Conference highlights issues affecting children and youths

June 24, 1994|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

Child-rearing skills, help for single-parent families and the need for better coordination of county services are among the top issues affecting the county's 52,500 young people, according to those at yesterday's countywide conference on children and youth.

The conference, sponsored by the Columbia Foundation, also high lighted teen-age substance abuse, child abuse, suicide, depression and a lack of youth recreation and employment opportunities.

But foundation officials stopped short of saying how they intend to attack those problems, saying that the foundation first will come up with a report summarizing the conference's proceedings.

"There are no real promises at this point," said Barbara K. Lawson, the foundation's executive director. "We don't know how it will play out."

The daylong conference drew 250 people from various organizations dealing with children and youth to the Johns Hopkins Applied Laboratory's Kossiakoff Center in North Laurel.

The conference evolved from a foundation committee that convened about a year ago to assess the community's needs.

During a preliminary assessment, that committee, chaired by schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey, had focused on the county's children and youths.

"Our conclusion was that there was no single agenda for youths in Howard County," Mr. Hickey said. "There's a lot of overlapping agendas."

Yesterday's conference included teen-agers, parents, and representatives from the county police and health departments, state's attorney's office and schools.

Among the issues cited by those who took part in a morning brain-storming session were: television's effect on children; juvenile crime; funding for children and youth programs; providing services for special needs children; teen-age pregnancy, and runaways.

Participants later broke into small groups. Summaries of their discussions were compiled so participants could take the information home.

Richard Talkin, president of the Columbia Foundation, said his group will seriously consider the topics raised at yesterday's meeting.

"We do have funds, we give away more than $300,000 each year to the community," he said.

Among the seven teen-agers who attended yesterday's session were Karyn Entrop, 16.

"I didn't realize they really cared that much about what happened to young people," Karyn said in an interview. She served as Dorsey's Search's teen-age representative.

But Aaron Baum, 17, said he would have liked to have seen more young people represented.

"These seven people can't speak for the whole teen-age population," he said.

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