Monday, March 29, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Bill to raise dropout age advances
The Courier-Journal, Frankfort, KY – March 23, 2010
A bill to raise Kentucky’s school dropout age from 16 to 18 passed a Senate committee on Tuesday. The vote on House Bill 301, which now goes to the full Senate, was 10-2. Republican Sens. David Givens of Greensburg and Vernie McGaha of Russell Springs voted no.  The committee amended the bill to raise the dropout age to 17 in 2015 and 18 in 2016, instead of 2013 and 2014, respectively, as specified in the original measure.

Communities in Schools offers support to help students achieve
Pal-Item, Richmond, IN – March 24, 2010
Recently, President Barack Obama announced his administration's plan to reduce high school dropout rates across the country. It is a sweeping initiative designed to improve many of our nation's schools from the inside out, with the goal of boosting the number of high school graduates and preparing those graduates for life after high school, either in college or a career. As the executive director of Communities in Schools of Wayne County (CISWC), I welcome the president's effort to keep kids in school. As the president mentioned in his speech, CIS has established an effective model -- in Wayne County and around the country -- of coordinating and integrating programs and services for children to help each one overcome whatever stands in the way of his/her graduation. The CIS model is one of a very few shown to keep students in school and is the only dropout prevention program in the nation with scientifically based evidence to prove that it increases graduation rates.

Bluffs dropout rates improve
World-Herald News Service, Council Bluffs, IA – March 27, 2010
The Iowa Department of Education has calculated high school dropout rates for the Class of 2009, and they show improvement in Council Bluffs. Statewide, the overall rate went up. Locally, that also was the case for Lewis Central High School where the rate was up slightly. But high school dropout numbers went down in the Bluffs. In fact, the district’s dropout rate improved to 4.96 percent from 8.05 percent in the 2007-08 school year. Put another way, Superintendent Martha Bruckner said, the district went from being one of the three worst school districts for dropout rates to not even being in the worst 20. She noted that the district’s dropout rate was actually lower than five other urban school districts in Iowa.

Juvenile Justice

Report highlights programs shown to reduce crime, restore victims, and preserve families

Texas Insider, Austin, TX – March 26, 2010

A new report by the Texas Public Policy Foundation seeks to help state and local policymakers identify cost-effective approaches to reducing juvenile crime and rehabilitating juvenile offenders.  “With Texas entering a difficult budget-cutting cycle, the report is intended as a reference guide for policymakers that helps them to replicate programs proven to be effective and replace those that have not worked,” said the report’s author, Marc Levin, Director of TPPF’s Center for Effective Justice.  The report includes a comprehensive review of juvenile justice programs across Texas and the country, measuring their effectiveness based on a range of factors – including cost, recidivism rates, and education and vocational outcomes.  The report also makes recommendations for improvements in data collection and analysis.

Juvenile Justice Reform Bill Passes Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee
ABC WCTV, Tallahassee, FL – March 26, 2010

The Florida Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee has unanimously passed DJJ’s Juvenile Justice Reform bill (SB 1072), the Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) Juvenile Justice Reform Bill, sponsored by Sen. Stephen Wise (R-Jacksonville). This broad and ambitious legislation continues reforming Florida’s juvenile justice system by providing greater access to rehabilitative options for troubled children, and addresses the over-representation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system compared to the general population.  Among its measures, the legislation diverts children 9 years old and under into more appropriate services in DJJ. It also formalizes an existing specialized Residential program, as an option when it is necessary to keep young mothers and their babies together. Last year, the program served 40 girls with infants.

Foster Care

Virginia considers changing foster care system

News Leader, Staunton, VA – March 24, 2010

Virginia agencies are stepping up two initiatives in response to findings that foster children who “age out” of the foster system — at 18 or 21, if they attend college — are falling through the cracks. In 2007, 62 percent of foster children left the system to live permanently with either a relative or adopted family. A study by the Pew Research Center that year found older youths who age out or are emancipated from the system spend nearly five years without a permanent home. Twenty five percent will be incarcerated within two years and 20 percent will become homeless.  “The impact, just simply from not having a family is just tremendous,” said Ray Ratke, Virginia’s Special Advisor for Children’s Services, who oversees state agencies’ compliance with Children’s Services System Transformation, a subsequent initiative to improve care in 13 localities. “Let’s develop a plan to keep that family together.”

NBC WRCB, Nashville, TN – March 23, 2010

A nonprofit group that sued Tennessee over a law that caps how much the state will pay for foster care says the repeal of that provision in the legislature is a huge victory for children.  The provision allows the Department of Children's Services to bill counties for the cost of foster care if local judges commit children at a rate more than three times the state average.  New York-based Children's Rights has claimed that endangers children by pressuring judges to leave them in dangerous home situations.

New Channel 5, Nashville, TN – March 24, 2010

More than 9,000 children of all ages are in foster care in Tennessee. It's sometimes hard to find loving families to adopt the children, but the Wendy's Wonderful Kids is helping out.  The program is giving deserving children a place to call home.  "A lot of the children, who are teens or who are in group homes and don't have families to go to, they tend to sometimes take the wrong path. A lot of the families could really impact the children, help them to become productive in society and actually have hope for the rest of their lives," said Jocelyn King with Wendy's Wonderful Kids.

Monday, March 22, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Administration Seeks Converts to Education Plan
The New York Times, Washington, DC – March 16, 2010
Facing intense resistance from teachers’ unions, the Obama administration has begun trying to persuade union leaders, teachers and the public that its proposals for overhauling federal education policies are good for teachers and for public schools. In remarks prepared for delivery to Congress on Wednesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan argued that the proposed policies would elevate the teaching profession by encouraging better tests, by ending the demoralizing practice of mislabeling thousands of schools as failures and by offering teachers opportunities for career growth.

Dropout bill unanimously passes W.Va. Senate
The Herald-Dispatch, Charleston, WV – March 13, 2010
The West Virginia Senate gave its unanimous approval here Friday to legislation that calls for more than $3 million to finance new state programs to combat the high school dropout problem.  The Senate vote came after HB4593 was amended to remove the House of Delegates' attempt to raise the minimum age that students can legally drop out of school from 16 to 17. Sen. Ed Bowman, D-Hancock, made the motion in the House Finance Committee to change the language in the House bill to revert back to the present legal minimum age of 16.

Programs aim to get dropouts back on track
Sun Gazette, Williamsport, PA – March 14, 2010
At least two area programs are reconnecting high school dropouts with educational opportunities - an effort that aligns with the state's newest initiative to use similar systems as a launching pad for success for dropouts ages 16 to 24.  The initiative "Operation Restart: Getting Dropouts Back on Track" is detailed in a recent report by the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children that highlights the economic benefits the state could reap by plugging young dropouts back into educational systems to achieve degrees.  The new initiative is dedicated to making dropout re-engagement a public policy for the state in 2010 and beyond, according to the partnership.

Governor Signs Kagi Bill Expanding Opportunity For Dropouts
The Seattle Medium, Olympia, WA – March 17, 2010
High school dropouts will soon have new opportunities to re-engage with schooling and career preparation thanks to legislation spearheaded by Rep. Ruth Kagi (D-Lake Forest Park) and signed into law today by Gov. Chris Gregoire.  “The success of this bill comes straight from the 32nd Legislative District and would not have happened without the support and vision of Shoreline Community College,” Kagi said. “Students and administrators shared amazing stories of young adults literally turning their lives around by embracing education. This bill sets the stage for similar progress across the state of Washington.”

Juvenile Justice

More States Rethinking Life Sentences for Teens
The National Law Journal – March 15, 2010
Their lawyers have long urged juries to give juvenile defendants a second chance. Now a growing number of states are rethinking the wisdom of sentencing teenagers to life in prison.   Two states have recently passed -- and at least 11 states are considering -- legislation that would end life sentences for those under 18 years old or, more generally, restrict charging juveniles as adults.  The U.S. Supreme Court will also have something to say on the issue. In two Florida cases argued in November, the high court is considering whether a life sentence without parole for juveniles who have committed crimes other than murder violates the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

"Missouri Miracle" Offers a Model Approach for Children
The Washington Informer, Missouri – March 18, 2010
The state of Missouri has created a juvenile justice system that has proved so successful over the last 30 years it's known as the "Missouri Miracle."  A number of practices combine to make Missouri’s system unique: It's primarily made up of small facilities, generally designed for between 10 and 30 youth, located at sites throughout the state that keep young people close to their own homes.  These facilities don't look like jails with traditional cells; there are only eight isolation rooms in the entire state, which are seldom used and only for emergency situations. They feature a highly trained and educated staff working in teams with small groups of youth.  Youth are treated with respect and dignity and instead of more traditional correctional approaches; the system uses a rehabilitative and therapeutic model that works towards teaching the young people to make positive, lasting changes in their behavior.

Foster Care

Learning self-reliance: Emancipated foster youth share success stories in Fairfield
The Reporter, Fairfield, CA – March 16, 2010
Freedom comes at a price for young people when they leave foster care. The cost can often be catastrophic.  They suddenly have to fend for themselves. Many do not have the education or skills to find a job that pays a livable wage. They lack the financial wherewithal to rent, lease or buy shelter from the storm of independence. Some become homeless. Others turn to crime. And then there are those who find the strength to make it on their own.  Kuwana Benjamin knows that all too well. She entered the foster care system when she was 13 years old, after being removed from her aunt's residence, where she was a frequent target of emotional and physical abuse.  Benjamin has made it. The 21-year-old is living on her own and making ends meet by working at a Travis Credit Union branch in Fairfield. She shares her story with foster youth in hopes of steering them in the direction of becoming self-reliant.

Help in transitioning out of foster care
6ABC, Philadelphia, PA – March 16, 2010
The nation's foster care system is full of lost young people. Usually we hear about children while they're in foster care but what about when they become 18-to-21 year olds, and are cast out of the system and totally unprepared to lead an independent life. Sharon McGinley, founder of Eddie's House, is trying to do it better by providing young people with support, in the form of therapy sessions, by providing them with housing, jobs, guidance and hope; things they would be hard-pressed to find on their own.

N.J. legislators look to help foster care children remain in home school districts
New Jersey Newsroom, New Jersey – March 16, 2010
Primarily sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, and co-sponsored by Jennifer Beck, R-Mercer and Monmouth, a proposed measure, (S-1333), would comply with a new federal law, known as the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. If New Jersey fails to comply with the federal law, the state risks losing up to $123 million in federal funding.  "The measure would create a presumption that children in foster care will remain in their home school, unless it is against their best interest to do so," said director of policy and communications Nancy Parello with the Office of The Child Advocate. "The goal is to improve these children's education, not have them struggle academically, or fall behind their peers."

Monday, March 15, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


New York City high school graduation rates on the rise - but minorities lag
NY Daily News, New York, NY – March 9, 2010
The number of students graduating from city high schools increased modestly last year, continuing an upward trend that the mayor deemed "historic."  The high school graduation rate for city students rose to 59% in 2009, up from 56.4% in 2008, state officials announced Tuesday.  The state graduation rate also improved, rising to about 72% from 71% in 2008.  "The results for New York City are historic," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Any way you look at it, there's a record-breaking number of students graduating on time."  The city graduation rate is even higher when students who graduated in August are taken into account - rising to 62.7% in August 2009 compared to 60.7% a year earlier.  While most student groups' graduation rates improved over the past year, the achievement gap between black and Latino students and their white peers remained vast, at 20 and 22 percentage points, respectively.

Mentors for high school dropouts
WTVA, Tupelo, MS – March 9, 2010
It's getting major attention with in the Tupelo Public School District, educators call it an epidemic of black male dropouts. Tupelo Public School District reports in the two to three years, black males have the highest drop out rate. We caught up with two gentlemen who said they plan to join in the fight to get the young men back in class.  The journey of a lifetime for Joe Washington, a Tupelo resident, starts right now.  "The world is always changing and there's different opportunities out there," Washington, said.  His voyage doesn't involve traveling to a far away place. Washington's trip will happen in Lee County, as he embarks on his journey to mentor to a high school dropout.  "If you can reach them at an early age I thinks that's the time that they're more influential and they're likely to listen. You've got to reach them. Better late than never and I think that something like this is very imperative that we have," Washington said.

Bill Considered To Reduce State Dropout Rates
Hartford Courant, Hartford, CT – March 9, 2010
A bill being considered by the legislature is designed to reduce school dropout rates by prohibiting a practice known as "push out," said state Rep. Jason Bartlett and representatives of two youth advocacy groups who brought students and others to the Capitol Monday to talk about the issue.  "Push out" refers to the practice by some school districts of pushing poorly performing students out of high school and into adult education programs to keep dropout rates artificially low.  Hundreds of students from larger urban areas end up in adult education programs, according to the Center for Children's Advocacy of Hartford. In New Haven, for example, 526 children 16 to 18 ended up in adult education classes in the 2008-09 school year. In Waterbury, 516 kids ended up in adult education and in Hartford, 367 students were enrolled.

Education Leaders Weigh In On White House Education Plan
NPR, Washington, DC - March 11, 2010
Now, to what could be an important development in American education. A panel of educators brought together by the nations governors and state school superintendents released a draft of new standards for K-12 education. They are being called the Common Core Standards. President Obama has given the proposed standards his stamp of approval. And the initiative is being held as a breakthrough in a long fought battle that has historically fallen and stalled along political lines.  Traditionally, states and local governments have created their own standards, which means that expectations vary wildly across the country. And while states are still free to reject the proposed standards most are expected to embrace them. We wanted to know more. So weve called two education advocates who have been involved in the process of creating the new guidelines.

Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Justice, Children and Family Services departments merging
Chicago Tribune, Illinois – March 20, 2010
Acknowledging that teenagers in correctional facilities suffer from trauma and mental health issues and that the state has fallen short in helping them, Illinois officials announced Wednesday that the Department of Juvenile Justice will be folded into the Department of Children and Family Services.  For more than three decades, the Illinois Department of Corrections had been responsible both for the state's adult convicts and for juveniles serving time. In 2006, Illinois created a new Department of Juvenile Justice.

Illinois increases juvenile court age cutoff to 17
Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL – March 12, 2010
When a 17-year-old girl was caught stealing $300 worth of clothing at a mall a few weeks ago, she was charged with a misdemeanor in juvenile court. Before Jan. 1, she could have been in even bigger trouble.  She would have been charged as an adult, leaving a permanent mark on her record that could complicate her finding work and prohibit her family from living in public housing, among other consequences.   Advocates say the change in state law — applying only to 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors — means they will have better access to mental health services, drug treatment and rehabilitation programs better suited to their age.

Juvenile Justice: City Looks to Expand Use of Home Monitoring
WNYC, New York, NY – March 8, 2010
Doing graffiti, fighting, stealing, or using drugs are among the offenses that can land a teenager in an upstate detention facility. But the facilities have come under fire by all levels of government, including the Department of Justice, which has threatened to take them over if serious reforms aren’t put in place. The majority of the kids filling these juvenile prisons are from poor neighborhoods across the five boroughs, but the city wants to change that by expanding programs that both monitor and provide family therapy inside the home.

Court program gives teens Voices
The News-Herald, Lake County, OH – March 9, 2010
The power of choice.  That's what four Lake County girls learned Monday after graduating from Lake County Juvenile Justice Center's pilot program New Voices, which focuses on building the self-esteem of young girls.  The program has four themes: self, connecting with others, healthy living and the journey ahead.  Juvenile Court Judge Karen Lawson said it also teaches students that they have choices in life.  "My message is always 'You can be whatever you want to be,' " Lawson said.

Foster Care

Idaho House OKs grandparents foster care bill
Magic Valley Times-News, Boise, ID – March 6, 2010
The House on Friday passed legislation that gives a greater voice to qualified relatives hoping to care for children in protective custody.  The bill, which passed unanimously, sets up a priority list for placement of children in protective custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Homes of fit and willing relatives are at the top of the list of where to place children in foster care.  The bill comes at a time when grandparents are raising their grandchildren in increasing numbers in Idaho, often because of substance abuse and incarceration of parents.

Parent mentoring program fosters deeper connections
Statesman Journal, Salem, OR – March 6, 2010
When her kids came home from school on a recent afternoon, Linda Ibarra of northeast Salem made them their afternoon snack and refereed the usual questions about school and orchestra practice. Meanwhile, she received a call on her cell phone from a fellow mother planning a Barbie-themed birthday party for her daughter. The two chatted about decorations and party favors.  Five years ago, Ibarra cared for two of the woman's children as a foster parent. Today, the families remain close.  "It's more than just taking care of the kids for a time and then sending them out," Ibarra said about foster parenting.  Ibarra's relationship with this mother is similar to what the state Department of Human Services is trying to develop: a mentoring relationship between parents whose children are in child-welfare custody and the foster parents who are caring for them.

House passes foster care transition funding
Alaska Dispatch, Alaska – March 11, 2010
How many times a month do you call your parents?  In your 20s, those calls tend to seek guidance or a little financial help -- wondering how to cook a meatloaf, asking for a hand changing a flat tire, looking for advice about how to make a paycheck cover the monthly bills.  Kids who turn 18 and are thrust out of Alaska's foster care system don't always have an adult to turn to. Without that support, almost 30 percent end up in jail within a few years, nearly 40 percent are homeless at some point, and almost 75 percent end up on public assistance.  After years of advocacy by Rep. Les Gara, Alaska lawmakers are investing about $715,000 this year to provide a smoother transition for young people from the foster care system into life on their own.  The House approved an operating budget on Thursday that includes those funds, most of which will address the unmet needs of kids that "age out" of the system.

Monday, March 08, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Obama highlights federal funds to lower high school dropout rate
CNN, Washington, DC – March 1, 2010
President Obama highlighted stronger federal efforts Monday to help lower a high school dropout rate that, according to the president, is undermining America's future economic potential.  Obama noted that the administration has committed $3.5 billion in new federal support for underperforming schools. Among other things, the Education Department is attempting to encourage states to identify and take new measures to reverse trends in schools with graduation rates below 60 percent.

House backs bill to raise dropout age to 18
Courier-Journal, Frankfort, KY – March 4, 2010
A bill to raise Kentucky’s school dropout age from 16 to 18 passed the House Thursday after a lengthy, sometimes impassioned debate. The vote on House Bill 301, which now goes to the Senate, was 94-6.  “It is a crisis in Kentucky, folks," said Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, the sponsor of HB 301. “We should be ashamed and we have an opportunity to change that here today.”

Every Urban Prep senior is college-bound
Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL – March 5, 2010
Four years ago, Bryant Alexander watched his mother weep.  She stared down at a muddle of D's and F's on his eighth-grade report card and threatened to kick him out. He had barely passed elementary school, and high school wasn't even on his radar.  "Something just clicked," Alexander, now 18, said. "I knew I had to do something."  On Friday, Alexander proudly swapped his high school's red uniform tie for a striped red and gold one — the ritual at Englewood's Urban Prep Academy for Young Men that signifies a student has been accepted into college.  As the Roseland resident and 12 others tied their knots, Chicago's only public all-male, all-African-American high school fulfilled its mission: 100 percent of its first senior class had been accepted to four-year colleges.

Juvenile Justice

For Juveniles in Family Court, Judges Seek Safer Alternatives to Prison
The New York Times, Brooklyn, NY – March 7, 2010
He was a member of the Bloods, the prosecutor said, and he later joined another gang. He was arrested once for grand larceny and twice for assault. He went to school drunk and spat on the dean of students.  “He admits to going out to Bergen Beach to rob people,” the prosecutor continued, as the courtroom fell silent. “He stated that this is the way that he gets his money.”  Judge Turbow, looking anguished, was still reluctant to issue the harshest penalty: sending the teenager to a juvenile prison run by the state.

Committee advances juvenile justice bill
Lincoln Journal Star, Lincoln, NE – March 3, 2010
The Legislature's Judiciary Committee on Wednesday advanced a juvenile justice bill that seeks to keep young nonviolent offenders out of detention as much as possible and to ensure that those in detention don't stay there an inordinate amount of time.  It would allow for sealing some juvenile records and give judges the option of suspending driving privileges for truant kids and those who commit misdemeanors or felonies. To keep juveniles out of detention facilities unnecessarily, it would ensure those needing temporary placement be detained in the least restrictive way possible.  The bill also would authorize a pilot project in Omaha to implement giving civil citations to juveniles who have committed misdemeanors, other than those involving a firearm, sexual assault or domestic violence.  And it would broaden the use of videoconferencing in certain juvenile proceedings to save on transportation costs and reduce the time some juveniles are detained.

Foster Care

LA County Antonovich calls for programs helping foster children transition to adulthood
89.3 KPCC, Los Angeles County, CA – March 2, 2010
"Young people aging out of the (foster care) system are vulnerable without the ability to find housing, earn a living and receive the education required to be successful, productive and self-sufficient adults,'' Antonovich said. Antonovich called for programs to offer the necessary skills and tools to foster youth to effectively transition to independence.   Federal legislation signed by then-President George W. Bush in 2008 requires states to provide foster care services to youth to age 21. Pending state legislation hopes to ensure that California meets those requirements

State Youth Opportunities Program Expands to County
Kalamazoo Weekly, Kalamazoo, MI – March 4, 2010
The Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative (MYOI) is expanding into Kalamazoo with a unique partnership with Western Michigan University’s Seita Scholars Program.
The initiative, which already serves about 500 youths 14 to 20 years old in 30 Michigan locations, is meant to connect older youth in foster care to available services, help youth develop financial and life skills, and empower foster youth to become self-advocates.  MYOI itself is a partnership between the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative and the Michigan Department of Human Services. The initiative’s ultimate goal is to improve outcomes for youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood by focusing on education, employment, housing, physical and mental health, and community engagement.

Monday, March 01, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Getting African American Children Back in School Before It’s Too Late
L.A. Watts Times, Los Angeles, CA – February 25, 2010
Many of the landmark battles of our Civil Rights Movement hinged on the right to an education. We all remember the images — the Little Rock Nine escorted to school by federal troops, or a deadly firefight between U.S. Marshals, soldiers and rioting segregationists intent on blocking James Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi.  Adults and children lost their lives so that African American students could enter America’s school houses. Under the law, our battle was won. But today, in many respects, we are losing the war.  African American children are dropping out of school at alarming rates, with nearly half failing to finish high school. The pattern starts young and begins with chronic school absences. Many urban school districts across the country report that literally thousands of students are absent without an excuse each day. Often, more than 40 percent of these missing students are in elementary school.

Oklahoma Senate bill aims to reduce dropouts
The Oklahoman, Oklahoma – February 24, 2010
Goals for high school graduation rates would be set for school districts under a bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday.   Senate Bill 2139 by Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, would require school districts to improve their annual graduation rate by 20 percent every two years. Goals for high school graduation rates would be set for school districts under a bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday.  If the district did not see its graduation rate improve within two years, the state Education Department would offer training and programs to help improve progress, according to the bill.

College-prep school inspires inner-city students to stay the course
San Diego News Network, San Diego, CA – February 24, 2010
Children who live in poverty are 20 times less likely to graduate from college. But at least one middle school believes that by encouraging and challenging at-risk children to reach their full potential in middle school – and nurturing them in high school – their odds improve greatly.  Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?  “Students in our area have a higher likelihood of joining a gang than graduating from college,” says David Rivera, founder of Nativity Prep Academy – a year-round, faith-based college-prep middle school for at-risk children in southeast San Diego, where the high school drop-out rate is 50 percent. “Through Nativity Prep, they exchange little opportunity for real opportunity.”

Obama focuses on school dropouts
Associated Press, Washington, DC – March 1, 2010
President Barack Obama will offer $900 million in grants to states and school districts to turn around low-performing schools — but recipients would have to take drastic action, such as replacing principals, reopening schools as charter schools or closing them outright.  Obama was to announce the plan Monday at an education event sponsored by the America's Promise Alliance, the youth-oriented organization founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife, Alma. Obama also planned to discuss ways to better prepare students for college and careers.

Juvenile Justice

Texas agency tightens discharge rules for juvies
The Washington Post, Dallas, TX – February 23, 2010
Mentally ill juvenile offenders released because they can't be treated in custody will now receive court-ordered psychiatric treatment under an emergency measure adopted by the Texas Youth Commission.  The commission's board approved the measure, which will remain in effect for 120 days, at a meeting last month and hopes to make it permanent, agency spokesman Jim Hurley said Tuesday.  The rule is the commission's attempt to adjust its policies, which are governed by a 13-year-old law that requires the outright discharge of mentally ill offenders whose conditions cannot be treated in custody. In most states, juvenile offenders aren't released because of mental illness unless they are committed to hospitals.

Wyo Senate panel passes juvenile justice bill, Cheyenne, WY – February 19, 2010
The Senate Judiciary Committee has endorsed legislation establishing standards for determining how children will be held when picked up by police in Wyoming.  The purpose of the bill is to try to steer more children away from jail.  The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that the committee amended the bill to have sheriffs design a uniform assessment tool and to require sheriffs to provide statistics to the Department of Family Services.  The bill has the support of child advocacy groups, as well as law enforcement.

Schools fight truancy amid legislative debate
SeattlePI, Sunnyside, WA – February 23, 2010
Uriel Ramos and Juan Ibarra sketch an ocean brushing up against a hillside on a large piece of paper sprawled across a classroom table.  Their assignment is to estimate variances in temperatures of the water, rocks, and air in a high school class set up for students who don't really want to be in school. Both Ramos and Ibarra have been placed in a series of classes at Sunnyside High School designed to provide more help from teachers.  Until a few months ago, both 15-year-old sophomores were cutting most of their classes. Now, they're both keeping good attendance and say they want to graduate.
"I'm doing better right here," said Ibarra, who moved from Toppenish at the beginning of the school year. "I don't get into trouble anymore."  The Sunnyside program is just one example of how schools across the Yakima Valley and state are working to keep students in school and out of juvenile court for truancy.

Santa Clara County commission calls for end to jailing of the very young
Mercury News, Santa Clara County, CA – February 28, 2010
The jailing of several young children last year in Santa Clara County has prompted a call by a court-appointed commission to end the detention of anyone age 12 and younger in the juvenile hall — the strongest reaction to date after public exposure of the incarcerations.  "The Juvenile Justice Commission questions if juvenile hall is ever an appropriate placement for children this young," states the report being discussed at a public meeting Tuesday. "It has the potential of re-traumatizing a child who is already traumatized."  The commission — appointed by Superior Court judges to monitor the well-being of children in county custody — says a new detention policy should be created that provides alternatives. Those could include kids 12 and younger being sent home with intensive support or being placed in therapeutic foster homes and residential treatment centers.

Foster Care

House passes bill extending health benefits for teens leaving foster care, Salem, OR – February 23, 2010
Teens aging out of foster care will retain health care coverage from the Oregon Health Plan until they turn 21, under a bill that passed the House on a unanimous vote.  All children in state protective custody receive physical and mental health benefits but most lost those benefits when they turn 18 and leave foster care. House Bill 3664 would allow coverage to remain in place until the youths turn 21. State officials estimate that 98 teens would benefit in the next two years, with the number growing to 400 youths by 2013.

State funds to foster care group homes may rise
San Francisco Chronicle, California – February 24, 2010
California must substantially increase payments to foster care group homes to make up for years of shortfalls in funding to care for neglected and abused children, a federal judge has ruled. Advocates for the homes praised Monday's order by U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of San Francisco, saying it will raise their state subsidies by more than 30 percent and cover such necessities as food and clothing. But it will also cost the state an additional $77 million a year and equally cash-strapped counties another $115 million.

Bill focuses on improving foster care
Lincoln Journal Star, Lincoln NE – February 19, 2010
A Lincoln senator would like to see Nebraska adopt three federal requirements to improve foster care.  Sen. Kathy Campbell told the Legislature's Judiciary Committee a bill (LB971) would ensure relatives are notified within 15 days of removal of a child from his or her home.  It would also require reasonable efforts to place siblings together, or at least make sure they can spend time together frequently if not placed together.  And it would provide plans for children who are leaving foster care.