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."

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