Sunday, April 29, 2007

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Money for minds: Some of Omaha’s richest support initiative to help poor kids succeed
Omaha World –Herald – April 22, 2007
Every year in the Omaha area, hundreds of kids – mostly the poorest – drop out of school into lives of dead-end jobs, financial struggle and worse. A group of people known for accomplishing major projects in Omaha has launched what national experts say is the most sweeping effort any community has ever tried to help children growing up in poverty achieve school success. The vision of Building Bright Futures: to knock down, one by one, every barrier that stands in the way of all kids making the grade, with an ultimate promise that all poor children in Douglas and Sarpy Counties who earn diplomas will have the money the need for college or technical school.

Many still struggling to graduate
Miami Herald – April 22, 2007
Educators have ignored community college graduation rates for years, citing such hurdles as shoddy preparation and poor language skills of incoming students. But a growing number of college presidents are starting to recognize mediocre graduation rates are a problem they must tackle. The deepest problems are rooted in high school and earlier. Four of every five students at Miami Dade College and Broward Community College need remedial classes before they can begin college work –costing taxpayers $35 million annually. MDC and BCC students who enroll ready for college are nearly three times more likely to get a degree than those who need remediation.

Attacking the gap
The Baltimore Sun – April 23, 2007
If an identifiable group of students is having a hard time keeping up in school, is it fair to single those kids out for special help? It’s a dilemma that many school systems, including some in Maryland, are facing when it comes to African-American boys, who are often on the low end of the achievement gap. In Ossining, NY, the school district is using mentoring and other targeted interventions that have also been recommended by a Maryland task force on young black males. The district which consists of about 4,200 students in six schools, implemented a plan to help young African-American male in 2005. It includes helping families better prepare young children before they enter prekindergarten; providing mentors, using school personnel, for first-grade students and up; raising expectation with middle school students and their families that college is part of their future; and encouraging more high school students to take college preparatory courses. Participation in these activities by students and their families is voluntary and is not limited by race or academic performance level.

Juvenile Justice

Panel debates where to try teens
Burlington Times-News – April 24, 2007
Raleigh- A state House committee on Tuesday began reviewing a proposal that, if approved, would change the way North Carolina handles most 16-and 17-year-olds who are accused of crimes. Members of the House Juvenile Justice Committee had varied reactions, with some offering their support while others expressed concerns. “It’s a hugely expensive issue up front,” Bordsen said, adding that she believes that the state would save money in the long run by helping those juvenile offenders become more productive members of society.

Fresno Co. teens free their minds in juvenile hall
The Fresno Bee – April 22, 2007
The one-hour poetry class allows these teens to confront some of the problems that landed them inside the substance abuse unit of Fresno County’s Juvenile Justice Campus. The class is one of several new programs to rehabilitate the juvenile hall’s troubled youths, and marks yet another milestone for a juvenile justice system once derided as shamefully inadequate. The goal of the new programs is to go beyond incarceration to help youths think about ways to succeed once they return to the community. Officials decided to bring the programs to the juvenile hall after researching what worked at similar institutions throughout the United States. The activities have proved to reduce behavior problems and improve self-esteem, Lowe said.

Foster Care

Foster care laws examined
Detroit Free Press – April 22, 2007
The legislation named after the then-Lt. Gov. Connie Binsfeld and approved without a single no vote—made it easier for judges to terminate the rights of abusive or neglectful parents so their kids could have a better chance of being adopted. The bills were signed into law in December 1997. While adoption rates have risen since then lawmakers are learning about the unintended consequences of the stricter laws. The number of so-called orphans—children who have no parents and little hope of ever being adopted—also rising. While the state Department of Human Services and private agencies markedly increased adoptions, they have been unable to keep up with the influx of children considered unadoptable because of age, behavior or medical problems or who are part of large sibling groups. Studies of the nation’s foster care systems have concluded that these children are more likely to drop out of school, be unemployed and commit crimes.

Who speaks for the kids in dependency court?
Seattle Times – April 25, 2007
When Washington children are removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, their parents are represented by a lawyer in dependency court. The state has a lawyer at the table, too. The kids, however, don’t have that automatic right to counsel. In fact, at least one-third of Washington children who are removed from their homes don’t have anyone at all to speak for them in court, according to a statewide work group studying the issue. A study released Tuesday by First Star, examined law in all 50 states and found that Washington is one of 16 states in which the law doesn’t require that kids in dependency cases get their own lawyers. Studies have indicated that cases take longer when the child goes unrepresented and often that children’s needs-such as visiting siblings – go unmet if they’re not represented.

Foster care focus shifts to family
Lexington Herald-Leader – April 25, 2007
Kentucky officials are changing child protection practices in response to widespread criticism of foster care adoptions, and Chief Justice Joseph Lambert is calling for improvements to the state’s child welfare courts. Under the new child protection practices, social workers will be directed to try harder to place children with extended family members before they turn to non-relative foster parents. Birth fathers and paternal relatives would particularly benefit from this change. Birth parents whose children are placed in foster care also will be told in clear terms by social workers and in writing that they stand to lose their children to adoption.

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