Howard County State's Attorney Marna L. McLendon's highest-profile anti-alcohol and drug initiative has been denied funding by the county's largest charity.
McLendon and county school board member Stephen C. Bounds, the founders of "Not My Kid," asked the Horizon Foundation for $25,927 to pay for a program coordinator.
A full-time employee would have allowed the program to expand and would have relieved McLendon and Bounds of program administration, which neither has time for, Bounds said.
Because Horizon's grants have not been officially announced, Richard M. Krieg, the foundation's president and chief executive officer, would not discuss the "Not My Kid" application in detail, but he confirmed that it had been denied.
Kreig lauded the "Not My Kid" as "an important intervention" but questioned the applicants' plan to house "Not My Kid" in the Health Department. The program is now run from McLendon's office.
However, he did say he was interested in the program long-term, and hoped to help expand it.
Krieg also wants to work on a method for evaluating "Not My Kid" - an especially difficult task for preventative programs.
"We can show the very large number of parents that we were reaching, but how do you measure increased parental involvement, other than anecdotally?" said Bounds.
Although that question remains unanswered, school officials are thirsting for any way to spread the anti-drug message to parents and students.
"The need for the program and others like it is extreme," said River Hill High School Principal Scott Pfeifer, who has canceled dances in recent years because of student drinking.
While Pfeifer has no evidence that parents are more knowledgeable about drinking and drugs since "Not My Kid" began, "There's clearly no data out there that says children aren't drinking," he added.
Alarmed by a 1994 statewide survey showing rampant alcohol and drug use among progressively younger students, McLendon and Bounds began "Not My Kid" about five years ago.
The program involves having county addictions counselors, school officials and law enforcement personnel, including McLendon, address parents at back-to-school nights.
This month, roughly 40 "Not My Kid" representatives spoke at 65 schools.
Their message is brief and pointed: In about four minutes, they explain that parents have enormous influence over their children's decisions. The speakers then spend the evening distributing alcohol and drug information at the schools.
The program runs on a shoestring, said Bounds. "Not My Kid" gets about $2,500 in federal grant money for materials. Schools absorb much of the printing costs.
The Horizon Foundation gave "Not My Kid" $2,400 to hire a part-time coordinator this fall, but no one took the job. Bounds expects to return the money to the foundation.
Horizon was formed as a result of the July 1998 merger of Howard County General Hospital and Johns Hopkins Medicine, and has focused on community health.
Totaling more than $70 million, it is by far the county's richest foundation and one of the 20 largest in the Baltimore region.