Salem Children's Trust closing in June

CUMBERLAND — Salem Children's Trust, which has been providing a home, therapy and educational services to children who have been abused or neglected or have educational or behavior needs for more than four decades, will close in June due to financial struggles.

"Effective June 6, 2020 Maryland Salem Children’s Trust will be transitioning to closure of operations," Gary Harriger, a member of Salem's board of directors, wrote in a news release on Tuesday. "Our primary concern is with the care of the children entrusted to Salem and to help our dedicated employees in making this difficult transition."

Located on Lower New Germany Road in Garrett County, Salem consists of a multi-building complex that can accommodate 20 children. It opened in 1979 and employs Christian values in a natural woodland setting.

The closure will result in loss of work for the facility's 50 employees.

According to the Salem website, the operation was founded in 1978 by Louise Richards in a large Calvert County home with a capacity for eight children, however the founders wanted to move to a farm setting.

"After a lot of prayer to find our farm, God provided to meet those needs," according to the website. "Alta Schrock had even been praying that the Garrett County farm would be used for God's work to help people. After many trips out to the farm and much work to fix up the farmhouse, Salem moved to Garrett County in November of 1979. At this point the old farmhouse and two trailers made up the whole of Salem's campus."

"It's a sad thing," Harriger said when contacted by phone Tuesday. "It is a very needed facility but we've been struggling for years. We've been hit by declining enrollment and increased expenses."

The Maryland Salem Children's Trust is licensed by the Maryland Department of Human Resources to provide long-term group home care and short-term shelter care to children placed by the Department of Social Services, Department of Juvenile Services and children placed privately by their parents.

"We won't have the money to continue by June," Harriger said. "It's a difficult time for us."

Harriger said a statewide movement to place youths in their homes instead of facilities like Salem has negatively impacted the operation.

"The state funds us for each student that we take," he said. "However, the cost exceeds what the state pays us. What was a borderline amount to cover costs is just no longer sufficient. The rest (of our funding) is donations and we have had some very generous donors in the past. The donations really haven't declined but the expenses have steadily increased. We will run out of money by June."

Harriger joined the eight-member Salem board in 2015.

"Unless the Lord provides us with some type of miracle, we will be out of cash," he said. "It's hard to see this work cease. Our employees are dedicated employees. Almost everyone could go out and get a higher paying job, but they do it because its a commitment and a calling. They receive a lot of satisfaction for the work they're doing. They are amazing people."

Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.

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