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Rockville builds a community for families.

The following article is excerpted from a presentation made by the City of Rockville, Maryland City Manager Bruce Romer and Councilmember James F. Coyle to the Advisory Council at the Congressional City Conference.

Rockville is a proactive family community. What does that mean? We try to anticipate opportunities to enhance the family life of our citizens, rather than wait for family issues to demand reaction.

When we say Rockville is Hometown USA, it is not just a slogan. Rockville is a residential community in a rapidly expanding metropolitan environment. With a population of 45,500, it is the largest city in Maryland outside of Baltimore. The last 20 years have witnessed an irreversible transition to a regional center for commerce and employment. Throughout this time, family, residential character, and hometown have been at the forefront of city policies and programs.

Briefly, some of the major initiatives by the city of Rockville that have created a family-oriented community, just ten miles from Washington, D.C., are grouped under four major family issues:

1. Strengthening Community Identity

An outside wall of the Rockville Senior Center features a mural depicting senior citizens and young people working together on craft projects and in the seniors' summer garden. Another mural on the wall of a shopping center in Rockville's Town Center has scenes of the city. Both murals are the work of middle and high school students from Rockville's Summer in the Park art program.

Celebration of Family Day, a Sunday afternoon filled with games, entertainment, and information booths about family resources and services, focuses on family unity.

Community Celebrations

Hometown Holidays is one of Rockville's major, annual events designed to bring family and community together. One of five, special events for Rockville citizens, Hometown Holidays is a three day festival during the Memorial Day Weekend. It combines top name musical entertainment, arts and crafts, children's games and activities, and the annual Memorial Day Parade into a non-stop community celebration.

Student Government Days

Student Government Days offers students from four high schools an opportunity for hands-on experience in municipal government. For three weeks, up to 16 students take on the roles of elected officials, department heads, and the city manager. They work with their professional counterparts to identify resources and ideas related to real community issues.

The students' solutions are presented formally to the Mayor and Council, along with cost estimates, in time to be considered for the city's annual budget. Frequently their solutions are approved and implemented, becoming a visible reminder to these students and many others about the contribution they have made to their community.

2. Overcoming poverty,

child care and housing needs

for single parent families

Despite its high income average and low unemployment, Rockville struggles with serious poverty and homelessness. Single teen mothers without job skills and little prospects for escaping welfare fill social service offices, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters. Violence related to drug abuse and alcohol are frequently a part of their lives and the lives of their children.

Rockville Youth Scholarship Fund

The fund is a unique partnership between the city and the Rockville Rotary Club and is used to offset some or all of the cost of recreation and sports activities, camps and trips for children who would otherwise be unable to participate. Rather than missing out on many of the joys of growing up in a community, every Rockville child is able to be a part of a team or group activity.

Skill Training and Self Image

Enhancement for Teen Girls at Risk

Teen girls, lacking marketable job skills and a strong self image, are at high risk for becoming pregnant or involved with drugs. These teens benefit from typing and word processor training classes conducted by the Department of Community Services Division of Youth Services. The classes also focus on developing self esteem, and parenting skills for those who already have children or who are pregnant.

Caregivers Coalition

Numerous independent organizations involved in assistance to individuals and families in distress coordinate their services through the Rockville Community Ministries Caregivers Coalition. Caregivers meet monthly to review their projects, share information about resources and new services available to clients, and identify needs that are not being adequately addressed.

Community Ministries

Community Ministries of Rockville also serves as the administrator for the City funded Rockville Emergency Assistance Program, a fund established to provide last resort aid to individuals and families for one-time food, shelter, clothing, or emergency medical assistance. Along with the funds, clients gain access to comprehensive social service assistance to address more complex family and personal problems.

3. Reducing stress for

working parent households

The Washington Metropolitan area has one of the nation's highest percentages of two working parent households, at about 75%. Parents frequently hold down more than one job each in order to afford decent housing and provide for basic needs. Even when parents can afford help, day care and after school care demand exceeds availability. Latchkey children are common.

After School Recreation

After school recreation is offered at all nine elementary schools in Rockville and two community centers. These free activities are designed for pre-schoolers through teens and include crafts, fine arts, sports skills, games, physical fitness, and instructional programs. Tutoring is also provided.

Daytime kids activities are also offered during extended school holidays, when children are home but parents must continue to work.

Summer Day Camps

During summer months, Rockville sponsors summer day camps in every neighborhood with a wide variety of games, sports and crafts plus special trips. On many weekends throughout the year, teens participate in trips for sailing, skiing, hiking and theme parks.

Intergenerational

Rockville's seniors are involved with young families through a pre-school program offered at the city operated Senior Center. Seniors interact with children, read stories and play games in intergenerational activities that reward both the children and the seniors. Rockville's annual Grandparents Day brings extended families together to share stories, games, and food in a celebrative atmosphere.

Zoning

Rockville has acted to expand the opportunity for private-sector child care through modification to zoning and regulatory laws. Commercial developers receive certain development bonuses in return for including child-care services in their projects. Zoning laws were also recently changed to add zoning categories eligible for child care centers. The measure is designed to facilitate child care opportunities in office and industrial zones so more employers can offer these services to employees.

Parenting Classes

Young parents seldom have experience or training in how to raise their children. Rockville's parenting skills classes offer courses in dealing with a variety of parenting needs, especially those associated with pre-teen and teenage children.

4. Meeting the needs of

non-traditional families

The traditional family is not the only family in town. Single working parent families are just one of the more common alternatives. Increasingly, singles households, small group households and couples without children are adding new demands on local services. Rockville considers these families to be an important part of the community and many city programs are designed to appeal to them.

Recreation

The Outdoor Activities Resource and Referral Service maintains a computerized file of people and their outdoor interests along with upcoming events. By checking with the computer, participants can link up with other outdoor enthusiasts.

Affordable Housing

Rockville's assessory apartment ordinance provides a low-cost alternative for families who need to provide affordable shelter for an elderly parent, an adult child just getting started, or other individuals in need of convenient, low-cost shelter.

As a special exception, an assessory apartment offers separate living, cooking, and sleeping quarters within or attached to an existing home. The owner of the property must live in either the main house or the assessory apartment, and the special exception is not transferrable to new owners.

The city's Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit ordinance requires housing developments of 50 units or more to include a certain percentage of moderately priced homes.

Nearly all of Rockville's family-oriented policies and programs are the result of concerns and ideas expressed by citizens. Ultimately, a family-friendly community is going to be any community that listens and responds to its citizens.
COPYRIGHT 1992 National League of Cities
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Futures Forum: Toward Family-Friendly Communities; Rockville, Maryland
Author:Romer, Bruce; Coyle, James F.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Mar 30, 1992
Words:1346
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