The needs of youth

February 11, 1991

Nancy S. Grasmick has earned high marks as head of the governor's office of Children, Youth and Families. Now Governor Schaefer has named her to succeed juvenile services Secretary Linda D'Amario Rossi, who is leaving for a similar job in her home state of Rhode Island. Grasmick is a talented administrator, but the shift from running programs largely geared toward younger children to a department that deals mostly with troubled teen-agers will not be easy.

The governor is also asking for a reorganization of the juvenile services department to include the programs Grasmick now heads. The consolidation, to be called the Department of Children and Youth Services, would combine seemingly similar functions -- programs that center on the needs of Maryland's young people. But there is a vast difference between the needs of a 15-year-old with a police record and a toddler who requires the extra help pre-school and kindergarten programs can provide.

Rossi's great success has been to sharpen the focus of juvenile services, relentlessly pushing to end the department's reliance on institutionalization and to develop a variety of community programs for troubled juveniles. It would be a shame to lose that focus by creating a department that combines too many functions under one umbrella. A Department of Children and Youth Services may make sense on paper, but the key question is whether this consolidation will help or hinder the momentum that has at last put Maryland on the track toward juvenile services that actually help troubled youth, rather than warehousing them.

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