North Laurel/Savage project to focus on needs of children Grass-roots effort sought to promote safe, stable families


The Local Children's Board of Howard County has a mission: find a group of concerned North Laurel and Savage residents who will help identify what area children need and find ways to provide it.

Those who join will help write a grant proposal outlining ways state money can pay for programs that promote safe and stable families.

Finding out what area children need can and should be a grassroots effort, said Manus O'Donnell, Howard's director of citizen services, at a meeting last night at the Savage library.

"The state of Maryland has said that they have money for this kind of program," said O'Donnell. "But the point is, the board doesn't want to plan it for people out there. We want to plan it with them so that we know exactly what people in the community need."

The Local Children's Board, a group of public and private organizations and residents who plan children and family services throughout the county, was formed in October. The North Laurel/Savage effort is the board's first project.

Nancy Weber, the board's chairwoman, said the North Laurel and Savage area was targeted first because "historically, I think this community has been underserved. There's also a blend of the old county, more established community and the new folks who've moved into the community.

"It's a real microcosm of what Howard County has to offer," Weber said.

Howard County Councilman Dennis R. Schrader agreed.

"There's a growing pocket of affluence and new housing in the area," said Schrader, who represents the area. "But there's also a concentration of poorer areas so there's obviously some need to look at what the kids need."

Schrader said that the area needs a public park and other places where children could play, more resources that would help improve reading skills, especially for those children who come from other school systems.

Schrader also suggested more after-school programs.

But, he said, the board should "test with some focus groups to see what parents and other groups are thinking about. There should probably be some analysis done up front before you throw money at something."

Analysis will be done in the form of surveys that will be distributed throughout the area. Survey questions will be written in English and Spanish to involve the Latino community in North Laurel and Savage.

Volunteers will distribute fliers in supermarkets, churches and schools, asking residents to participate in the North Laurel/Savage project.

Following the survey, the group will meet in homes to get a better understanding of what residents think their children need.

Pub Date: 6/30/98

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