Monday, January 25, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Gateway to Gollege expands with $13 million in grants
Los Angeles Times, California – January 22, 2010
The Gateway to College National Network announced today that it has received $13 million in grants to expand programs that help high school dropouts earn a diploma while also amassing college credits.  The grants include $7.28 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, $3.8 million from the Foundation to Promote Open Society and $1 million each from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Kresge Foundation.

Obama seeks $1.35 bln for school reform in next budget
Reuters, Washington, DC – January 19, 2010
U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced he intends to seek $1.35 billion to extend a nationwide public-school reform program as part of his fiscal 2011 budget proposal.  The funds, aimed at reversing a decline in U.S. public schools, would be on top of the $4.35 billion that financially strapped states already are competing for under Obama's "Race to the Top" initiative included in the $787 billion economic stimulus plan passed last year.  Obama wants states to use the funds to ease limits on charter schools, link teacher pay to student achievement and move toward common U.S. academic standards. Charter schools receive public funding but are exempt from some state or local rules and serve as an alternative to regular public schools.  The United States has one of the worst high school dropout rates in the industrialized world and its students often rank below those in other Western nations in reading and math.

Graduation Rate for Colorado Hispanics Up in 2009
Latin American Herald Tribune, Denver, CO – January 22, 2010
The gap between the graduation rate of Hispanics at Colorado public high schools and that of all students decreased in 2009, according to a government report.  The study by the Colorado Department of Education, released Sunday, revealed higher graduation rates among all students in the Class of 2009, up 0.7 percent from the previous year, and particularly among Hispanics, up 2.2 percent. Judith Martinez, a consultant who heads the CDE’s dropout prevention office, said a new state law and greater awareness of the benefits accruing to those students who earn their high-school diploma contributed to the improved results.

Juvenile Justice

States rethink 'adult time for adult crime'
CNN - January 15, 2010
A year ago, Maydellyn Lamourt watched her 16-year-old son's dreams fall apart.  The outgoing sophomore who enjoyed playing sports was charged and sentenced as an adult in Connecticut for third-degree assault. Earlier this month, Connecticut raised from 16 to 17 the age at which a juvenile is automatically prosecuted as an adult. The change comes at a time when the "adult time for adult crime" mentality is being re-examined in several states and challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.

City Signals Intent to Put Fewer Teenagers in Jail
The New York Times, New York, NY – January 20, 2010
The Bloomberg administration plans to merge the city’s Department of Juvenile Justice into its child welfare agency, signaling a more therapeutic approach toward delinquency that will send fewer of the city’s troubled teenagers to jail. The integration of the agencies is effective immediately, and was announced by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in his State of the City speech Wednesday afternoon.

Wyoming counties look at alternatives for juvenile justice
Billings Gazette, Casper, WY – January 16, 2010
Carbon County wants to build a crisis center in an old bank building. Uinta County has designs on a hub where juveniles can be assessed as they enter the system.  They are among 14 counties and two tribes in Wyoming participating in a state program that helps communities develop services for young offenders. The Legislature enacted the community juvenile services board program in 2008 to encourage more local alternatives to traditional detention.  The program comes with a $2 million pot that could pay for community service programs, training, electronic monitoring or other services.  Advocates for the community services boards say they will provide cheaper alternatives than traditional detention and keep low-risk kids from sinking deeper into the criminal justice system.

County's juvenile justice task force delayed
Tampa Bay Online, Tampa FL – January 21, 2010
Hillsborough County commissioners put the brakes Thursday on an ambitious plan to revamp the county's juvenile justice system.  Commissioner Kevin Beckner wanted approval to create a task force that would analyze the juvenile system with a goal of spending less money on detention and more on early intervention with youth who are arrested. That method has been used with great success by Miami-Dade County's nationally recognized Juvenile Services Department.

Foster Care

New mentoring program helps youths after foster care
Anchorage Daily News, Alaska – January 16, 2010
When foster kids grow up and leave state care, they often have no one they can call when they get a flat tire, or are confused about how to rent an apartment, or just need a friendly ear. A new effort launched Friday is intended to change that. A private organization, Alaska Community Services, is starting a mentoring program to match adults with teens in foster care to create bonds that continue after they age out of the system.  A foster kid advocacy group approached the Legislature with the idea. State Rep. Les Gara and Amanda Metivier, founder of Facing Foster Care in Alaska, looked into how to make it happen. Alaska Community Services stepped up and the state Office of Children's Services got on board.

Utah Youth Mentor Project: Program has benefits for all involved
The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake County, UT – January 20, 2010
Skylar Goodspeed knew he needed someone to talk to, but what really appealed to him about having a mentor was the snowboarding.  Three years later, the Sandy youth is thankful for more than the occasional chance to hit the slopes. His relationship with the Utah Youth Mentor Project has given him a place to live, a chance at an education and a special friend in Bert Dart.  Dart has served as Goodspeed's mentor though his transition out of foster care at 18, also called "aging out." The Salt Lake City attorney and his wife, Dorothy belong to a mentoring group through the Utah Youth Mentor Project to help fosters teens' transition to adulthood.

Delegate seeks improvement of foster care
Charleston Daily Mail, Charleston, WV – January 17, 2010
One Kanawha County delegate said she considers it her mission this legislative session to begin an overhaul of the foster care system in West Virginia.  Delegate Bobbie Hatfield, D-Kanawha, plans to introduce a bill this week that would call for major organizational changes to the state's system. She says too many kids are getting "lost in the shuffle," and are being bounced around to multiple foster homes and facilities at delicate stages in their lives.  Hatfield's legislation was inspired by the story of a young boy named Jacob, 5, whom she said was placed in five separate foster homes in the span of just a few years and now suffers emotional problems as a result.

Foster teens ready to tell city council how to fix system
The Washington Post, Washington, DC – January 22, 2010
The room the other night was full of teenagers and their teenage habits. There was the eye-roller, the wise-cracker, the slouch-in-the-seater.  They had colorful markers and a dry-erase board for the meeting, and they talked about college applications and jobs and dorms. Most of them grew up in "the system" as they call it, and any hope for adoption or a long-term foster home or reunification with their families is minuscule, so they wait until they age out.

Monday, January 18, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


New study details impact of dropout rate on Twin Cities, Twin Cities Metro, MN – January 12, 2010
A new study out today highlights the lost earnings potential of high school dropouts and the resulting impact of those lower incomes on state economies like Minnesota’s.  If the local dropout rate had been cut in half for the Class of 2008, for example, the Twin Cities metro economy would see more than a $100 million boost in annual economic activity as these students hit their mid-career earnings stride, according to a Washington, D.C.-based policy institute focused on improving high schools.

Kids Count in Michigan: Bay County math MEAP test proficiency significantly higher, less drop-outs
Bay City News, Bay County, MI – January 12, 2010
In Bay County, a significant amount of students are now proficient in the math MEAP tests, according to the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2009.  The data book, released today, examines county-level trends in a child’s well-being. It scopes into child poverty rates, child health, child abuse and neglect and education statistics. Data is from 2008 and compared to data from as early as 1998.  In the education sphere, math MEAP test scores are up, and high school dropouts are down.

Getting dropouts back on the right path
Houston Chronicle, Texas – January 9, 2010
About 20 percent of high school dropouts recruited into a state-funded recovery effort graduated within a year and more are still working toward their diplomas, according to preliminary results of Texas' $6 million, incentive-laden pilot program.  Computer-based classes and career counseling have proven key in helping the 1,173 students enlisted in May 2008 into the Texas Dropout Recovery Pilot Program. Providing child care, night classes and financial incentives haven't yielded the higher graduation rates that educators expected.

Juvenile Justice

Program aims to keep youths on track after suspension
The Times and Democrat, South Carolina – January 15, 2010
Keeping suspended or expelled students engaged in their studies is the focus of a new program that begins Jan. 20.  Project Life: Positeen founder and Director Liz Zimmerman Keitt announced the expansion of the organization’s services Wednesday with a new program called “Yes I Can — Runway.”  Funding for the program comes from two $10,000 grants by the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice and the Central Carolina Community Foundation.

Children Are Not Too Old to Change
Newsweek, January 15, 2010
One day, treatment of young people who run afoul of the law may be guided by logic rather than politics, prejudice, and uninformed passion. That was the implicit message of a report delivered to New York Gov. David Paterson last month, just in time for Christmas. The report, from the governor's task force on reforming criminal justice, came on the heels of a U.S. Justice Department investigation that found New York's juvenile penal system to be tragically mismanaged.  Youngsters in custody were routinely assaulted by staffers. Beatings were so severe that teeth were knocked out, bones were broken, and some kids were rendered unconscious.

Neb. bill proposes juvenile-justice reforms
Nebraska TV, Lincoln, NE – January 8, 2010
Relieving pressures on the juvenile-court system, keeping kids in schools and ultimately decreasing youth violence are all part of a bill before Nebraska lawmakers.  Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha on Friday introduced a measure that would provide more means for schools, courts and parents to intervene with at-risk children.  Ashford has said the juvenile-justice system is not working and reforming it is his top priority this legislative session.

Foster Care

County adopts new rules to make foster care system more user-friendly
Contra Costa Times, Santa Cruz, CA – January 12, 2010
Kevin West remembers, when he was in foster care six years ago, having to do certain things that he didn't think he should have to.  "I was told to take medication all the time, and nobody told me why," the 24-year-old Santa Cruz resident said.  Other wards of the county, West says, share similar confusion about whether they are allowed to get a job or have to go to church.  This week, the county's notoriously bureaucratic and often dizzying child welfare system became a little more transparent and easier for stakeholders to figure out. County supervisors Tuesday signed off on a new ledger of rights and resources for foster children and their caregivers who have had problems navigating the legal hurdles that come with stringing new families together.

A sense of home: University program aids students who were in foster care
The Bismark Tribune, Fresno, CA – January 11, 2010
In foster care, Kenyon Whitman changed families a half-dozen times before settling down with someone he now calls his grandmother.  That carousel of foster care could have destroyed any college ambition. But Whitman found another home at California State University, Fresno, where a program supports former foster youths and guarantees them a place to stay - even during the holidays.  Whitman, 22, is one of 33 students in the Renaissance Scholars Program. The grant-funded program caters to the academic, financial and emotional needs of former foster youth.

Financial Difficulties Strain California’s Foster Care System
The New York Times, San Francisco, CA – January 14, 2010
In the summer of 2008, a 13-year-old boy from San Francisco emerged from a government van and scanned his new surroundings. Five handsome houses, a small school and an old gymnasium stood on 11 rural acres in the Central Valley that bordered an almond orchard. Beyond the last house was a soothing panorama of unbounded farmland, interrupted only by old Highway 99 and the big rigs that rumbled across the horizon.  For more than two decades, this has been the setting that greeted more than 2,400 wards of the state as they arrive at the Excell Center ranch, a group home for foster boys with histories of violence or mental disabilities.

Monday, January 11, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Dropping In
The Texas Tribune, Texas – December 21, 2009
In his gravelly voice, one he’s learned to never raise, principal Joe Gonzales explains how students come to his high school in East Austin. Almost always, it happens against their will, or after everyone else has given up on them. Or both.  Usually, they buck his faculty's first attempts to reach them, and often their second and third. One student recently threatened to “knock the gray out of his hair.”  “Students come to us in one of three ways,” he explains. “They get sent here by the courts because they've gotten in trouble. They get denied admission to another ISD. Or their parents get tired of them sitting around on their behinds and force them to go to school.”

Revolution in U.S. education is in California
San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles, CA – January 10, 2010
The greatest revolution in education in the United States today is taking place in Los Angeles. It is the mandate of the Los Angeles Unified School District School Board to convert almost a third of its schools either to charter schools, the public schools of choice that are the one shining light in an otherwise dysfunctional system, or other alternatives such as magnet schools. The change is not only a mighty one for the state's largest school district, but in time it could double the number of public schools of choice in California.

Tennessee To Develop Policies To Increase Graduation Rates
Chattanoogan, Tennessee – January 4, 2010
Tennessee has been selected by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) to participate in the Policy Academy on State Strategies to Achieve Graduation for All.  The state will receive $50,000 to develop a dropout prevention and recovery work plan that supports the development of state policies and practices designed to increase graduation rates. Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire and West Virginia have also been selected to participate in the program.

Juvenile Justice

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) Tells BI Staff JJDPA Reauthorization is a "Priority"
PRWeb, Concord, CA – January 9, 2010
Rep. George Miller (D-CA) met today with representatives of the W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI) including Executive Director James Bell, and stated during a conversation that reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice And Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) is a “priority.” “We will get to work; we will get this done,” Rep. Miller said after an engaging conversation with BI staff during which he asked about the organization’s success with juvenile justice reform.  On Dec.17, 2009, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed S. 678, which would reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) -- one of the major federal juvenile justice laws. The House has not yet taken significant action on the measure. Rep. Miller explained that health care reform has been at the forefront of House considerations. He said the House Committee on Education and Labor is working with Rep. David Scott (D - GA) on juvenile justice legislation.

Middlesex County aims to put juvenile offenders on right track, not behind bars, Middlesex County, NJ – December 29, 2009
Juveniles who break the law in Middlesex County but pose no real public safety or flight risk may soon be spending more time in a new support program than at a youth detention center. Middlesex County has applied to participate in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. The primary goal of the program is making sure that secure detention is used only for serious and chronic youthful offenders.

New York Can Do Better By Juvenile Offenders
The Wall Street Journal, New York – December 18, 2009
What does $210,000 buy in New York State? These days, as two recent reports demonstrate, that's what it costs to lock up one child in a brutal juvenile justice system so dysfunctional that its reform-minded commissioner, Gladys Carrion, advises judges not to place children in her facilities.  We could not do worse. But 10 years of research shows that we know how to do much better—incarcerate less, and use the latest research to treat delinquents in community-based programs.

Foster Care

State's foster care reforms receive good marks in federal evaluation
The Star-Ledger, New Jersey – January 8, 2010
Children in New Jersey's child welfare system are safer than they were a year ago and more are kept with siblings when they enter foster care, according to a federal report issued yesterday.  But too many children remain in the system for too long without a plan for their futures and are kept from their parents. In the first look at whether a more than $1 billion overhaul of the state system is actually helping the 48,000 kids it oversees, a federal monitor said New Jersey "exceeded expectations" in several areas directly connected to children's well-being and that the state continued to strengthen the structure of the once-broken system.

Homeless young people in Chico have a place of their own, Chico, CA – January 10, 2010
Just around the corner from City Plaza, wedged between Jack's Restaurant and Broadway, a doorway leads to a clean, safe place where young people from the street can hang out.  They can rest on a couch, grab a shower, wash their clothes and chat every day from noon to 8 p.m.  The 6th Street Drop-In Center, 130 W. Sixth St., helps people age 14-24 who are currently on the streets or on the verge of being homeless, explained Nancy Jorth, the center's director.  Open since March 2008, the center is part of Youth For Change, a nonprofit, public benefit program for children and families.  A large majority of the kids who drop in were in foster care for a "significant amount of their childhood," Jorth said, and some have limited schooling and little family support.

Help sought for teens
Richmond County Daily Journal, Rockingham, NC – January 10, 2010
When most people think of foster care, they think about the need for more foster homes, not about the children who are aging out the system about to strike out on their own.  Nationally, about 250,000 teenagers age out of the foster care system and enter the world as “adults” at age 18. In North Carolina, that number is about 450 teenagers.  But here in Richmond County, the Department of Social Services does all it can to make sure the teens are either in permanent homes with a relative or guardian, or are taken care of if they decide to strike out on their own.