Monday, April 19, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Jobless dropouts head back to school for basic skills
The Washington Post, Louisville, KY – April 13, 2010
The push to return unemployed workers to the nation's payrolls is hamstrung by a decades-old legacy of poor schooling that has left tens of millions of Americans without the basic reading or math skills necessary for today's jobs. They are people such as Sherry Carr, 56, a high school dropout who spent years working at printing presses but struggled to stay employed after that industry went into decline. She recently found work delivering food trays to patients in a hospital here, but the job came with a catch: To keep it, the hospital required that she get a GED. Even such basic tasks as knowing which patients are diabetic require an ability to read.

Promise Alliance aims to cut dropout rate
Columbus Local News, Columbus, OH – April 13, 2010
Leaders nationwide and locally have signed on to stamp out what some call a "silent epidemic."  In April 2008, the America's Promise Alliance launched a national dropout prevention campaign. The intent was to raise "the level of consciousness" about the national high school dropout rate, which lingers at about 30 percent currently, said Colleen Wilber, a spokeswoman for the alliance. The group, founded by retired Gen. Colin Powell, convened a "Community Partnerships" summit in Columbus in January. It was to serve as a springboard to galvanize local organizations to form a more strategic effort.  "The next step is ... we now really want to turn our attention to the action piece of this," Wilbur said.

Committee aims to slice dropout rate by 25 percent
Madison Record, Alabama – April 9, 2010
The Alabama Select Commission on High School Graduation and Student Dropouts, chaired by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, recently released the finding from a months-long study into the dropout epidemic along with recommendations for best practices to increase the state’s overall graduation rate.  “The commission’s goal is to reduce the number of high school dropouts by 25 percent over the next five years, and these recommendations provide the road map to get us there,” Orr said. “Until we take dramatic steps and focus on this issue, many of our children will never be fully prepared for the 21st Century workforce or the high tech job skills that it will demand.”

Juvenile Justice

Taking responsibility for youth justice
Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL – April 12, 2010
Tribune readers should have been shocked to learn that more than 10 percent of the youths in state prisons have served their sentences but remain locked up because the state agency responsible for transitioning them back into community life has failed them. To its credit, one of the Illinois facilities (IYC Chicago) is collaborating with the MacArthur Foundation's Models for Change initiative and is beginning to introduce model programming to involve families. This kind of reform needs to be in place throughout the DJJ system and soon. Unless family connections are maintained and improved, youth who have often burned many bridges prior to their confinement will have a difficult time returning to their own home or to live with relatives.

Teen juries put a new spin on juvenile justice
The Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles, CA – April 13, 2010
The 13-year-old defendant, standing before a jury of his peers, hears the verdict: guilty of battery. The teenage jury foreman then reads the punishment: "We sentence the defendant to a daily curfew, anger counseling, and 50 hours of community service, Your Honor," he says. "Also, he is not to have any associations with gangs, will write a letter of apology to his parents and the victim, will submit to regular drug testing, and will be put on academic probation. We also will put him into regular auto shop and art classes.”  Teen peer court is in session at Dorsey High School in South Los Angeles – and this is no mock trial. The defendant, Garry V., is accused of a real crime. Student jurors mete out a real sentence. Presiding Judge David Wesley is a jurist from Los Angeles Superior Court. The school's Thurgood Marshall Courtroom is complete with a judge's bench, a witness stand, a jury box, and, yes, oak paneling.

Juvenile justice program develops as center opening nears
Tallahassee Democrat, Tallahassee, FL – April 12, 2010
Progress continues slowly toward the targeted — and tentatively scheduled — Aug. 1 opening day of a new teen center at the former Palmer Munroe Community Center, said Nancy Daniels, public defender for the 2nd Judicial Circuit. Located at 1900 Jackson Bluff Road near SAIL High School, the center will serve as the home of a restorative justice program intended to divert nonviolent offenders ages 13 to 19 from the traditional juvenile justice system.  In late January, the Tallahassee city and Leon County commissions and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice agreed to commit the money to re-open the teen center and to fund a restorative justice program for three years, though both commissions will have to vote each year to allocate those funds.

Foster Care

City Is Urged to Evaluate Foster Care
The New York Times, New York, NY – April 14, 2010
At 21, a young person in foster care in New York is officially out of the child welfare system.  Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, said Wednesday that the government’s involvement should not stop there.  In legislation introduced before the City Council, Mr. de Blasio said the city should collect data on former foster children to understand what happens to them once they are out of the city’s care.

Anchorage Daily News, Alaska – April 13, 2010
Yet another study on the future of many children raised in the foster care system shows that their chances at success are so minimal as to be just this side of nonexistent. The New York Times recently reported on a study done in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin showing six in 10 men who aged out of the foster care system had a criminal conviction by their mid-twenties. Three in four women in the same age group were receiving some form of public assistance, while struggling to raise children without a high school diploma. In a second group of the same age, one in five men had multiple criminal convictions, low education and incomes and often suffered from mental health issues and addictions.  The study does point out that children aging out of the foster care system who receive additional help with education grants, temporary housing and extended time in the system do better than their peers who don't.

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