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Study Suggests More Parents Need Reunification Services

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Prince Georges County, Maryland has the state's second-highest number of young people removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. A new study by a youth advocacy group in the state suggests only a quarter of parents are receiving services they need to regain custody of their children.

Matthew Joseph, who heads Advocates for Children and Youth, or ACY, cites two reasons why more parents might not be getting such court-ordered services as mental health and substance abuse treatment.

"The first is parental resistance to getting the services," he says. "And the second is the availability of services in the first place."

Joseph says more funding to the Prince Georges County Department of Social Services would increase availability, but overcoming resistance requires something called "family-centered case practice."

"So rather than telling the parent, you shall get this service, it is the parent working to identify that service," says Joseph. "And the parent feels they had a say in those services."

For her part, Gloria Brown, the interim director of the Department of Social Services, says it's really not that parents are resisting help--her agency already conducts 55 family-centered meetings a month. And she says it's really not money, either. The county spends nearly half of its available support services dollars for substance abuse and psychological assessments. It's something different: bureaucracy.

"Its a matter of coordinating and collaborating with those various entities within Prince George's County to ensure that parents can receive those services," she says.

But Brown says even if she disagrees with the study's conclusion, she will meet with its authors next week to hear their ideas on how to improve access to services.

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