Sunday, June 24, 2007

This Week’s News: Youth in Transition


State schools chief unveils framework for dropout prevention plan
WAVE 3 Indianapolis – June 18, 2007
Indiana's school superintendent wants a comprehensive plan to cut the rate of drop-outs. Suellen Reed spoke at a high school summit in Indianapolis today. She told the hundreds of teachers, administrators and community leaders that a prevention plan could help schools, districts and communities keep kids in school. But she wants their help and says it will take a lot of work before a final version of the plan is ready.

Taking the middle road
The Daily Progress – June 21, 2007
City school officials plan to work with University of Virginia education professors to evaluate Charlottesville’s middle school arrangement. Some experts say that middle-schoolers’ needs are so different from other students’, it only makes sense to group them together in a more homogeneous environment. Other authorities say that youngsters are better off moving up through the classes at a school incorporating kindergarten through eighth grade. The K-8 model encourages parents to stay involved with the school system and their children’s education for a longer period. Some parents “drop out” when children make the transition to middle school. And parental support is a key element in student success, no matter what the age. Speaking of drop-outs, the rate of students dropping out of high school is rising in Charlottesville. It has gone from 2.6 to 4.3 in three years; the state average is 1.9.

Juvenile Justice

Juvenile-justice officials turn attention to girls in trouble with law
Orlando Sentinel – June 20, 2007
After years of neglect, Florida's juvenile-justice system is paying fresh attention to the problems of girls. An experimental program in Orange County is pairing more than 300 girls on probation with eight specially trained probation officers. It's a first step in a statewide movement that juvenile-justice advocates hope will improve the lives of girls who run afoul of the law. "Girls need someone they can talk to," one 17-year-old said while standing outside her home with her probation officer. "Some people get more attention from their probation officer than they do at home."

County weighs detention camp school reforms
Los Angeles Times – June 19, 2007
Angered by a recent report criticizing the quality of schooling for youths in juvenile halls and camps, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe is calling for major changes to education in the system, such as creating arts-themed classroom programs in detention facilities. Recommendations last week by the Los Angeles County Children's Planning Council suggest revamping educational programs for incarcerated youths, having a single case manager handle all aspects of a teenager's rehabilitation and creating a separate county department devoted solely to juvenile justice.

Opinions split on adult trials for juveniles
South Jersey Courier-Post – June 18, 2007
Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton filed a waiver to have Jason Henry tried as an adult, saying the youth's actions were deliberate, intentional and resulted in two deaths. Family members, friends, teachers and classmates disagreed, however, and unsuccessfully launched a petition and letter-writing campaign to keep Henry in the juvenile court system. If convicted in juvenile court, the sentencing for a youthful offender is left to the discretion of a Family Court judge and the detention center responsible for rehabilitating its young inmates. In adult court, Henry faces two life sentences for murder and additional years if convicted of arson and aggravated assault. The issue of rehabilitation, and whether a youth convicted of serious crimes like murder, arson or rape, can rejoin society is a question often considered by the juvenile justice system. The adult court operates mostly on a sanctions-based system, meaning the court is responsible for doling out appropriate punishments to criminals rather than considering their ability to rejoin society.

Foster Care

Bachmann testifies on foster kids' behalf
St. Cloud Times – June 20, 2007
Freshman Rep. Michele Bachmann, a former foster care mother, told a congressional panel Tuesday about the need for more educational programs for the nation's 510,000 foster children. Bachmann, who has been a foster mom to 23 special needs youngsters, joined recording artist Jewel, a former homeless teen, in testifying about the needs of homeless youths. Bachmann suggested Congress create a federal program that would give foster parents the option of sending children to public or private schools. She said she was not allowed to send her foster children to private school. Many of her foster children suffered because they were not challenged at school nor expected to succeed, she said.

Foster care commission meets in Riverside
San Diego Union-Tribune – June 20, 2007
A state commission appointed to identify ways the courts and child welfare agencies can improve service to California's estimated 80,000 foster care children will meet Wednesday for the first in a series of two-day meetings. The California Blue Ribbon Commission on Foster Care is holding its sixth quarterly meeting in Riverside, with plans to confer with local judges, talk with members of the county's Department of Public Social Services and tour a women's prison, according to officials. The commission will look at whether expediting the process of reuniting youngsters in the foster care system with mothers who have spent time in prison might prevent the unraveling of family bonds.

Keep the promise
San Francisco Chronicle – June 21, 2007
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature took many well-deserved bows last year for focusing on the underfunded and dysfunctional foster-care system. In providing more money and instilling more accountability into the system, they raised the hopes of the 80,000 young people in the system. Now it's time for Sacramento to follow through on its promises. Schwarzenegger and Assemblywoman Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, did their part by introducing legislation (AB845) that would fund the counties' plans for transitional housing for former foster youth up to age 24. The Assembly did its part, approving AB845, with $10.5 million to help these young people, on a 78-0 vote. Now, however, a bloc of Senate Republicans is threatening to reject AB845 on fiscal grounds. The bill is expected to come to a vote next week. Unless these Republicans get a jolt of conscience -- or even a dose of pragmatism -- the bill would not get the two-thirds vote required for passage.

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