Home > Policies > Child Welfare > Codify the Dustin R. opinion so foster youth with disabilities who transition from DHR’s care to DHMH at age 21 have bridge services available as they make that transition

Foster youth with significant developmental disabilities, who cannot live independently when they turn 21, transition from the care of Maryland’s Department of Human Resources (DHR) to the responsibility of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). For these most vulnerable youth, a gap in services during this transition can be an issue of life and death.

For youth with such severe disabilities that at age 21 they transition from DHR’s care to the care of DHMH, this legislation will:

  • Allow the juvenile court to order the continuation of services the young person needs to ensure there is no gap in service that could endanger his life until DHMH gets services put into place
  • Ensure those services remain in place until an Administrative Hearing/Judicial Determination is made that a change in services is warranted.

In re: Adoption/Guardianship of Dustin R., No. 24, September Term, 2015.  This legislation codifies a 2015 Court of Appeals decision, which held that the juvenile court does have authority to order necessary bridge services to continue after the young person turns 21 and is no longer under the care of DHR.

Dustin has been described as the most medically fragile person in Maryland. His extensive medical needs necessitate 24 hour nursing care, but he has been able to live with the same foster parents since he was 2 years old. As Dustin neared his 21st birthday, there were concerns about ensuring that DHMH would continue to provide the services DHR was providing because any gap in those services could kill Dustin. DHMH argued that the juvenile court lacked the authority to order them to do anything once Dustin turned 21 by virtue of being the “juvenile” court.  The Court of Appeals disagreed.

Dustin’s parent’s rights had been terminated, but that is not the case for all youth in need of these services – we must codify this opinion to ensure that all youth in foster care who have severe developmental disabilities and will transition to DHMH’s care at age 21, receive this protection!

Last year, this legislation passed unanimously through the full Senate and House of Delegates, but the versions were slightly different and the 2016 Legislative Session ended before they could be reconciled.

Click here to read our one-pager.

January 25, 2017

HB 279 is our House bill number! We are very grateful to our lead sponsor, Delegate Moon,  and all of our co-sponsors:  Delegate Afzali, Delegate Anderson, Delegate Atterbeary, Delegate Cluster, Delegate Conaway, Delegate Dumais, Delegate Gutierrez, Delegate Hettleman, Delegate Kelly, Delegate Korman, Delegate Lierman, Delegate Luedtke, Delegate Malone, Delegate McComas, Delegate Morales, Delegate Morhaim, Delegate Platt, Delegate Queen, Delegate Reznik, Delegate Rosenberg, Delegate Sanchez, Delegate Sydnor, Delegate Valentino-Smith, Delegate Mary Washington, Delegate Brett Wilson, Delegate C.T. Wilson, and Delegate Pat Young. Our hearing will be held on Thursday, February 2nd at 1 pm in the House Judiciary Committee. 

SB 272 is our Senate bill number! We are very grateful to our Senate sponsor, Senator Kelley who is now the Vice Chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, where the bill will be heard also on Thursday, February 2nd at 1 pm. We’re also grateful to our Senate co-sponsors: Senator Benson, Senator Guzzone, Senator Jennings, Senator King, Senator Lee, Senator Madaleno, Senator Manno, Senator Muse, Senator Peters, Senator Pinsky, Senator Ramirez, Senator Ready, Senator Smith, Senator Young, and Senator Zucker.

February 2, 2017

We had great bill hearings in the House Judiciary and Senate Judicial Proceedings Committees. Our witnesses who testified at the hearings included Mitch Mirviss, Margaret Holmes, Virginia Knowlton Marcus, and Melissa Rock. We also had two staff members from Second Family a group home for youth with severe disabilities, Valkyrie Loenichen and Dominique Frost. We also had two youth from Second Family at both hearings, Catie and Demonce. To read all of the testimony in support of the bills, click here.

February 13, 2017

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee passed SB 272 unanimously with amendments!

February 16. 2017

SB 272 passed third reader unanimously (46-0) today!

March 13, 2017

Judiciary issues a favorable report on HB 279!

March 14, 2017

HB 279 passed second reader on the House floor today with the same amendments as SB 272!

March 15, 2017

HB 279 passed third reader unanimously!

March 29, 2017

SB 272 was heard in the House Judiciary Committee today. The hearing was sponsor only, and both Senator Kelley and Delegate Moon argued passionately for passing this bill to help these vulnerable foster youth with disabilities make their transition to adulthood more smoothly.

March 31, 2017

HB 279 and SB 272 have both passed second reader in the opposite chamber! As soon as they pass third reader they will be ready to be signed into law!

April 4, 2017

SB 272 passed third reader in the House! Now it’s ready to be signed into law by the Governor!