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Maryland Board Postpones Vote That May Double Size of Keymar Juvenile Facility

Silver Oak Academy

The Maryland Board of Public Works has delayed voting on a potential $11.7 million contract that may allow a Carroll County juvenile facility to double the number of young people in residency.

A key vote, originally scheduled for earlier this week, has been postponed for an additional three weeks. Pending approval, the measure would increase the number of juvenile residents at the Silver Oak Academy in Keymar, Md. from 48 to 96 young people.

The service contract modification, which is termed from Feb. 2013 until June 2015, would allow the state to award almost $12 million to Nevada-based Rite of Passage, Inc. to double the “capacity of the residential services program for male youth who are referred by DJS.”

Rite of Passage, Inc. opened Silver Oak Academy in 2009, the former site of the Bowling Brook Preparatory School, which was shut down in 2007 after the death of a resident. Rite of Passage, Inc. later purchased the 78-acre property in an acquisition totaling more than $10 million.

The Maryland Department of Juvenile Services said they wish to double the size of the facility to speed up the process of placing young people in treatment programs. In an Associated Press story, Maryland DJS secretary Sam Abed said that approximately 106 young people are currently awaiting placement.

Reaction to the proposal has been mixed. Public Defender Paul DeWolfe supports the proposal, stating that the DJS data indicates “a large number of the youth pending placement require a placement in a facility that offers the security and treatment that is offered” by Silver Oak Academy, according to The Baltimore Sun.

State Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore), however, is opposed to the expansion plans. “The cornerstone of reform has been to try to limit the size of these facilities,” he is quoted by The Baltimore Sun.

"Over the years, these private facilities start off small, do a good job, and then end up having hundreds of kids,“ he continued. “We're about to jump down this track again."

Photo from the Silver Oak Academy webpage. 

Is Georgia Diversion Policy Endangering Children?

Children’s Rights, Inc. a national advocacy group,  filed a motion in federal court this month in an effort to force the State to turn over documents related to diversion, safety resources and temporary guardianships of children in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

The group is concerned that DFCS is artificially suppressing the number of investigations and the number of children in foster care, leaving abused and neglected children in danger.

Read more from Beth Locker’s blog at Voices for Georgia’s Children