Sunday, March 09, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Report: Homeless teens need more help to graduate high school
The Boston Globe – March 4, 2008
They’re called “unaccompanied youth” –homeless teens ages 16 through 18 who are on their own – and a new report says the state isn’t going enough to help get them the two things they need most, a safe place to sleep and the chance to earn a high school diploma. A report obtained by The Associated Press, set to be released Thursday by the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, details the number of older homeless teens attending high school across the state – and draws a link between homelessness and poor performance on the state MCAS exams. Among the challenges facing homeless teens is the MCAS exams. Passing the test is a requirement for graduation, and homeless students have a much higher failure rate compared with all students. According to the report, homeless teens taking the 10th grade MCAS exams have a failure rate of 24 percent on the reading test and 35.7 percent on the math test. Despite the difficulties, most of the homeless teens want to stay in school, advocates say. “School is one of the safest places for these kids, “Frost said. “It’s eight to ten hours where they have a safe place to be. They aren’t dropping out. They want to finish.”

Online diploma program a success for dropouts
Granite City Press-Record – March 5, 2008
An online alternative to earning a high school diploma has proven successful in some communities of Madison County and is continuing to recruit students. The Madison County E-Learning Program is geared primarily high school dropouts ages 17-21 whose class has already graduated. With the use of current technology, this program provides students with a less stressful and a more accessible educational delivery system. By using computers with the internet, the E-Learning Program will allow youth to work at their own pace with completing accredited course chosen to meet diploma requirements. Upon completion of their educational plan, they will receive a fully accredited diploma that can be used to gain employment, enter college, or go to technical school. Staff will work closely with each student to ensure that each one receives academic as well as job preparation, job placement, job retention and an earnings gain to a living wage.

Left behind after LEAP
The Daily Advertiser – March 9, 2008
In 2007, nearly a quarter of Louisiana eighth-graders didn’t pass the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program test that decides whether they can move on to high school. That leaves students stacking up in school systems, and no one is quite sure what to do with them. “We are struggling to find that answer. Retaining them in the eighth grade isn’t working very well, passing them along to high school isn’t working very well,” said Leslie Jacobs, a former BESE board member, who was key in establishing the state’s testing and accountability programs. She said the key is finding a way to give the retained eighth-graders a different experience. In Lafayette, that program is Project Opportunity. It allows students who haven’t made it past the eighth grade by 16 years of age to go to a high school campus with peers their age while providing instruction at their level. But, there are only so many spots in the program and some kids have to stay on their middle school campuses. There is no state mandate for how to help eighth-graders who have failed to make it to high school.

Juvenile Justice

Teen offenders: Work camp offers fresh start
The Salt Lake Tribune – March 3, 2008
The Genesis Youth Center aims to reach the state’s youngest offenders who haven’t found success in other programs geared toward rehabilitation. There, they can make money to pay court-ordered restitution, complete community service hours and enroll in an education program. Work ranges from hard physical labor – such as light construction, painting, mowing lawns, building fences and snow removal – to community service with the elderly and disabled schoolchildren. “They learn team-building and they learn pride in themselves,” said Annette Adams, associate program director. “A lot of these kids don’t know what it’s like to have a healthy relationship.” Third District Juvenile Court Judge Andrew Valdez said the work camp provides the chance to change the belief systems of children who often go without supervision. “Work camps remove them from the community for public protections purposes and get them away from the negative influences of their friends,” Valdez said. “It gives them some time to reflect.”

States adopt Missouri youth justice model – March 7, 2008
As states grapple with spiraling prison costs and reports of abuse in juvenile lock-ups, many are trying to recreate a successful Missouri program that boasts one of the lowest repeat-offender rates in the country. It took a crisis, but the Show Me State in the early 1980s abandoned its embattled youth corrections facility, which housed 650 juveniles, and switched to smaller regional treatment centers that provide education, job training and 24-hour counseling. Missouri’s approach – originally pioneered in Massachusetts – aimed at creating a safe, non-punitive environment, where counselors help troubled kids turn around their lives. Missouri’s intensive counseling program is not necessarily cheaper than traditional lock-up programs, but with fewer than 8 percent of its graduates returning to the system, the state saves money in the long run, Decker said. “You’re not treating the same kids over and over,” he said. The success of the so-called Missouri model also can be measured by its participants’ higher-than-average number of job placements and high education levels and low incidence of violence at the facilities.

Foster Care

Youth with Disabilities in the Foster Care System: Barriers to Success and Proposed Policy Solutions
National Council on Disability – February 26, 2008
The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) conducted the research for this report that examines this uniquely situated population in terms of the issues that affect them and the policy solutions that can be implemented to improve their outcomes. The purpose of this report is to provide policymakers, primarily at the federal and state levels, with information about youth with disabilities in foster care, so that policymakers can begin to understand the characteristics of this population; the challenges they face; how they fare with regard to safety, permanency, self-determination and self-sufficiency, enhanced quality of life, and community integration; and how the complex array of existing programs and services could be better designed to improve these outcomes.

Bill would strengthen kids’ voices in foster care court
The Mercury News – March 7, 2008
An influential California lawmaker has introduced legislation to bring more children into the court hearings that decided their fates after allegations of abuse and neglect – a bill proposed in response to systemic failures revealed by the Mercury News last month. “This bill sends a strong message that kids need to be a more integral part of the system.” Said Dave Jones, a Sacramento Democrat who chairs the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Jones said the bill is designed to address one of the key findings of the series “Broken Families, Broken Courts” – that throughout California, hearings in the courts that oversee the foster care system are often held without the child present. Jones’ bill, AB 3051, would require all California judicial officers to postpone hearings if children 10 and older have not been properly notified and offered a chance to attend.

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