Monday, April 05, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Choice Bus shows students two sides of education
USA Today, Birmingham, AL – March 29, 2010
Henry Love-Mathews, 11, walked into the jail cell and heard the door clang behind him.  A single blanket covered a mannequin in a cot.  Love-Mathews stared at the only other furnishings, a toilet and washbasin combo on the wall in full view of the bars. "You have no privacy in the jail cell," Love-Mathews said.  "You eat the same food over and over again," added Javeryian Anderson, 12, "and it's not very sanitary. It gives you diarrhea."  Love-Mathews and Anderson, students at Southwest Middle School in Pine Bluff, Ark., were learning what it feels like to be confined to a jail cell on the Choice Bus.  Half school bus and half jail cell, the Choice Bus is the brainchild of Shelley Stewart of the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation in Birmingham, Ala., an education institution that targets the nation's dropout rate. The bus is taken to middle schools and high schools across America to encourage students to stay in school. The first Choice Bus headed out of Birmingham in October 2008 and visited schools in 12 states, according to Phil Christian, 47, executive director of the foundation. "The first bus was so popular and in such demand," Christian says, "we launched a second bus in September 2009 that is booked the entire school year."

Bill Raising School Dropout Age to 17 Becomes Law
13 WOWK, Charleston, WV – March 29, 2010
Gov. Joe Manchin signed legislation Monday that will prohibit students from dropping out of school until they are 17 years old.  The High School Graduation Improvement Act will increase the age that students would be exempt from state compulsory attendance law from 16 to 17, starting with the freshman class of the 2011-12 school year. It also will establish a handful of programs meant to help troubled students.  The new law was the result of last-minute negotiations between the state House of Delegates and Senate during the 2010 legislative session. Senators questioned whether increasing the age really compelled students to stay in school, saying there was little evidence it does.

Arizona bill provides quick way out of high school
The Arizona Republic, AZ – March 31, 2010
Under a new proposal approved by the state House, Arizona high-school students who pass tough new exams and earn passing grades in certain core courses could graduate as early as the end of their sophomore year with a special diploma.  The "Grand Canyon Diploma" would allow students to avoid the requirement to pass the AIMS exam; they then could go to work or enter a community college or a vocational school.

Juvenile Justice

Freed from prison, some juveniles have no place to go
Chicago Tribune, Illinois – March 31, 2010

Nearly 10 percent of the inmates in Illinois' juvenile prisons have essentially completed their sentences — in some cases more than a year ago — but are stuck behind bars because they have no place to go, state records show.  Many of the youths are being held longer in one of the state's eight juvenile prisons because officials cannot find an appropriate placement in a transitional living program or other kind of facility. Others are still in prison because officials found the homes of families or friends to be unacceptable, or because families simply refuse to take them back, according to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Juvenile system reforms working, report says
San Francisco Chronicle, CA – March 30, 2010
More than five years after California agreed to a court-monitored overhaul of its troubled juvenile justice system, corrections officials say they have completed more than 80 percent of the required policy changes, resulting in more education and less violence.  The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's Juvenile Justice Division was ordered to make more than 8,000 policy and program changes by a court-appointed monitor after agreeing to settle a class-action lawsuit in 2004.

ULM hosts fourth meeting of juvenile justice summit
The News Star, Monroe, LA – April 1, 2010
Louisiana juvenile justice stakeholders gathered at the University of Louisiana at Monroe on Wednesday for the fourth in a series of six meetings discussing alternative methods for handling troubled youth. The northeast judicial juvenile justice summit was put on by the Louisiana Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the 4th Judicial District Court. Judges, law enforcement and care agency representatives were in attendance as speakers delivered presentations on the progress of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's "Models for Change" initiative in the 4th Judicial District and elsewhere in Louisiana, one of four core states selected by the foundation to work on systemwide change as part of the initiative.

Foster Care

Foster care: Legislation would give children more stability
The Patriot-News, PA – April 1, 2010
When Sam suddenly found himself in the foster care system as a senior in high school his entire world turned upside down.  But the most difficult thing for him was that, in his words, there was no rule book that spelled out his rights as a foster child.  No one told him, for example, he had a right to see his siblings who were living elsewhere, on a regular basis.  No one could tell him why relatives in another state were not contacted and asked whether he could live with them. And no one told him he had a right to meet personally with the attorney in charge of his case.  Unfortunately, Sam is not an exception to the rule. Recently a few young adults who lived with foster families or in a group home in Pennsylvania met with the editorial board and each had similar stories about being unaware of certain rights.  But legislation sponsored by Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-Luzerne County, would change that. House Bill 2338, called the Children in Foster Care Act, would codify the existing state statute and regulations so that everyone involved with foster care, including the children, would understand all their rights.

Kids Caucus focuses on child-friendly legislative initiatives for 2010
Dover Post, Dover, DE – March 25, 2010
The General Assembly’s Kids Caucus presented its yearly legislative platform March 25, highlighting reform in the areas of public education and child health and safety.  Comprised of senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle, the Kids Caucus was formed in 2005 to solicit feedback and generate legislation advancing issues related to children. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere, also touted aneducation bill that would permit children in foster care to be eligible for SEED Program scholarships, which are awarded to graduating high school seniors who choose to enroll in associate degree programs at state institutions.  The bill would extend eligibility to foster children who do not immediately move from high school to college, or who have GEDs.

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