Maryland Foster Children Stay in Hospitals Because They Have Nowhere Else To Go

Amber is in Maryland’s foster care system, but she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in mid-October, shortly after she tried to kill herself. WYPR is not using her real name to protect her privacy.

Most of Amber’s days for the last three months have followed the same schedule. The teenager wakes up, eats breakfast, then sleeps until lunch, sometimes dinner. That’s how she spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and her birthday. She doesn’t go outside or talk to many people, and the only school she gets is about an hour and a half of tutoring each day. 

A judge ruled in late October that it was not medically necessary for her to stay in the hospital. But the local Department of Social Services responsible for her care had nowhere else for her to go. 

As of the beginning of February, she was still there. She didn’t know when she would leave or where she would go.

“I really don’t care as long as I leave this place,” she said.

Amber is among dozens of children in Maryland’s foster care system who have spent weeks or even months in psychiatric hospitals without a medical reason because social services workers say they don’t have anywhere else to place them. 

This story aired on NPR’s Weekend Edition. Read the full story here.

Related story: Lawmakers Try to End Long Hospital Stays for Foster Kids

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