About 2,700 youths live in 330 privately-run group homes in Maryland. Although the state licenses, funds and supposedly regulates the homes, it fails to adequately protect the interests of children or of the taxpayers who are paying for their care. Children suffer abuse and neglect in the absence of strong state oversight. Regulators often license unqualified operators and then rely largely on them to police themselves. Some owners collect high salaries, enjoy expensive perks and reward friends and relatives with lucrative jobs or contracts, all paid for by the state.