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Md. Officials Want Investigation Into Child’s Death At Group Home

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Rick Ritter joined WJZ Eyewitness News in May 2014 as ...
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ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — A 10-year-old foster child died at his Anne Arundel County group home, even as state officials were taking action to shut that facility down. Now Maryland lawmakers and child advocates are calling for an investigation into the oversight of the home.

Rick Ritter has the details.

Lawmakers want to know why the state continued to give the company millions in taxpayer dollars despite its longstanding problems.

From caring for the developmentally disabled to the center of a statewide investigation, all eyes are on an Anne Arundel County group home.

“This particular facility has gotten a lot of scrutiny from our department,” said Maryland Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein.

The home was operated at a Laurel apartment complex by Lifeline Inc., a company contracted with the state to provide 24-hour care for some developmentally disabled children.

Video shows a Millersville woman who adopted two disabled boys from the company but it was in one of those apartments on July 2 when a 10-year-old severely disabled boy died.

“No human being should die before their time,” said Delegate Sandy Rosenberg.

An autopsy will determine the 10-year-old’s exact cause of death but officials say it’s too early to tell whether or not a problem with the group was a factor.

Now Maryland lawmakers are calling for an investigation, wondering why the state awarded Lifeline $18 million in contracts since 2010—despite its history of problems.

“Safety is paramount and this is an instance when we didn’t act soon enough,” Delegate Rosenberg said.

State survey reports show health inspectors found Lifeline in violation of several state regulations earlier this year. Allegations of neglect followed by staffing patterns to address the health and safety of children had not been maintained.

“They need to provide appropriate care,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg says he’s now efforting new legislation in light of the death.

“Any company providing such care, if they have a fiscal problem, make sure the department is notified,” Rosenberg said.

To make sure something similar to this doesn’t happen again.

“Reduce the risk that anyone else will die in these circumstances or anyone else will suffer serious physical or mental harm,” Rosenberg said.

State officials say they’ve been working for weeks to find a new group home for all 10 of the children in Lifeline’s Laurel facility.

WJZ tried reaching out to Lifeline but our calls were not returned.

The State Department of Health and State Department of Human Resources will both be conducting their own investigation into the boy’s death.

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