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.

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