Md. Lawmakers Seek Foster Care Reform After Toddler's Death

The death last year of a Frederick toddler has inspired bills in the Maryland General Assembly aimed at preventing children in foster care from being returned to abusive biological parents.

Del. Kathy Afzali of Frederick County and other lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday in Annapolis.

Afzali called it Anayah's Law, named for Anayah Williams, a 21-month-old girl who was allegedly beaten to death by her father last March.

Anayah had been returned to her parents several weeks earlier under a federal law that generally requires state social services agencies to try to reunite families.

"Even though there had been obviously some extreme abuse in her home, there were loopholes in the law that forced Social Services to send her back, even though they really didn't want to," Afzali said at a news conference Thursday.

Afzali's bill would give local departments of social services more power to stop re-unification with biological parents. The bill would remove the stipulation that abuse must be "chronic" for the state to maintain custody.

"[Anayah] was thriving in her foster home. She became a member of their family," said Cathy Sipocz of Anayah's Advocates, a group of foster parents who support the bill. Members of the group accompanied Afzali for the announcement Thursday.

Anayah's father, Frankie Williams, is charged with first-degree murder and various charges of child abuse and assault, the Frederick News-Post reported. He has pleaded not guilty. Her mother, Stephanie Ramirez Williams, is accused of abuse and failing to get help for her daughter.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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