Contemporary Family Services, Maryland's second-largest foster care provider, has appealed the state's decision to terminate its license when it expires in mid-March.
The appeal, which will be heard by a state administrative law judge, puts on hold a decision by the Department of Human Resources to terminate the state's relationship with Hyattsville-based Contemporary Family Services and require the company's foster parents to transfer to other providers.
If the judge upholds the state's decision, the company must return its license and cease foster care services immediately, according to a Feb. 21 letter from the Department of Human Resources.
The Department of Human Resources has accused Contemporary Family Services officials of falsifying board meeting minutes and failing to pay its foster parents and employees on time. State officials also have said the company allowed documentation, including background checks and proof of first-aid training, needed to certify its foster homes to lapse.
Martin H. Schreiber II and Jack Gohn, Baltimore-based lawyers representing Contemporary Family Services, said the company is challenging the state's decision, which Gohn called "arbitrary and capricious." He said he would rebut specific allegations at the appeal hearing.
Gohn noted that foster care families who work with Contemporary Family Services feel "immense loyalty and affection" for the company.
"An agency that is able to inspire that degree of identification and respect and admiration is not one whose license ought to be pulled," he said.
No date has been set for the appeal hearing. The company's license is set to expire March 16.
Ian Patrick Hines, spokesman for the Department of Human Resources, said the agency stands by its decision to deny Contemporary Family Services' license renewal.
"We feel very strongly that we were justified in our initial decision," he said.
Roughly 40 foster parents and company officials met Monday in the company's Hyattsville office. Gohn said the meeting was called, in part, to inform foster parents they don't need to take any action while the appeal is pending.
The private two-hour meeting was closed to the media.
Several of the foster parents attending the meeting Monday came to the company's defense.
Travis Stanley, a Baltimore City foster parent, said he has been happy with the services provided by Contemporary Family Services. Stanley, a foster parent for six years, said: "They are doing everything they can to rectify the situation."
Diane Cephas, a foster care parent from Upper Marlboro who has been with the company for six years, said the state needs to consider its responsibility to the children and the possible distress it could cause if Contemporary Family Services loses its license, including the possibility of foster children being shifted to new homes.
"I have had no problems," Cephas said after Monday's meeting.
Beverly Hallums-Brooks of Clinton said in an earlier phone interview that she has been frustrated with the company for paying her monthly stipends late. She said her concerns "fall on deaf ears" and that she would have transferred companies earlier but was worried that would have caused her to lose her foster son.
"It's frustrating. I am upset. I am stressed out," said Hallums-Brooks, a foster parent for seven years. "They have been on the wrong side of me."
Hines said the Department of Human Resources is reaching out to the company's foster parents to discuss the situation with them. He said during the appeal process the parents have the option of staying with Contemporary Family Services or moving to a new provider.
In a letter to the foster parents on Wednesday, the state wrote that it is "committed to a smooth transition process" for foster children and parents that aims to cause "minimum of inconvenience to you and no impact to the children under your care."
Several parents expressed concern that the state's action would prove overly burdensome for them, because being recertified with a new company could involve additional training or new documentation.
Hines, the department spokesman, said the agency has received about 10 complaints from parents who are concerned about the process. He added that the state's action was prompted by "the failure of Contemporary Family Services to live up to the responsibilities laid out in their contract" and isn't a reflection on the parents.
"We're taking the action that we're taking in light of what is in the best interest of the children," Hines said.
Foster parents are invited to call the department if they have any questions or concerns, Hines said.
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