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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Baltimore Officials Talk About Abandoned Girl Case

Aired May 20, 2004 - 19:38   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTOPHER MCCABE, BALTIMORE CITY DEPT. OF HUMAN RESOURCES: ...protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse or neglect, and to help individuals -- and to help individuals who are not employed achieve economic self-sufficiency. We have a very complicated mission. We, in essence, try to help those most in need in our state. And I'm very proud of the people that work in our central office here in Baltimore on Saratoga Street and the 24 local offices of social services. That's really many people in our state, as well as around the country really identify our mission with the two words "social services."
I'm joined on my left here by the deputy director of the Baltimore City Department of Social Services, Mr. Charles Henry (ph). And on my right is Ms. Anna Forbes Towns (ph) who is new to the Baltimore City Department of Social Services. She has a rich background in child welfare, and a number of different areas. And she comes to us from Montgomery county. She is the new assistant director for Children and Adult Services in Baltimore City, DSS. And they have been very involved from Baltimore DSS' perspective on the Courtney that we're here to talk a little bit about. And I appreciate all of their efforts.

Here at the department we have approximately 7,000 employees and have a $1.5 billion budget. Two out of every three dollars that comes to the state of Maryland comes from the federal government for a wide array of services, which include child welfare. When we talk about Courtney, we're talking about trying to help her find the right home for her and the best possible outcome. Our job in the Maryland

When we talk about Courtney, we're talking about trying to help her find the right home for her and the best possible outcome.

Our job in the Maryland Department of Human Resources is difficult, it's complicated and it's absolutely vital. We are not always perfect, but we always attempt to do the best that we can. Many times when a child is harmed, and sadly that happens way too often, people demand to know why. Governor Robert Erhlich, my boss, and I recognize the complexity of the work our child welfare staff does each and every day. And I thank my staff whenever I can for their efords.

This week has been a particularly interesting one for our department, been a particularly interesting one for me and the story of one of many children our state has captivated people across America. I emphasize across America.

I am grateful for the media, and we don't always say that, by the way. We're not always grateful of your scrutiny. Although, having been a state legislator in the Maryland Senate for eleven years, I understand what you do, and you need to do, to provide information that's important to the community. But in this case, I'm very grateful for the efforts of the media for helping our department find information about a lovely 3 1/2-year-old girl who calls herself Courtney.

Courtney came to the Baltimore City Department of Social Services on May 5 of this year. By all accounts we have so far, a man who said he was Courtney's father left with a stranger, left Courtney with a stranger. We were contacted by the stranger, and our caseworkers at the Baltimore City Department of Social Services visited with the child, and was able to learn very little from her. Her name, she said was Courtney. She was 3 1/2. And she said she came from New York City, Brooklyn in particular.

We were not able to elicit much more than that at the time. Our local agency established a child protective order, placing Courtney with a loving faster family in Baltimore City where she has been since. By all accounts, Courtney is happy, she's healthy, she's playful, she's assimilating well and we understand she's quite verbal, and she's comfortable.

When she first came to our offices at Baltimore City DSS we understand that she was somewhat noncommunicative. And that's understandable. But I give great credit to the foster family, who I do not know, because that's very confidential information. But the reports I have that this is an experienced foster family and doing good work for courtney.

In our efforts to find out more about Courtney, with such limited information that we had, a Baltimore City Department of Social Services began a sequence of outreach efforts, first with state media and now with national media. I thank our interim director who's not here today, Floyd Blair of the Baltimore City Department of Social Services and Sue Fitzsimmons who initially was seen on various TV programs around the country for her efforts.

Today, interviews were held with a variety of different media groups, press and television, to reach out for any and all information pertaining to Courtney. I am particularly grateful for the high level of interest about Courtney. She's captivating little girl, as you know, and as you have reported. And indeed we have received a number of tips, all of which we have taken seriously and carefully investigated.

Some of these tips begat other leads. But at this stage, our department is still looking to patch together the story of Courtney. From what we know, or what we think we know, it is very complicated. And we hope that more will be able to come out in the days ahead.

Some of you may know that the state has been separately contacted by persons described themselves as the father and mother of Courtney. The department is also investigating whether our state has had any contact through our system with any of the parents, and it appears that we have had some. At this time I am able to tell you -- all I'm able to tell you is that Courtney is still in the care of the Baltimore City Department of Social Services through the foster family I referred to, as ordered by the court. However, we are moving expeditiously to assess the family situation, and report back to the court with a recommendation we feel is in Courtney's best interest.

I thank, we all thank, the members of the media for all you have done to assist us in this process. And you have a role. I often say, when it comes to child protection and child welfare, government, in this case the human service agency can not do it alone. We rely on a number of different partners in our state. Those partners include: the school systems, hospitals, health departments, neighborhood community, the court system, and you. Because you can get information out as you have done with Courtney, that simply isn't available through our traditional means. So I thank you for being here.

We anticipate a court hearing within the next few days, and will provide any available updates at that time. Needless to say, this is a very difficult time for all concerned as we work to ensure positive outcomes for courtney. As our primary concern is for Courtney's well- being, we will not be making any additional comments at this time. I thank you very much for coming.

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