Monday, January 28, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


School helps dropouts stay on path to graduate
The Union-Tribune - January 24, 2008
Each student crammed into the office suite on Bay Boulevard in Chula Vista ended up there because something went wrong. They’re all enrolled at what’s called the Bounce Back School, where students who dropped out of school report for three-hour daily sessions. They have two teachers who not only instruct them but also track them down when they’re truant. The Sweetwater Union High School District already had options for students who fall behind at traditional high schools. Each school has a learning center for small-group learning. Alternative campuses are sprinkled throughout Chula Vista. Independent-study programs allow student to progress at their own pace and check in regularly with a classroom teacher. A six-year-old charter school specializes in dropouts. The students at Bounce Back have already tried some of those options, and they didn’t work. So the Sweetwater district opened Bounce Back in August as an additional option for potential drop-ins. Its 105 students attend classes in four shifts. Teachers hover over them to help them absorb lessons or merely to keep them on task. Other adults help. A counselor comes in regularly. Another aide finds jobs for students. There’s the occasional visit from probation officers. Miguel Ruiz, whose job title is “recovery specialist” even makes house calls to recruit new students or to coax truants back in to Bounce Back.

Ohio education program targets at-risk high school freshman
The Plain Dealer – January 24, 2008
The boys – “at-risk,” in education parlance – attend 35 high schools in 13 districts across the state identified with alarmingly low graduation rates. The program is unique because it specifically targets freshmen boys who have at least one of the four risk factors for dropouts: they’re overage; they’ve failed two major courses in eighth grade; they’ve been suspended; or they have a record of low attendance. In Cleveland alone, 1, 800 young men fit that description. Every participating school has a state-funded coordinator in charge of the program. Every student is assigned an adult “personal motivator” who meets with him at least once every two weeks to encourage him to stay in school and earn enough credits to get to the next grade level. Each school also has a “graduation action team” made up of teachers, parents, clergy and people from social services and business. The team talks every two weeks and monitors progress. The program is part of Gov. Ted Strickland’s $20 million initiative to close the achievement gap and raise the graduation rates of students with the highest rates of failure. For the next two years, the state will spend about $1,500 on each of the students involved in the program.

Laptop program aims at dropout rate
Aiken Standard – January 26, 2008
Last week ninth graders at Midland Valley High School were given laptop computers as part of a pilot program to help decrease the number of dropouts. National figures show that in South Carolina as many as half of the students who enter ninth grade do not graduate within four years. The program at Midland Valley intends to keep students in school by making their education more interesting and more interactive. The laptops will allow them to learn in ways now available through the current technology and will allow students and teachers to interact on problems and opportunities that the laptops allow. At Midland Valley, the laptop program is dovetailing with Freshman Academy, a complementary program that pays special attention to the needs of ninth graders and their transition to high school from middle school. The new program with laptops will require time in order to determine if it is successful and could be utilized at other high schools.

Juvenile Justice

When students are suspects, lines blur
St. Petersburg Times - January 20, 2008
Florida police frequently skirt state and federal laws, or violate them outright, when questioning children at school, a St. Petersburg Times investigation has found. Often policy question juvenile suspects first, and leave the Miranda warning for later. In some cases they question kids at school and take t hem to jail without notifying the principal. Or they interrogate them as suspects before trying to notify their parents, in violation of state law. Even when police don’t cut legal corners, experts say the push to station officers in most middle and high schools has brought a raft of unintended consequences: blurred roles, unclear legal authority and a sharp increase in school arrests for minor infractions that could be handled out of court. And children are saddled with criminal records that can follow them for a lifetime.

Teens get judged by peers at new court
The Mercury News – January 21, 2008
Unlike a traditional court, Youth Court offenders, who are known as clients, admit guilt before coming to court. An adult volunteer judge presides, but the jury, defense and prosecuting attorneys are young people. The Youth Court, to be held the first Tuesday night of the month beginning in February, is an adjunct of the juvenile justice system that provides an alternative to the traditional process for teens accused of wrongdoing. Youth Court is intended to steer offenders out of trouble at the start. Participation in the program is voluntary, with referrals coming from school districts and police departments, as well as the Alameda County Probation Department. Youth Court proceedings will start with misdemeanor offenses such as shoplifting, graffiti and theft, said Kathy Coyle, co-director of youth programs. Eventually, the program could tackle more serious cases including minor drug and traffic offenses, but none of the cases will involve violence or weapons. When the program begins, its participants will be of high school age, but that could change; other similar court programs handle children as young as 12, Coyle said.

Foster Care

Expo report on how kids fare finds racial divide – January 26, 2008
Black children in Indiana are nearly twice as likely as other Hoosier youths to be identified as victims of abuse and neglect, according to a new report by Indiana Black Expo. The disparity in Indiana is part of a national trend and will be the focus of a new state commission that will meet for the first time Monday. IBE’s report found “black children are overrepresented at every point in the child welfare system, from investigates and out-of-home care to termination of parental rights.” The report, which examined 18 key topics, was released Friday with an analysis of the findings by WTLC radio host Amos Brown. IBE plans to make the report available to those who work with youths across the state so they can better understand the issues and look for opportunities to make positive changes, said spokeswoman Alpha Garrett. The disparity issue is particularly noticeable in the number of Indiana black children placed in out-of-home care: They are nearly four times as likely to be removed from their homes as are white youths, according to a 2004 report by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, which listed Indiana among 16 states with “extreme” black-white disparity rates. Only six states had a greater over-representation in their foster care system.

Wanted: Good homes for older kids
USA Today – January 20, 2008
Michael, 15, is a quiet boy who enjoys board games. He says ideally he would like a mother, father and siblings. Photos with descriptions like these of children looking for a home are showing up on websites, in magazines and at shopping center kiosks, as state child welfare agencies increasingly use marketing techniques to try to find permanent homes for thousands of children in foster or group homes. These marketing campaigns, which in many cases allow people to essentially shop for children, are crucial because older children are often harder to find homes for than newborns, says Erica Zielewski of The Urban Institute, an economic and social policy research group. According to Zielewski, adoptions from state child welfare systems have remained steady at about 50,000 a year since 2000 – leaving another 50,000 each year in foster or group homes. The average stay in foster care before a child is adopted is between three and four years, she says.

Scholarships support program for foster-care youth
WMU News – January 18, 2008
The members of one of the nation’s most underserved college-age populations will get help making their higher education dreams come true, thanks to a new scholarship and support initiative being launched at Western Michigan University this fall. WMU’s Foster Youth and Higher Education Initiative is an effort being launched in coordination with the Michigan Campus Compact and the Michigan Department of Human Services. The pilot program is designed to recruit and offer a support structure and financial aid for young people who have aged out of foster care and who qualify for admission or transfer to WMU. While the intent is to target Michigan’s foster care youth, the program is open to qualified students from any state. The initiative will create a community of scholars among WMU students who grew up in foster care and will attempt to fill the unique support needs that exist for the students who have no adult mentors and no permanent home outside their college residence and who have specialized legal, medical, counseling and financial needs. The goal will be to help foster youth, who age out of care between the ages of 18 and 20, make the transition to adulthood through higher education.

No comments: