Fresh Starts for 2022, Jumping into a New Year!
With a new year comes many new changes and exciting updates for the Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth (MARFY). January 12, 2022 brought in Maryland’s 444th General Assembly and I am excited to be working with our members and other key stakeholders to address the many changes that need to be addressed. While this session still may not look like those of years past due to COVID-19 precautions, we jumped right in to make sure our full slate of priorities will be heard, including supporting positive items in the proposed budget that would increase provider funding as well as issues regarding expanding licensure for social workers, preventing child abuse, and juvenile justice reform as well as opposing issues that may deem harmful to children, foster parents, and guardians.
To date, 1,429 pieces of legislation have been introduced by the Maryland House of Delegates, and 975 have been introduced by the Maryland Senate. While introduction deadlines have passed, MARFY continues to carefully review the Maryland General Assembly website for any updates to legislation and any additional late-filed bills.
Hearings are well underway and there is less than a month until “Cross-over”, a date which ensures that a bill that has crossed the House or Senate chamber will be guaranteed a hearing in the opposite chamber giving the legislation better chances of passing. Each week, MARFY has continued to engage in advocacy and has weighed in on 16 pieces of legislation. A snapshot of some major issues MARFY has weighed in on thus far are as follows:
- MARFY is in support of House Bill 173 – State Board of Social Work Examiners – Temporary License to Practice Social Work – This would authorize the State Board of Social Work Examiners to issue a temporary license to practice social work if a required examination is unavailable to the applicant due to the existing delays caused by COVID-19. Private providers experienced significant obstacles prior to COVID-19 as it pertained to hiring social workers due to an identified national shortage, and this challenge has become more compounded as a result of the pandemic. The delay in a graduate’s ability to sit for their exam to obtain their licensure considerably impedes employer’s capacity to offer employment subsequently hindering clinical services that our youth, families, and communities The passage of this important legislation would help to elevate the current workforce and allow for our members to current to serve some of Maryland’s most vulnerable populations in the best way possible.
- House Bill 269/Senate Bill 53 – Juvenile Law – Child Interrogation Protection Act – MARFY is in support of legislation that addresses juvenile justice reform, specifically if it addresses the safe keeping of Maryland’s children. If passed, this legislation would protect a minor taken into custody, providing reasonable notice to a child’s parent or guardian before authorizing police questioning.
- MARFY issued a Letter of Information on House Bill 406 – Children in Out-of-Home Placements – Placement in Medical Facilities – While this is a complex issue with many perspectives, this legislation works to address the critical issue facing children and families in Maryland’s child welfare system today regarding out-of-home-placements. Over the past 10-12 years, Maryland has worked to reduce the number of children in care and has reduced that number by about half. While the goals of these reductions were laudable, little attention was given to the unintended consequences, and the savings achieved were not reinvested back into prevention and ensuring the system had all the components it needed.
We are now seeing the number of children in care increase again, partly due to the opioid crisis. Providers know that if we provide clinically appropriate services on the front end for youth in care then we could significantly reduce the number of youths requiring hospitalization and hospitals being used as placement which results from the current lack of resources. Maryland needs substantial resource development (i.e., creation of new programs) and funding to match the growing needs of the youth in child welfare.
- HB513 – Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Program – Established – MARFY supports the passage of legislation addressing mental health services. This legislation recognizes the importance of addressing the needs of children facing developmental, social, emotional, or behavioral health issues through The Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Program. This will help teachers and families learn how to handle these challenges, support positive behaviors building critical foundations for children to be successful in life.
These are just a few of the many issues we have and will continue to address during the 90-day window of Maryland’s General Assembly. MARFY continues to work with our over 200 members on a daily basis – forming strong bonds and making sure each of our provider’s needs are met – not just on a support level but ensuring success; making their voices heard within the appropriate State departments and in the legislative and executive branch.
Keron R. Sadler, Executive Director
MARFY (Maryland Association of Resources for Families & Youth)