Maryland’s Department of Juvenile Services did not consistently implement or review treatment plans for its young charges, says a new state audit reported by the Baltimore Sun, a failure that cost the state $3 million in Medicaid money at a time when officials were cutting programs to close budget gaps. The agency also neglected to document properly the supervision of some troubled teens, including those in its hallmark Violence Prevention Initiative, a community program for young people most at risk of killing or being killed.
“This has got to be one of the more depressing audits I’ve ever read,” said Matthew Joseph, director of Baltimore’s Advocates for Children and Youth, a watchdog of Juvenile Services. “It goes to the heart of the agency’s functions. It questions how the agency is even able to operate.” The Department of Juvenile Services said it has corrected problems documented in the audit, which covered August 2006 to mid-October 2009. In 2009, the agency had contact with about 33,000 juveniles – teenagers and children who have been charged with or found responsible for crimes – and spent about $275 million handling everything from intake and detention to treatment and community supervision. The agency is working to eliminate paper documentation of juvenile supervision in favor of an electronic system. It appeared to take a haphazard approach to contracts with private group home providers. Judges can sentence juveniles to live in those community-based settings instead of sending them to more secure state-run facilities.