By MEGAN A. CONLAN
ANNAPOLIS (Dec. 4, 2008)—Boosting outreach efforts to families eligible to receive food stamps and increasing women's access to prenatal care are among the recommended changes to current children's services that a Maryland youth advocacy group says will save the state money.
According to a brief issued by Advocates for Children & Youth, an independent group, the changes outlined in the organization's Maryland Can Do Better for Children campaign are feasible despite current budget restrictions. The campaign supports reforms to services in areas such as child welfare and juvenile justice.
"Because these are preventative measures they should actually save the state money," said Matthew Joseph, executive director of the advocacy group, at the Maryland Can Do Better for Children Early Intervention and Opportunity Summit held in Jessup on Wednesday.
By creating more pre-emptive programs and reallocating other funds the state would cut $3.4 million from the fiscal year 2010 budget, the group's brief said.
One recommended reform is the statewide use of Family Team Decision Making, a method that unites families, child welfare workers and service providers in the decision-making process regarding foster child placement. This method has successfully reduced the number of foster care entries in states such as Alabama and Utah, the advocacy group said.
The estimated reduction in foster care entries from the use of Family Team Decision Making would save the state money. That, as well as other suggested changes, would result in $1.6 million in savings, despite the $3.5 million initial cost of training caseworkers, hiring additional staff and implementing new services.
The group also recommends expanding the use of Multi-Systematic Therapy, a technique that engages juvenile offenders in positive educational and recreational activities and creates a network for their families and surrounding communities. The method helps decrease the number of youths placed in state-operated facilities.
"If we can give them enough opportunities to do good, they're going to do bad, less," said Vincent N. Schiraldi, director of Youth Rehabilitation Services for the District of Columbia.
Through the increased use of Multi-Systematic Therapy and other program changes, the state can save an additional $1.2 million once the costs of the changes are taken into account.
Other areas where reforms could save money include education, economic security, health and racial equity.
The campaign has been endorsed by numerous members of both the Maryland House and Senate, as well as Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.