Monday, July 02, 2007

This Week’s News: Youth in Transition


"ED in 08" campaign launches in Iowa
Radio Iowa – June 26, 2007
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is putting up half the money for a $60 million campaign to get presidential candidates to focus on the topic of education. Former Colorado Governor Roy Romer is heading up the campaign which is dubbed "ED in 08". Romer and the "ED in 08" group are pushing Iowans to pester the presidential candidates for specific answers, such as what they'd do to impose more uniform standards for the 14,000 public school districts in the country. "We are in a world economy in which we just simply cannot afford to have 1.2 million drop-outs in our high schools a year," Romer says. "...Therefore, the federal government has got an economic and a vested interest to try to say, 'States, we need to address this. We need to address this together...Let's work it out.'"

Business is working for better education
Minneapolis Star-Tribune – July 1, 2007
Thanks to an array of supporters, Minnesota is making progress in getting kids off to a good start in grade school. Minnesota Business for Early Learning. The business community launched the initiative out of concern that only half of the state's new kindergartners are "fully prepared" to learn, according to state assessments conducted annually by kindergarten teachers.Gov. Tim Pawlenty's candid comment about school drop-outs to a Twin Cities business audience summed it up: "Minnesota simply cannot compete with one-third of the people on the bench."

Juvenile Justice

On Pretrial Incarceration for Juveniles
San Francisco Chronicle – June 27, 2007
It is difficult to step back from tragic events and ask hardheaded, data-driven questions. It is much easier to vilify the mayor, the juvenile courts, and the probation department for progressively seeking solutions to seemingly intractable problems when something goes wrong. But if we expect answers to our toughest societal questions, such as juvenile rehabilitation, we must acknowledge that simplistic lock 'em up programs won't work.

Juvenile corrections could be next venue for restorative justice in Texas
Pegasus News – June 27, 2007
The Texas Youth Commission's transformation might be an opportunity for testing restorative justice principles in the Lone Star State. On Sunday night, Dr. Gordon Bazemore of Florida Atlantic University spoke on the topic of restorative justice and youth crime, aiming to go "beyond treatment and punishment for juveniles." He pointed out that in US states where restorative justice initiatives had been tried, they were mostly used in juvenile justice instead of adult corrections settings. With the implosion in Texas juvenile corrections this spring and the "Sunset" review of the Texas Youth Commission that will be performed between now and 2009, Texas has perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to reinvent its juvenile justice system to implement some of these alternative models.

Assessments cut juvenile count at jail
Indianapolis Star – June 29, 2007
A new assessment program for youths in trouble with the law means fewer are having extended stays at the Marion County Detention Center. Superior Court officials today announced the average daily population of youths younger than 18 was 98. Last year was the first the average daily population was lower than the juvenile jail’s bed count of 144. The average daily population was 189 in 2004 and 169 in 2005. Chris Ball, juvenile center probation officer, was part of a group who helped implement the new assessment program, called Juvenile Detention Alternatives initiative. "In past years, all detention decisions were based on the offense that the youth was arrested on," Ball said. The program allows officials to look at the risk of a youth being accused of committing another crime or failing to appear for an initial court hearing after his arrest, she said.

Foster Care

More funding for kids out of foster care halted
San Luis Obispo Tribune – June 29, 2007
Republicans in the state Senate stopped the passage of a bill Thursday that would have added $10.5 million to funding for housing programs for youth transitioning out of foster care, including a dozen youths in San Luis Obispo County. AB 845 had already passed the Assembly in a 78-0 vote and had support from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it failed in the Senate to garner the two-thirds majority needed to send it to the governor’s desk. The party-line vote fell short of the two-thirds needed, with 23 Democrats in favor and 13 Republicans against it. Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, abstained. Lee Collins, director of San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services, said he was disappointed that foster children were being used to send a message about fiscal responsibility to the governor.

Foster teens grab reins of plans for their lives
City Limits Weekly – June 25, 2007
Before a standing room only crowd gathered in the stately law library of New York Family Court in Manhattan last Thursday afternoon, a group of teenagers reported that youth in foster care would be better served if they were more involved in the process aimed at finding them a permanent home. The speakers, part of the 15-member Youth Justice Board (YJB), presented a new report on improving the family court system’s permanency planning process to children’s advocates, court personnel and foster care professionals. Called "Step Up, Step Out," the report finds many youth in foster care don’t understand how the family court system works, have little contact with the legal guardians who argue on their behalf in court, and are unaware that they can attend court proceedings or petition the judge who oversees their case.

Utah foster care: Child welfare system reform means end of 14-year lawsuit
Salt Lake Tribune – June 29, 2007
In announcing her decision to dismiss a lawsuit that for 14 years has driven reform of Utah's child welfare system, Judge Tena Campbell - in an unusual show of ceremony - congratulated attorneys, caseworkers and others, inviting them to stand. Dismissal of the lawsuit in 2008 will save Utah taxpayers $300,000 in monitoring expenses. But Duane Betournay, the new DCFS director, describes the watershed event as a beginning, not an end. The national center sued Utah in 1993 over alleged unconstitutional conditions in the foster care system. Among the allegations: child abuse investigations were cursory or never completed; children were languishing - even dying - in foster care and were denied education, basic health care and behavioral therapy; and foster parents and caseworkers weren't well trained. Instead of challenging the suit - known as David C. v. Leavitt - the state settled, agreeing to reforms across the entire system.

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