Police stations to offer social services

Board of Estimates OKs program aimed at teens

October 10, 2002|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's nine police districts will soon have permanent, full-time social service professionals on staff to assist neighborhood teens in need of help, including those who have been victims of -- or witnessed -- crime.

A $1.1 million state grant approved by the city Board of Estimates yesterday is paying for the workers.

They could begin assisting juveniles and their families as early as December, said Doris Loftin, program manager for support services for the city Department of Social Services.

Each district will have a social service case manager, Loftin said. Two social workers will provide supervision, she said.

Patterned after a program in Boston, Baltimore's Intervention Services for At-Risk Youth is intended to help teen-agers. A major goal is to keep them from being removed from their homes, Loftin and Lt. Col. Kathleen Patek said.

"Basically, what we hope to do is provide crisis intervention services, information and referral services and family support services to youth and their families who are identified through our officers who are out working beat patrol," said Patek, deputy chief of patrol.

"The services will address issues such as parent-child conflicts, negative behavior, mental health and education," she said. "We're hoping that these services will prevent out-of-home placements, including foster care and detention."

Intervention will include counseling, mentoring and providing positive role models, Patek said.

Since January, social work professionals have helped out in the districts on a part-time, "loan" basis, Loftin said.

Mayor Martin O'Malley has said repeatedly that it is going to take everyone -- law enforcement officials, politicians, clergy, business and community leaders and residents -- to help curb the spread of violence against and among youth.

Loftin says she is excited about the new intervention program, which officials hope will cut down on the number of juveniles committing violent acts.

"It will make a big difference, because this will be their regular assignment," she said. "This program is very much needed."

Families can refuse the intervention, but Loftin doesn't anticipate many doing so.

"Most people want help, especially when violence has taken place, when their young people have been victims or witnesses," she said. "We will offer them the service and let them know that we're there to try to give them some assistance. ... Even though it's not mandatory, they usually accept."

Although beat patrol officers will refer youths to the program, families can walk in and ask for help, Loftin said.

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