New agency sought for child, family aid Officials see board better coordinating help for those in need

September 25, 1996|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

Local government leaders announced yesterday that they want to form a new quasi-public agency to better coordinate and manage social services for children, youth and families in Howard County.

In a pre-kindergarten room at Columbia's Running Brook Elementary School yesterday afternoon, county officials, including County Executive Charles Ecker, said they plan to form the Local Children's Board for Children and Youth Services.

The board would more easily help children who have learning disabilities, behavior problems or other special needs get the attention they need, said Nancy Weber, executive director of county hospice services and chairwoman of the board's planning panel.

"This is going to make it more possible to help children who exhibit, say, vision or hearing or behavior problems as toddlers," Weber said. "We'll be able to get help to children before they become out of control."

A group of 18 to 20 public officials and private citizens would make up the board, Weber said. They would replace the existing Howard County Council for Children and Youth, a group that advises local youth agencies and provides referrals.

The new board, which must be approved by a vote of the County Council and the state legislature before it can work as a quasi-public agency, would have access to federal block grants, financial power that the existing council does not have, Weber said.

If approved, the board would be able to treat more children within the state and within the county rather than referring them to facilities in a different region, said Manus J. O'Donnell, director of the Department of Citizen Services.

Howard County residents can share their opinions about the new board at a hearing at 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the county Board of Education headquarters on Route 108 in Ellicott City.

As officials spoke in the classroom yesterday, eight 4-year-olds played in a sandbox and mock miniature kitchen behind them. The children are part of a class at Running Brook in which children with special needs learn and play alongside their peers who do not need extra attention.

Pub Date: 9/25/96

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