Monday, August 27, 2007

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


America’s Best Community Colleges: Why they’re better than some of the “best” four-year universities
Washington Monthly –June 2007
There are several reasons to scrutinize community colleges. First, 43 percent of college freshman begin their education at two-year institutions. Secondly, community colleges have taken the toughest job in higher education: teaching low-income students. In 2004, 54 percent of recipients of a Pell Grant attended community colleges or other non-four-year institutions. Thirdly, for a student of modest means hobbled by an inadequate high school education, or with a family to care for and a job to keep, the difference between good teaching and bad teaching can mean almost everything. Students with the lowest levels of academic preparation are impacted by the learning environment.

Incoming freshman set to get extra dose of attention, support
Chicago Sun-Times – August 9, 2007
Chicago public high school freshmen will get personal attention and “recruiting” normally reserved for star athletes, thanks to a new twist on the old back-to-school program designed to ease the transition. Counselors and school staff will call and visit them at home to help prepare for their first day, and Day One “no-shows” will get another home visit. Principals will prepare freshman transition plans and a freshman checklist will be mailed to every student’s home. Freshman grades will be checked after the first three weeks to make certain struggling students get the help they need before falling behind. And there’ll be a pilot dropout prevention program in 10 high schools to recapture students who have stopped coming to school.

Forced to Pick a Major in High School
New York Times – August 16, 2007
School districts across the country are experimenting with high school majors, which requires ninth graders to declare area of concentration for their high school years; some school officials say establishing majors is a way to keep students interested until graduation and to make them stand out in hypercompetitive college admission process; some parents approve, saying it allows students to specialize; some parents and educators criticize requirement, saying students should instead focus on developing broad range of critical thinking and communication skills.

Juvenile Justice

Better models for juvenile justice
The Christian Science Monitor – August 22, 2007
Amid news stories that raise the specter of increasing juvenile crime, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that crime rates overall, particularly for violent crimes, are still near 30-year lows. Over the past decade, groundbreaking research on adolescent development and on what works to help young people steer clear of crime has brought about more rational and effective policies. Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Washington were the first to incorporate this new knowledge in reshaping our juvenile justice systems. Now, in partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative, we are working to further improve the juvenile justice policy and practice across the country. Juvenile justice is returning to its founding principles of protection, treatment, and rehabilitation, while embracing the equally important principles of accountability and public safety.

Foster Care

States trying to extend foster-care benefits
Stateline – August 23, 2007
In most states, youths in foster care are on their own when they turn 18. That’s because federal funding for payments to foster parents and group homes is cut off when foster kids reach 18, leaving those who have not been adopted or returned to their families to fend for themselves, with little state support. Two states are footing the bill to help foster-care youths who turn 18. Vermont this year became the second state, after Illinois, to use state money to extend its foster-care services to age 21, if a youth chooses to remain in the program. Federal matching funds could become available to states under the Foster Care Continuing Opportunities Act (S.1512), proposed by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Cailf.). The bill is aimed at helping states provide essential foster-care services such as food, housing and legal help to age 21. Without this kind of support, Boxer said, “the future for foster youth, once emancipated, is often bleak.”

Advocate: Open CPS to scrutiny
The Arizona Republic – August 21, 2007
A national advocate for child-welfare reform is pushing for more openness in Child Protective Services cases in Arizona as part of a package of reform recommendations aimed at reducing the system’s reliance on foster care. Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform called Monday for lawmakers to follow the example set in a dozen other states where he said court records in child-welfare cases are open to the public and media to scrutinize.

Foster Kids’ Last Resort: Finding the Lost Relatives
The Wall Street Journal – August 23, 2007
Thanks to computer search technology, social workers have for the first time a powerful tool to locate the family members of “cold cases,” children who spend years moving from foster home to foster home until their biological families’ whereabouts are unknown. In the 40 or so communities around the U.S. that are using the new date-plumbing techniques, the government social workers are placing about 25% of cold-case children in homes estimates Kevin Campbell, a former social-worker administrator in Washington state who pioneered the method. Social workers who work for private nonprofit agencies boast success rates as high as 75%. Even advocates concede the main problem with family finding is that it isn’t being implemented soon enough. They say it would be most effective if it were used to prevent children from spending years in the foster care system in the first place.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Summer Break Until After Labor Day!

The Youth in Transition Blog will take its summer break during the month of August until after Labor Day. Look for headlines in your email inbox in September.