primarily to restructure our debt and concentrate on quality," she said. "This is business as usual. Our kids are being taken care of."

Charles Maker, chairman of the Woodbourne Center board, said the organization is talking with several potential business partners to help pay its debts. "We don't want to dilly-dally with this because there are still folks out here who are still giving to this organization," he said.

Woodbourne continues to run several group homes; its 54-bed residential treatment center and day school at its central campus at 1301 Woodbourne Ave.; a foster-care program; a special-education middle school; and a children's diagnostic treatment center.

Smeyne said yesterday Woodbourne is discussing whether it will continue to operate three city public schools as part of the New Schools Initiative.