Monday, February 04, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Bush proposes vouchers for poor kids in bad schools
Detroit Free Press – January 28, 2008
President Bush is trying one last time to use public dollars so children can attend private schools. In his final State of the Union address Monday, Bush proposed $300 million for a “Pell Grants for Kids” program that would give low-income kids languishing in academically poor inner-city schools a chance to go to faith-based and parochial schools or any other private school. Named after the popular Pell Grants that give college student government aid to defray tuition, the proposal echoes previous voucher plans Bush has proposed – and Congress has ignored. It would build on the No Child Left Behind law Bush has championed by giving some low-income parents more options to take their children out of public schools rated as poor.

Educators applaud efforts to extend high school
Mlive. com – January 21, 2008
State educators are considering a proposal to raise the number of years before graduation for some Michigan high school students. Under today’s regulations, students count as “dropouts” in state records if they don’t finish high school in four years – even if they receive their diplomas within the next year. But that could soon change. Students take five years to graduate for a variety of reasons, Handeyside said. Some must compensate for habitually skipping class. Others come back after dropping out. Some missed school because of chronic illness or long-term suspension. The state Board of Education is mulling a plan that would allow these students five years to graduate. Students would have to seek approval for the one-year extension on a case-by-case basis. Changing the way the state maintains its graduation statistics matters a lot to districts trying to keep up with state and federal standards, educators say. The way the state counts graduates now artificially lowers schools’ graduation rates, interfering with efforts to make adequate yearly progress, Handeyside said. The state board will vote Feb. 12 on the idea. If passed, the U.S. Department of Education must approve the measure for it to take effect.

State’s schools battle high dropout rates with new approaches – January 23, 2008
About a quarter of Indiana students and half of those in Indianapolis Public Schools fail to graduate from high school in four years, according to data released by the state Tuesday. That rate of failure has schools launching a wave of new programs and overhauling old ones to improve graduation figures. Indianapolis schools have turned to nights school, mentors and graduation coachers, schools in malls, and beefed-up courses on study skills for “C” and “D” students in an effort to see more students earn diplomas. The payoff is still ahead, though. Districts acknowledge that their graduation rates remain too low but predict dramatic changes as the programs take hold. Ben Davis has seen fewer dropouts over the past two years, and the school is considering adding a December graduation ceremony.

Juvenile Justice

State must provide lawyers for youth parolees
San Francisco Chronicle – January 31, 2008
A federal judge has ordered California to provide lawyers for juveniles who are sometimes held for months while awaiting hearings on parole violations. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento had already ruled that the state’s extended detention of juveniles arrested for breaking parole violated their constitutional rights to a prompt hearing. On Tuesday, Karlton said state authorities must provide lawyers at those hearings, starting Feb. 15. More than 2,400 juveniles are on parole after completing sentences at institutions run by the state Division of Juvenile Justice, formerly the California Youth Authority. When accused of violating their parole – by criminal conduct, or by disregarding a condition such as not reporting to their parole officer – they can be held for up to 60 days while awaiting a decision, under the state’s rules. If convicted of a parole violation, a youth can be returned to state custody for as long as a year. By the court’s standard, Karlton said, juvenile parolees – who lack the maturity, education and skills of adults – are always entitled to legal representation.

Foster Care

Number of children in foster care dropping
Lincoln Journal Star – January 28, 2008
Fewer Nebraska children were in foster care at the end of 2006, but much needs to be done to improve the safety and proper development of those children, especially the youngest ones, according to the state’s Foster Care Review Board. The year 2006 saw a 16.4 percent reduction in children in foster care and fewer children returning to foster care. More children – 423 compared to 347 the before – were adopted. Still, recommendations by the review board, in its annual report released Monday, called for reducing the workloads and increasing pay for foster care caseworkers. It also proposed creating a system of oversight for the many contracts the Department of Health and Human Services has with outside companies for foster care services. Too many children in foster care – more than half in 2006 – were moved from placement to placement four or more times, the report said.

Md. Moves to Recruit 1,000 Foster Parents by 2010
The Washington Post – January 1, 2008
Maryland has launched an aggressive campaign to increase the number of foster families, aiming to recruit at least 1,000 foster parents by 2010. More than 10,000 children in Maryland are in out-of-home placements, and about 20 percent are in group homes. Donald plans to ask the business community, faith-based groups and others to help in the campaign. People who are foster parents already will play a central role. Donald said Maryland will incorporate strategies used in other states, including “fosterware parties,” at which participants tell family members and friends about the experience of being a foster parent. The state would give the foster parent a stipend for refreshments. The state also will give bonuses to foster parents who help recruit, offering $500 if a child is placed in a home. Donald said that there are several reasons for the decline in foster families and that she expects the “1000 by 10” initiative to address many of them by offering the support services that families have sought.

School focuses on foster-care students
Daily News – January 29, 2008
A new South Bronx charter school opening this fall will have a unique focus-catering to students and families in the child welfare system. The Mott Haven Academy Charter School, which won approval from the state Board of Regents just last week, will open in a temporary site with 90 students in kindergarten and first grade. Students will be selected through a lottery process, but classes will include children in the foster care system and preventive services programs. The charter school will offer a standard curriculum, but students will also be able to receive on-site counseling, medical care and other invention services. Also, school staffers will receive specialized training in child abuse and neglect to better react to children’s needs.

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