Monday, June 18, 2007

This Week’s News: Youth in Transition


Schools to open newcomer centers: Jefferson reaches out to Hispanic students
The Times-Picayune – June 12, 2007
With an ever-increasing number of Hispanic students entering Jefferson Parish public schools, the school system plans to launch in August a program to help the students adjust, while discouraging drop-outs. Without transition help, she said, Hispanic students have fared poorly on standardized tests, giving them little chance to advance to the next grade or graduate. Since Hurricane Katrina, the school system, which has the highest number of Hispanic students in the state, has seen a surge in its Spanish-speaking enrollment as families have settled in to take advantage of jobs in construction and in small businesses.

Pitt schools work to move kids ahead
The Daily Reflector – June 13, 2007
Pitt County Schools has developed an innovative way to fight dropouts before students even reach high school, officials contend. A fast track program that allows students who have been retained for one or two grades to work hard for a year and jump from the sixth grade to the eighth grade is likely to cut down on the number of students who quit in high school, said Superintendent Beverly Reep. Holding students back is a key factor in drop outs. Reep said. A student who has been held back twice has a more than 90 percent chance of ultimately dropping out of school, she said. The number of high school dropouts is at a five-year high in North Carolina, according to a report released earlier this year. Over 22,000 students dropped out last year.

March to protest exams: Easton to join teachers, NAACP against BESE
The Daily Advertiser – June 14, 2007
Leaders with the Lafayette chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, along with Lafayette school officials, will join the Louisiana chapter to march in Baton Rouge against standardized tests on June 30. Johnson said it is not the test that is a problem, but the fact that BESE is using it to decide whether students fail, which leads to low self-esteem, drop-outs and eventually crime. Lafayette Parish Association of Educators President Joycelyn Olivier said there should be accountability in education, "but it shouldn't just be one test." Olivier said community involvement is key in finding how best to assess students. For Lafayette Parish Superintendent James Easton, who said he plans to join the march, there are important - even vital - skills that are not measured by high-stakes testing.

Juvenile Justice

Should kids go to court in chains?
USA Today – June 16, 2007
Malyra Perez is 14, and yes, her mother says, she is troublesome. Malyra runs away and goes to school high, her mother tells the judge. She is in court on a charge of grand theft auto. But she shouldn't be in shackles, Myra Perez says. "I didn't like that, not at all. She's not a criminal." Such sentiments are being heard in courts across the nation, where there are increasingly vigorous debates over rules that require metal shackles to be used on youths who appear at juvenile court hearings. At issue is whether kids as young as 10 need to be shackled for court security, and whether putting chains on young defendants not only makes them look like criminals but also makes them more likely to think of themselves in that way.

Incarcerated kids may need another way out of trouble
Indianapolis Star – June 11, 2007
If the Indiana State Bar Association's pilot program to provide psychological screening for juveniles entering detention centers proves successful, the system is in trouble. But it's good trouble. There is little reason to believe that expert initial testing of all boys and girls brought to detention facilities won't turn up enough mental and emotional -- as opposed to criminal -- problems to warrant such a service in all 92 counties. And, given that the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force, the respected private advocacy group, has estimated that half the children in the system need some psychiatric care, a universal screening system will present large legal questions for judges and financial challenges to government.

Foster Care

Police officers urged to adopt foster children
Washington Times – June 16, 2007
Metropolitan police officers at the 3rd District station received something extra with their crime alerts and duty assignments during their 7:30 a.m. roll call yesterday -- an appeal to adopt a foster child. "If you want to help us heal a child, consider becoming a foster parent," said Kamilah Bunn, a resource development specialist for the District's Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA). "If not, take a flier and tell a friend." While local agencies traditionally have looked to faith-based, business and community groups to find parents to adopt foster children, the District has begun urging police officers to take in older children. Bunn said that many officers are former foster youth and can relate to the children and teach them discipline.

Partnership helps foster children
Hattiesburg American – June 11, 2007
As Mississippi confronts the daunting task of reforming and improving its services for foster children, a unique partnership in Forrest County is already yielding results and could serve as a model for the rest of the state. The Forrest County arm of the state Department of Human Services' Division of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) contracted with the University of Southern Mississippi's School of Social Work last year to provide expertise and guidance to a troubled agency. "This is the only partnership like this we know of in the nation," said Lori Woodruff, director of child welfare programs at the Southern Miss School of Social Work who has helped lead the DFCS partnership. With university personnel helping supervise and train agency personnel, supporting case work and promoting strong hires, School of Social Work faculty said the number of children under agency custody has dropped from 243 last year to about 170 now.

Open foster care records sought
Cincinnati Enquirer – June 14, 2007
An attorney for The Enquirer joined other press advocates Wednesday in arguing for more public access to foster care records - not increased privacy, as proposed in the Ohio House. "Anyone who lives in southwestern Ohio will remember for years to come . . . the story of 3-year-old Marcus Fiesel," said John C. Greiner, a Cincinnati attorney representing The Enquirer. "The public came to know Marcus' foster parents only when it was too late to raise concerns about their fitness," Greiner testified. "And what the public learned made all of us question why that boy was placed in that house. It is important to remember that Marcus Fiesel died not because the public knew too much about his situation, but because the public knew too little." Others - including a deputy sheriff from Logan County, child service officials from Cuyahoga and Lucas counties, and a foster parent - argued that children and their foster parents might be endangered by publicizing their names.

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