A child exhibits aggressive behavior. He has been thrown out of a number of schools and institutions for disturbed youths, where he has had a history of drug abuse. He also cannot read.
It is likely that this child, in his frustration, will end up in jail unless he receives immediate help.
"What is the best course for this child?" Gov. Harry R. Hughes asked an audience of more than 400 participants at the 1981 Children in Crisis Conference earlier this week. "He's getting older and society's chances to bring this youngster into the mainstream of public life are getting dimmer every day that passes."
Hughes' comments came at the end of a half-day conference Monday on troubled youngsters. It was sponsored by the county circuit court at Prince George's Community College's Largo campus. The governor described a hypothetical child to explain the state's concerns and efforts in dealing with such youths.
"Yes, the public must be protected and yes, parents have responsibilities, but in the juvenile system the state is called to act in the interest of the child," the governor said.
Hughes added that the state may establish a board to deal with extreme problem cases. He said there are now several juvenile service agencies with overlapping authority. "The stae board's capability should prove an important resource to the court in dealing with children whose problems transcend the responsibility of a single agency," Hughes said.
The cooperation between these agencies and the court and how the number of youths who reach the judicial system can be decreased were key points of the conference, according to Circuit Court Judge David Gray Ross, one of the coordinators.
Conference participants came from juvenile services, social services and the county's court system, police department and probation office. There were also teachers, school board members, school counselors, members of the clergy and county council members.
Judge Ross urged that all of them work together to improve the state's system of helping troubled youths.
"We have hundreds of people here who make their living dealing with kids, yet they never talk to each other," he said. "Juvenile services complain about the police; the police complain about the social services--and nothing happens. The one who suffers is the child."
Ross and fellow organizer Judge Robert J. Woods head the circuit court's juvenile court, established April 1. Ross said the court already is reaching toward the state's objective of reducing the number of youths who are in detention, or in need or it.
"In April the court had 118 youths in detention, and as of Aug. 26 there were 57," Ross said. "We are doing this (reducing numbers) by trying to speed up cases that come to trial and by finding other alternative to detention."