BALTIMORE — Youth in juvenile facilities across Maryland do not receive adequate therapeutic care or enough staff attention, according to a quarterly report released by an independent monitoring agency under the umbrella of the attorney general’s office.
The Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit released its quarterly report Tuesday.
The report outlines “critical staffing shortages” at most of the state’s youth facilities, as well as a dearth of therapeutic and mental health services for youth.
At the Victor Cullen Center in Frederick, a high-security facility for boys, youth do not receive evidence-based, trauma-informed therapy, the report says. “Youth described Victor Cullen as ‘like detention,’ and said that being at Cullen is about ‘doing time’ and that ‘there is no program here,'” the report reads.
Although the report does credit the Department of Juvenile Services with making an effort to reduce the population of youth incarcerated in facilities, it says that nearly all youth facilities in the state are understaffed.
“Direct-care staff are required to work multiple double shifts (16 hours) during the week, which can contribute to burnout and attrition,” the report says. “For instance, some youth reported that staff don’t have time to speak with them one on one about problems they are having and feel as if they have to act out in order to get the help they need.”
Staffing is a problem at the Thomas J.S. Waxter Children’s Center, a detention center for girls in Anne Arundel County. The report outlined one instance in which a girl was permitted to use the bathroom unsupervised so two staff members could stay with a group. The girl was found in a stall with a sweatshirt tied around her neck, the report said.
In another instance at the facility, a teen suffered a miscarriage four days after entering the facility, but was forced to wait for an hour and a half before nurses were authorized to call an ambulance. When she was transported, she was placed in shackles.
The Department of Juvenile Services in the agency’s written response took issue with the report’s assertion that its facilities do not offer therapeutic treatment, and pointed to weekly therapy sessions and regular psychiatric evaluations. Additionally, the agency said it is addressing the need for additional services by contracting with a local university to provide tele-psychiatry services.
DJS also said it has eliminated the requirement for restraints in emergency medical situations and registered nurses in all facilities have the authority to call 911 without waiting for supervisory approval.
The agency also requested the monitoring unit standardize its process for evaluating facilities.