Expanding choice

April 26, 1991

Too often, kids who end up in trouble think they have no real choices. They assume they're on the "bad track" and, given the scattered focus and short attention spans of most services aimed at helping them, their assumption often proves correct. It LTC doesn't have to be that way, of course, but sometimes it takes a fresh vision to recognize other possibilities. Tomorrow, state and city officials will be on hand for the official opening of a new branch of a program that has proven it offers such vision. Fittingly enough, the program is called Choice, and tomorrow's ceremony marks its expansion from the Cherry Hill section of South Baltimore into East Baltimore.

Choice's primary contract is with the Department of Juvenile Services, but it also works with young people referred by other departments and by communities. The program succeeds by harnessing an abundant but underused natural resource -- the endless energy and enthusiasm of newly minted college graduates.

Instead of the traditional approach to juvenile social work, in which clients may see a therapist for an hour a week (and may never even see a social worker outside an office setting), Choice offers intense supervision -- 21 hours a week. Counselors, who sign up for a 12-month stint, work long hours and see their charges several times a day. They check them early in the morning, in case they need to be awakened and taken to school. They check them at school, to make sure they're actually in class. Finally there are after-school sessions and curfew checks. Choice clients soon learn that this program means business.

Choice offers an alternative for individual young people, but it also offers expanding visions for social services in Maryland. Already, state officials say, this high-intensity model is influencing other, more traditional contractors -- and that's all to the good. With effective programs like this, Maryland is reaching young people when there's still time to make a difference. From the state's point of view, the decision to focus services that way may be the wisest choice of all.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.