Tuesday, May 29, 2007

This Week’s News: Youth in Transition


Embrace diversity to reduce drop-outs
Salem Statesman-Journal – May 21, 2007
Anyone who has watched the older kids pouring through the exits of a high school carrying their flutes, their lacrosse sticks, their skateboards and their hearts on their sleeves has seen how fervently they project their individuality. Unfortunately, among those shy kids, jittery kids, kids who wear flip-flops, bright kids, scary kids -- even kids with pink mohawks -- sprinting for their cars, moseying toward the park or loitering with their friends at the bus stop, many will not feel included enough, or encouraged enough, or important enough, to stay with high school until they graduate. In school districts from Portland to New York, educators grappling with growing drop-out rates have made some common discoveries. They find that kids who quit high school probably started having trouble many years earlier; that the establishment of strong relationships between students and educational professionals is essential, and that improving completion rates requires providing a variety of solutions, because there are so many different kinds of kids.

High school dropout rates on the decline but state report shows increase among Hispanics
Lexington Herald-Leader – May 25, 2007
Hispanic students dropped out of school at a higher rate than their white peers for the third year in a row, according to a report released today by the Kentucky Department of Education. "We have more Hispanics than we used to have, and with a larger population you may see that the dropout rates may increase," said KDE spokeswoman Lisa Gross. "Dropouts are dropouts, no matter what their ethnicity. Keeping kids from dropping out is probably the toughest work that a school will do." Overall, high school dropout rates fell from 3.47 percent to 3.31 percent, and the graduation rate increased from 82.86 percent to 83.26 percent, the annual report shows.

NYC: High School Graduation Rate at 60 Percent
1010 WINS – May 22, 2007
New York City says high school graduation rates have reached a record-breaking 60 percent. The city says it calculates the rate differently from the state, which announced last month that graduation rates had reached 50 percent. Critics say the city has released the data to counteract a state report on reading scores, expected to show lackluster improvement.

Juvenile Justice

Jail or a ‘baby-sitter?’
Jackson Hole Star-Tribune – May 27, 2007
Here's a scenario: Suppose that the only police officer on duty late at night in Evansville finds a 17-year-old passed out on a park bench. Sure enough, the youngster has been drinking. But dispatchers can't get a hold of his parents -- they're out of town on vacation. Police in Wyoming have two choices: They can stay with youngsters until they're sober -- hoping that no other calls demand their attention -- or they can violate the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act by sending kids to jail. Right now, kids often are sent to jail. It's one issue up for discussion by the Legislature's Joint Judiciary Committee over the next several months. The committee holds its first interim meeting June 7-8, and a review of Wyoming's juvenile justice system is listed among the committee's top priorities.

Youth home is under fire
Chicago Tribune – May 27, 2007
Cook County's top child welfare official is objecting to placement of state wards in a Rockford facility that has a troubled history and faces a resurgence of reported violence, records show. The Mill, a non-profit agency that treats troubled teens, encountered a spate of problems in 2004 and again early this year, when the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services stopped sending state wards there.

Foster Care

Record numbers of foster kids leave program as adults
USA Today – May 24, 2007
A record number of teens are leaving the foster care system without a family to help them, and many fail to make it on their own, says a report being released today. The number who leave the system because they turn 18 increased 41% to 24,407 between 1998 and 2005. The spike occurred despite a drop in the number of children in foster care, according to government figures in the report.

Fewer families welcome foster kids
Sacramento Bee – May 22, 2007
The number of Californians welcoming foster children into their homes has plummeted 30 percent in the last decade, and tumbled even more in some counties like Sacramento and San Bernardino, according to two new reports being released today by county welfare and children's advocates. The reports cite low reimbursement rates as one of the main reasons counties aren't able to find and retain more foster family homes. The state has not granted an increase in six years even though the cost of living has risen more than 20 percent. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to maintain the rate in his proposed 2007-08 budget as part of an ongoing effort to balance the state budget, said Shirley Washington, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Social Services. Welfare and children's advocates, who announced the reports' findings at the Capitol on Tuesday, say California is facing a crisis in finding enough families willing to accept the state's nearly 80,000 foster children needing stable homes.

Former Foster Children and Their Supporters Create Vital – and Special – Support Systems
BlackAmericaweb.com – May 23, 2007
In 1999, Casey Family Programs conducted extensive interviews with more than 1,800 foster care alumni across the country for its National Alumni Study, in which a large percentage of alumni expressed a desire to help others who were in the foster care. As a result, Casey created an alumni relations department, which made connections with 1,400 foster care alumni, and discovered many of them were actively working in a number of ways to help others who were or had been in foster care. Through those efforts came Foster Care Alumni of America, an organization founded in 2004 that aims to provide a supportive community for people who have been through foster care and opportunities to work together with allies to improve policies and practices that affect those in the system. FCAA is currently undertaking their first membership drive and has created a community art project, “Exploring the Culture of Foster Care,” which is a collection of postcards submitted by hundreds of youth and alumni of foster care from across the country that describe their experiences in the system.

Monday, May 21, 2007

This Week’s News: Youth in Transition


Alternative Schools Linger in the Shadows
Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune – May 12, 2007
Enrollment in state-approved, taxpayer-funded alternative education programs is surging, with nearly 150,000 Minnesota students enrolled – about 25,000 full time – at a cost of more than $217 million a year. But local, state and federal education officials are hard-pressed to say how they or their schools are performing. Absenteeism is rampant, with anywhere from one-fourth to half of students skipping school on a given day. While few alternative students take standardized tests, scores for those who do are alarmingly low: Advocates can recite success stories about young people turning their lives around in alternative programs. And, because so many of their students have failed in traditional schools, alternative educators ask to be judged by different standards. But a state commissioner frets that school districts are pushing too many of their struggling students into alternatives.

Learning What’s Right with Schools
Santa-Barbara Independent – May 14, 2007
Although many Americans worry about public schools in general, they remain positive about their neighborhood schools. Such views are understandable given the general media fascination with negative stories and a continuing political emphasis on only what’s wrong with public schools. In sharp contrast to stories-as-usual, The Center on Education Policy and the American Youth Policy Forum publish a report on the good news associated with public education.

Juvenile Justice

Juvenile defendants may be too immature to stand trial, appeals panel says
Sacramento Bee – May 11, 2007
A California appellate court made it clear for the first time Thursday that some juvenile defendants may simply be too young to stand trial, including an 11-year-old defendant prosecuted for stealing candy bars. The Sacramento-based 3rd District Court of Appeal said that children can be so immature that they cannot understand their legal proceedings or assist in their own defense. In doing so, the justices overruled Sacramento juvenile court judges who had ruled that children must have either a mental disorder or a developmental disability to be deemed incompetent to stand trial. While some hailed the ruling for establishing a new legal standard of juvenile competency, Deputy Attorney General Angelo Edralin said it merely instructed juvenile judges to be more thorough
when considering incompetency claims.

Injuries of teen inmates probed
USA Today – May 17, 2007
Texas authorities are investigating whether guards at state juvenile detention facilities broke the bones of 60 young offenders as a result of abusive tactics. The newly disclosed review comes amid spreading concerns about the treatment of teenage inmates. The investigation is part of a criminal inquiry into the Texas Youth Commission, one of the nation's largest juvenile justice systems, with about 4,000 offenders. In the past seven years, juvenile facilities in 11 states have been the focus of federal reviews for possible civil rights violations, according to Justice Department records.

New ‘screening’ tool proposed for juvenile offenders
Baltimore Examiner – May 15, 2007
Every year, Baltimore County authorities identify 2,200 juveniles headed down the wrong path. About 500 end up becoming what police call “repeat serious offenders” who need to be behind bars for the public’s safety. But how can authorities know which of the kids who appear to be going in the wrong direction actually will become dangers to society? The Baltimore County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council is designing a new screening tool that it hopes will help determine that. With the help of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, the county is drafting an approximately 30-question form that officials say will identify the “highest-risk” juvenile offenders before it’s too late. Depending on the answers to these questions, the juvenile is then assigned a point total to assess how likely he or she is to become a repeat serious offender. The point of the new screening tool is an attempt to get good data on the county’s most troubled teens.

Foster Care

Group Challenges Evangelicals to Adopt Foster Kids
National Public Radio – May 13, 2007
The Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family held a three-day summit this week to challenge evangelicals to adopt foster children. The federal government estimates that there are half a million kids in foster care in the United States. Some 115,000 are awaiting adoption. The pilot project in Colorado is meant to serve as a national model. On the last day of the summit, churches from Colorado's biggest cities are being brought in to be "challenged" to get their members to adopt.

Troubled children hardest to place
Los Angeles Times – May 17, 2007
Finding adoptive homes for teenage foster kids has always been a challenge. Most languish in foster care until they "age out" at 18, and many of those wind up unemployed, homeless or in jail. For foster children with criminal histories, the situation is even bleaker. Their crimes are typically disciplinary infractions or fighting, running away, vandalism or stealing, actions that might get a teenager with parents grounded but get a youth in foster care hauled off by police. They become wards of the Los Angeles County Probation Department and — with no parents pledging support or homes to return to — are often ordered into group homes or institutions, where they stay even after their terms are completed. Four years ago — prodded by changes in state law and technological advances that make searches easier — the Probation Department launched one of the first programs in the nation aimed at finding adoptive homes for foster children in the juvenile justice system.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

This Week's News:Youth in Transition


Educators, politicians, and MTV take aim at US dropout “epidemic”
The Christian Science Monitor – May 9, 2007
The National Summit to end America’s Silent Dropout Epidemic in Washington is carrying forward the momentum that’s been building for the past few years in response to some sobering statistics: About 3 out of 10 American ninth-graders don’t graduate with their class – with the ratio climbing to nearly half for African-Americans, Hispanics, and native Americans. By combining student voices, examples of successful policies, and a new online tool for pinpointing graduation rates in every school district in the United States, it’s meant to be an “action-forcing event,” says John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises, the public policy group leading the summit. Cosponsors include the National Governors Association, MTV, Time magazine, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Getting a head start on college
Chicago Tribune – May 9, 2007
In a growing number of cities, including Chicago, public school districts are offering students an opportunity to work toward dual degrees as a means of curbing the staggering high school dropout rate and better preparing young people to compete in a global workforce. Such early-college programs are among the latest trends in school reform, targeting bright, mostly low-income students who were performing poorly in traditional schools and turning them into college scholars. In many cases, such early-college programs have taken students who were on the way to becoming high school dropouts and turned them into high achievers at major universities. Of the 106 students who graduated from Chicago’s school last year with an associate’s degree, 96 decided to further their education by going to a four-year college to pursue bachelor’s degrees. The remaining 10 went to work in the fields for which they were trained.

Legislator weigh in on age-limit for HS drop-outs
Burlington Times-News – May 9, 2007
Raleigh, NC-A proposal to raise the age at which students are permitted to quit high school won the support of a Senate committee Wednesday, though members questioned whether the move would help improve North Carolina’s graduation rates. Lawmakers also debated whether forcing unwilling students to stay in class would be too disruptive, and whether simply raising the compulsory attendance age would address the underlying issues that cause students to leave school.

Juvenile Justice

A new approach to help young offenders
San Francisco Chronicle – May 8, 2007
For the past decade, a system once marked by little but despair has experience a series of positive changes, and one reason, many experts say, is that the counties have been sending fewer juvenile offenders every year to the state-run juvenile prison system and instead placing them in rehabilitation programs in their home counties. The offenders are generally arrested and adjudicated by county law enforcement authorities, and prosecutors and judges have wide discretion in how and where to handle them. More and more, those local officials are opting to treat the youths at home at a time when juvenile crime rate, and imprisonment rates, have been plummeting for a decade.

Foster Care

Me lonely? Not now, thanks to the “family finding” search
San Francisco Chronicle – May 2, 2007
About 22 counties in California, including San Francisco, Alameda and Los Angeles, are trying a combination of high-tech Internet searches and old-fashioned gumshoe work to find extended family and friends who can support lost children in the foster care system. Advocates say the state should require all county child welfare agencies to find children’s families in this way. Assembly Majority Leader Karen Bass, D-Baldwin Vista, introduced legislation this year mandating that county agencies use search software to connect lonely foster kids with their extended families. Assembly Bill 149 is in committee.

Bill gives foster youth a hand reaching goals
The Olympian – May 9, 007
Gov. Chris Gregoire recently signed several bills into law all aimed at improving the life of abused and neglected children who are under the protective custody of the state of Washington. House Bill 1131, the so called “Passport to College” legislation, will help put more foster youth in college classrooms and help them through graduation. House Bill 1202 extends health care coverage to foster youth from their 18th to their 21st birthday. House Bill 1922 creates the “Independent Youth housing Program,” which will provide housing stipends and case management services to low-income young adults ages 18-23 who have been in foster care. All three bills will improve the lives of young people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves living in foster homes away form their biological families.

Monday, May 07, 2007

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Schools try radical ways to help students pay for college
The Christian Science Monitor – April 30, 2007
Amid the climate of skyrocketing college tuitions and convoluted aid programs, a handful of universities are introducing simple and transparent financial aid programs. Among them: across-the-board tuition cuts, loan caps, and completely eliminating tuition for some. Yet in the last 10 years, at least 19 schools have cut tuition dramatically. Applying for college financial aid has become more complicated than filing a tax return, says Cornell University professor Ronald Ehrenberg. To make matters worse, students may need financial aid now more than ever. Tuition increases at nearly double the rate of inflation, and “sticker prices” in excess of $50,000 can discourage prospective students before they apply.

Just the Stats: Can High School Counselors Prevent Drop-Outs?
Diverse – May 1, 2007
A new report by the National Center for Education Statistics suggests a strong relationship between the number of credit hours a high-school student earns as a freshman and their likelihood to drop out. With this information, could school administrators identify potential dropouts early enough to intervene? Based on an analysis of the outcomes of a cohort of students who were in the 10th grade in 2002, the report, “Course Credit Accrual and Dropping Out of High School,” “examines the timing of dropping out and its relationship to the number of credits earned by high school students.”

Juvenile Justice

Bill: Name juvenile escapees
Citizen-Times – May 7, 2007
State lawmakers including Justus, R-Henderson, and Rep. Bruce Goforth, D-Buncombe, want to require juvenile justice officials to release escapees’ names, photos and offenses to the public. Their bill is scheduled for a vote today on the House floor. Juvenile criminal records are sealed. Officials said after the recent escape that they would be committing a crime by releasing information. The state juvenile justice department hasn’t taken a position on the proposed changes.

A better village
Memphis Commercial Appeal – May 6, 2007
Imagine what a difference it could make if the community began throwing resources at kids like this at an early age. What if he had been through an early childhood education program, which, according to Gates Foundation research, reduces the chance of acquiring a juvenile record by 18 percent? That improves a child’s chance of graduating from high school by 20 percent, of going to college by 21 percent, or gaining skillful employment by 20 percent. Among 15 strategies developed by Operation: Safe Community, a crime-fighting initiative rolled out at a community crime summit last November, is the anticipated launch of a program that would produce personal development plans for 12, 500 youths who land at Juvenile Court every year because of unruly or delinquent acts. The JustCare 180degrees program, as the name implies, is about direction. Its design is based on what researchers have learned from successful youth development efforts in Boston, Milwaukee, Vancouver and elsewhere. Its aim goes beyond preventing kids from committing crimes. It’s to turn them in the opposite direction and produce successful family members, students and citizens.

Foster Care

Bill would inform foster children of legal rights
Houston Chronicle – April 30, 2007
Senate Bill 805, which passed the Senate earlier this month and sits in the House Human Services Committee, empowers foster youth by education them about their rights. The bill, by Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, establishes the foster children’s bill of rights. Uresti’s bill compiles 50 existing statutory rights and rolls them into one comprehensive laundry list. The bill then mandates that a simplified version of this list be clearly explained, printed and given to each foster child. It would be translated if necessary, or communicated in any way necessary for a child with a disability.

NJ plans to keep more abused, neglected children in-state
Newsday.com – May 2, 2007
Trenton, NJ- New Jersey’s long-troubled child welfare agency plans to spend $15.6 million to keep more neglected children from being sent out-of-state for help. The state has 298 children receiving services outside New Jersey, down from 327 in March 2006. Kevin Ryan, commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, said the money will allow the state to place another 200 children in state residential settings. “Keeping our kids as close to home as possible while providing the services they need to heal and grow is an ongoing challenge and a top priority for Gov. Corzine and this administration,” Ryan said.

Many foster youths face a future of homelessness
Inside Bay Area – May 6, 2007
When a foster youth becomes homeless, no one social worker, guardian or child welfare department is to blame. Like most states, California has failed to provide an effective safety net for more than 4,000 children who age out of its foster care system each year. One study says that at least one in five former foster children becomes homeless within a few years of becoming homeless within a few years of becoming a legal adult. Other research, using broader criteria for homelessness, sets the figure as high as half. Two bills pending in the state Legislature this year could help prevent foster youths from becoming homeless. One, AB 846, would add $15.5 million to THP-Plus, a state-funded transitional housing program for former foster youth ages 18 to 24. Another bill, AB1331, would allow teenagers with serious mental or physical disabilities to apply for Supplemental Security Income before aging out of foster care.