The question: What are the most pressing problems of youths in Montgomery County?
"Boredom - at home, at school, in the community," Scott Birdsong, an assistant director of the GUIDE program for delinquent youths, said calmly "The youth we see report that there is simple nothing to do and no where to go. As a result they party wherever and whenever they can. The school curriculum is not interesting or does not meet their needs as they report."
Birdsong was one of several person who testified Monday night at a hearing on the problems of youth in the county. County Executive James P. Gleason and Council Vice President Elizabeth Scull presided.
In the wake of horror stories about perpetually drunken high school students and alarming statistics about juvenile delinquency - 43 percent of the criminal arrests in Montgomery County in 1976 were junveniles - the Montgomery County officials were not surprised by what they heard. The purpose of the hearing, and six more that will fllow this month is to get specific ideas from agencies, parents, student, youths, ministry and teachers about how Montgomery County programs can solve the problems reflected by those stories and statistics.
The hearing, originated by Gleason are the first of their kind on a county-wide basis, according to the county executive. "His travels," said his aide, Charles Maier, referring to Gleason's forays into different areas of Montgomery County this summer, "showed that we were missing a lot of the kids. He talked to kids at shopping centers in Bethesda and Takoma Park . . . They said, "We'd just like an open space to hang out in. May be the conventional recreational centers are not where it's at."
After more talks with county youths, a list 22 basis questions on youth needs was put together by Charles Steinbraker, director of the county Outsearch Program, and Don Maccallum, planner for the Office of Human Resources, with assistance from Gleason and Scull. Youth agency representatives were the first to testify Monday.
Dr. Sidney Shankman, the psychiatrist who directs Second Genesis, a treatment center for problem youths who are often drug addicts, said his staff of psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers, vocational counselors have been releasing youth who, for the most part, do not need to come back. "We have facilities for 48 adults and 115 juveniles," Shankman said, "but the county has only sent us two juveniles this year. They don't take advantage of it. What's happening is that these kids are going out of state."
Shankman said youths are being sent to the Maryland Training School and to foresty camp - both of which have high rates of recidivam - when some of them might have been helped though the Second Genesis program, regional supervisor for the Maryland Department of Juveniles Service, suggested more vocational schooling. However, Harvey McConnell, director of the Office of Human Resource, said additional jobs. "Unless there is a drastic increase in this area the problem will not change and the results of employment services for youth will remain the same.