Monday, May 24, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Program has big success preventing school dropouts
Carolina Live, Timmonsville, SC - May 22, 2010
Educators in Timmonsville are praising a dropout prevention program for at-risk high school students.  The statewide program started five years ago under the leadership of Governor Mark Sanford and the state Workforce Investment Board.  Friday, we caught up with the students from Timmonsville High School picking up trash along the highway.  It's part of their community service project with Jobs for America's Graduates better known as JAG, a statewide dropout prevention program.

Choice Bus Aimed at Reducing Dropout Rates
WSPA Channel 7, Columbia, SC – May 18, 2010
A customized bus aimed at reducing high school dropout rates is touring South Carolina this week.  The Choice Bus was on display Wednesday at the Statehouse in Columbia.  The bus is half-school bus and half-prison cell and is designed to show young people the power of education. The front half of the bus is painted like a school bus with rows of seats and the back half looks like prison bus with a small prison cell inside that includes a bed, toilet and sink.

Garland's Non-Traditional High School gives at-risk students support they need to graduate
The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX – May 18, 2010
A student was having a meltdown. The night before, a family member had come home high on "cheese" heroin and beaten the mother. It wasn't the first time.  "But you made the right choice. You came to school. You came to us. You did the right thing," Principal Connie Skipper said as she comforted the student. The student settled down, more determined than ever to graduate. Such support, along with an absolute focus on academics, has earned the school for at-risk students a high graduation rate and state awards.

Juvenile Justice

For D.C., hope in treating young offenders
USA Today, Laurel, MD – May 18, 2010
In the lobby of the New Beginnings Youth Development Center stood the figure of a man sculpted from steel, his body fashioned from the barrels and bullet chambers of illegal guns seized by police. Modern-day swords, the guns were beaten into plowshares by the same young men who used them to commit crimes.  Washington, D.C., a city with a long, sad history of failing its youth, has achieved a rare victory in dealing with troubled kids. On a swath of federal land in suburban Maryland, the District of Columbia has transformed its juvenile lockup. What was once a filthy prison for boys is now a new, campus-like setting where the city's worst young offenders work their way through a heavily structured program of individualized education, group therapy, behavior modification and unusual programs such as "Guns to Roses," the art project that turned 28 illegal weapons, melted down by police, into sculptures.

States Soften 'Adult Time For Adult Crimes' Stance
NPR – May 19, 2010
For more than 20 years, state legislatures have come down increasingly hard on criminal minors, insisting that they do "adult time for adult crimes." But some states are starting to rethink that approach. Texas, for example, enacted a law last year prohibiting juveniles who have not committed murder from being sentenced to life without any chance of parole — well before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such sentences unconstitutional on Monday. "In many cases, we believe in second chances for kids," says Jerry Madden, a Texas state representative. "There's still a chance to work with juveniles."

U.S. Supreme Court decision on juvenile sentences could affect Louisiana cases
The Times-Picayune, Louisiana – May 17, 2010
The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision Monday ending life-without-parole sentences for juveniles convicted of crimes other than homicide could affect dozens of Louisiana cases, according to the state's sole agency that advocates for juvenile offenders.  "It's a powerful statement from the court that children are inherently less culpable and able to be rehabilitated," said Dana Kaplan, director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. "The court decision is a powerful first step."

Foster Care

Program Helps Minnesota Foster Kids After Age 18
Fox 9 News, Minneapolis, MN – May 19, 2010
Up to 600 Minnesota kids age out of foster care after they graduate high school and some can go down the wrong path, but several programs are trying to help kids after age 18.  The Minnesota Department of Human Services wants to get the word out there are resources and financial aid available for kids who want help. Glenda Harris, 22, feels fortunate to be able to take advantage of just one of programs called Education and Training Vouchers. She is a student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, currently studying to be a nurse, but soon she’ll transfer to get a degree in social work to help other foster kids.

'Cakes' Program Aids Transition from Foster Care to Job
News 8, Frederick, MD – May 18, 2010
When children grow too old for the foster care system, they're sometimes tempted by crime, drugs and alcohol. But a new program in at a Frederick bakery is aimed at changing that one kid and one cake at a time.  After four months of measuring life as a baker, 19-year-old Christina Quinn has had her fill.  "This is part of me but I don't want it to be the only thing of me," said Christina Quinn, an apprentice at Moxie Bakery. Quinn's in a six-month program at Moxie Bakery called "Cakes for Cause." The program is for teens who spent time in foster care, "aged-out" of the system without being adopted, or are considered "at-risk."

Agency helps foster ‘kids’ transition to adulthood
Kilgore News Herald, East Texas – May 19, 2010
When a child is removed from his home and placed in a foster home, a larger problem looms in the distance in East Texas and around the country.  As the child “ages out” of the foster system, making the transition to adulthood can be hard to master.  That’s where Julie Shrode comes in.  The PAL program – Preparation for Adult Living - was started in 1986 to help older youth in foster care prepare for independent adult status, and Shrode is the PAL coordinator for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in the 23 counties of the state’s Region IV area, which includes East Texas.  Finding a place for foster children to make a safe transition to adulthood is something her agency grapples with.

Monday, May 17, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Students get back to ‘business’ with second-chance high school
Tacoma Weekly, Tacoma, WA – May 12, 2010
While Tacoma’s smallest high school is still in its infancy, it is starting to have a big impact on its students.  Tacoma Business Academy (TBA) serves as last-ditch alternative to students looking for a second chance.  It is open to about 45 students ranging in age from 16 to 21 who all have one thing in common: they are high school dropouts.  Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Alfaro enrolled in TBA last March. She dropped out of Lincoln High School at age 16 because she started skipping school and fell behind.  “I just got lazy and I stopped going to school,” she said. “I slacked off and I regret it. That’s why I’m back.”

Hispanic dropouts less likely to earn GEDs than blacks or whites, report finds
The Washington Post, Washington, DC – May 13, 2010
Hispanic high school dropouts are much less likely to earn General Educational Development credentials than their white or black counterparts, especially if they are immigrants, according to a report released Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Center.  The report, "Hispanics, High School Dropouts and the GED," found that only one in 10 Hispanic high school dropouts has a GED, compared with two in 10 African American dropouts and three in 10 white dropouts.

Dropouts get second chance, gain GEDs and help community with new construction skills
The Flint Journal, Flint, MI – May 7, 2010
Daniel Liddell never went to high school. But you wouldn’t know it by speaking with him.  Once a teenage street hustler with no home of his own, Liddell is now a clean-cut, well-spoken motivational leader among his 32 classmates in a Flint program created last year to give struggling young adults a second chance.  “This program is a blessing to me,” he said about Metro Flint Youthbuild, a selective program in its first semester housed in the former Longfellow Middle School.  It offers intensive GED and construction trade instruction.

Juvenile Justice

Sestak calls for juvenile justice reform
Citizen’s Voice, Wilkes-Barre, PA – May 11, 2010
With the Luzerne County Courthouse at his back and its sordid legacy of cash-driven juvenile justice as his chief exhibit, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak on Monday called for the elimination of policies in Pennsylvania and 24 other states that allow juveniles to appear in court without an attorney.  The policies, Sestak said, undermine the due process rights of juveniles, who are often ill-informed about the consequences of their court proceedings and the ramifications of foregoing representation.

Ogle County juvenile diversion programs see success
The Journal-Standard, Oregon, IL – May 15, 2010
To Sherri Egan, Ogle County’s new emphasis on diversion programs for non-violent juvenile offenders, as opposed to incarceration, has had a positive impact on the community and cut down on court costs while reducing the number of young repeat offenders.  “We’re doing more balance and restorative justice programs,” said Egan, executive director of the Ogle County Juvenile Justice Council. “As a result, we’re seeing fewer juvenile cases coming into the court system. We’re diverting the majority of our cases into alternative (programs). It’s been positive all around.”

Foster Care

Some children grow out of foster care into promising future
Gaston Gazette, Gastonia, NC – May 14, 2010
Like so many other children born into ominous settings, Brittany Wheeling grew up fast, without really growing up.  By the age of 12, she was going to parties with her mother that she had no business being around. An unstable family life coaxed her into abusing drugs and other unsafe behavior. Her interest in school plummeted.  The Department of Social Services took custody. Brittany soon found herself hurling objects at her therapist during counseling sessions, and bouncing between foster homes. The odds seemed high that she would turn 18, embrace the legal right to be on her own, cut ties with DSS, and continue down a tragic path — perhaps passing her problems on to her children.  But others weren’t so quick to write her off. And a state initiative that prepares foster children for adulthood has helped to put Brittany on a promising track.

Humboldt County receives funds to expand peer-support services
Times-Standard, Humboldt County, CA – May 16, 2010
The county plans to expand services that let people who know what it's like to be an at-risk youth help others in the same situation.  The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services is receiving more than $800,000 this year to fund an integrated continuum of services for local at-risk youth transitioning into adulthood.  The county's project was approved last week by a state commission and will be funded by the Mental Health Services Act. The MHSA -- also known as Proposition 63, which was passed by voters in 2004 -- takes a 1 percent tax from the personal income of millionaires to fund a range of prevention, early intervention and other service needs.

Monday, May 10, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Virtual schools soon reality in Mass.
Boston Globe, Boston, MA – May 5, 2010
The schools would have no desks or lockers, not even a cafeteria to trade gossip over a plate of chicken nuggets. Instead, students could take classes from the comfort of their homes or a neighborhood coffeehouse, as teachers convey lessons via the Internet. This is a snapshot of virtual public schools in Massachusetts, which could open as soon as this fall, enabling hundreds of students to take all their classes online.

SECOND CHANCE: A scholarship program is helping Des Moines Public School dropouts get their high school diplomas and college credit
13 WHO TV, Des Moines, IA – May 5, 2010
High school dropouts could have a second chance at completing high school and going to college. Fifty scholarships are being handed out to former Des Moines Public School students.  The Gateway to College program allows students to earn a high school diploma while simultaneously earning college credit at DMACC.

New school at mall targets dropout risks
The Boston Globe, Peabody, MA – May 9, 2010
For a group of Peabody teenagers, the local mall may become more than a place to socialize, starting next school year.  The city recently reached an agreement with the Simon Youth Foundation to open an alternative school in space within Northshore Mall.  Targeted to open in September, the school will serve Peabody Veterans Memorial High School students at risk of dropping out due to circumstances — such as poverty, domestic abuse, pregnancy, or chronic health problems — that have caused them to fall behind academically.

Juvenile Justice

Rep. Miller Takes Questions on Juvenile Justice Reauthorization
Youth Today, Washington, DC – May 6, 2010
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) spoke today about reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) in an interview on Juvenile Justice Matters, the radio show of a  D.C.-based advocacy group The Campaign for Youth Justice.  Miller is the chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, which is the committee that handles juvenile justice for the House. In the Senate the issue is largely the purview of the Judiciary Committee, which has already passed its version of JJDPA reauthorization and is looking to get it to the floor for a full Senate vote this summer.

Program to teach Steamboat teens about court
Steamboat Today, Steamboat Springs, CO – May 7, 2010
Grand Futures Prevention Coalition hopes to teach Routt County teens about the juvenile justice system the easy way — without them going through it first.  To educate teens, their parents and community members about the juvenile justice diversion program, laws and to answer questions, Grand Futures is teaming up with local law enforcement agencies and court representatives for a symposium from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Olympian Hall.

Non-profit works to mentor youth offenders
Midlands Connect, Columbia, SC – May 4, 2010
It was an evening of hope.  Tuesday at the Department of Juvenile Justice a non-profit organization called Friends of Juvenile Justice celebrated their achievements with at risk children.  The group is trying to increase its efforts by launching a state-wide mentoring campaign for DJJ children.

Foster Care

Former foster kid overcame odds, with help from many friends, to earn law degree
The Washington Post, Washington, DC – May 7, 2010
When Jelani Freeman came home after school one day, his mother was gone. Eight years old, he waited, realizing as the hours passed that she would not be back. She was mentally ill and in need of treatment. His father was in prison. "I just knew that was it," he recalled.  By the next afternoon, social workers were involved. So began a way of life that he came to know as foster care, a world of in-betweens and stopgaps that brought six moves and inevitable questions about how to get beyond hurt and want and poverty.  On Saturday, against the odds, Freeman will graduate from Howard University Law School, where he has told few of his professors how far he came just to take a seat.

Project helps teen take step into adulthood
Des Moines Register, Des Moines, IA – May 6, 2010
Furnishings in Kamylle Patterson's East Douglas Avenue apartment had been sparse since she and her husband moved in December.  "When we very first moved in, we didn't have a table, didn't have a couch and didn't have a TV," the 18-year-old senior at East High School said. "We would sit on boxes and eat."  That all changed Saturday with the arrival of a moving van packed with bags and boxes filled with everything the couple could need. The supplies, accompanied by a small army of volunteers, were courtesy of Children & Families of Iowa's Elevate Our Youth to Adulthood project.

Woman proves college is possible for foster kids
Free Press, Oakland County, MI – May 8, 2010
More former foster children in the state are attending college or trade school, overcoming enormous obstacles such as homelessness and poverty -- thanks, in part, to an aggressive push by universities, social service agencies and community leaders. State records show that the number of foster youths attending college or trade school jumped from 127 in 2004 to 616 in 2009. That number is expected to climb even though the number of youths 18 and older still receiving foster care is declining.

Monday, May 03, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Second chances: Cleveland Community College offers high school dropouts another shot
The Star, Cleveland County, NC – April 26, 2010
When Rhett Dorn was 16, he decided he was done with school and dropped out of Shelby High.  “I got with the wrong friends,” he said. “Plus I wanted a job.”  For several years he worked low-wage jobs that paid under the table to help out at home.  But the “rinky dink” jobs, as he called them, weren’t cutting it and he said he was tired of having nothing to show for his work.  Recently, the now 20-year-old decided to enroll in Cleveland Community College’s adult high school program. He has even bigger plans for the future.

Durham Tech helps dropouts get back into school
WRAL, Durham, NC – April 28, 2010
Durham Technical Community College is recruiting students for its first class in a program to help high school dropouts get back into school.  The Gateway to College program allows dropouts from Durham Public Schools between the ages of 16 and 21 to complete their high school diploma requirements and earn college credits at the same time. Students will get scholarships to cover their tuition, books and fees.

Grads Head to College In Record Numbers
The Wall Street Journal – April 28, 2010
The share of new high-school graduates enrolled in college reached a record high last year, likely reflecting the weak job market they faced.  Some 70.1% of the 2.9 million new graduates between the ages of 16 and 24 headed to colleges and universities, the Labor Department said Tuesday, based on data from January through October 2009. That percentage was a historical high for the data series, which began in 1959.  College-enrollment rates have been rising gradually: In 2008, 68.6% of high-school graduates headed to college, up from 62.9% in 1999. But the poor economy, which has created a particularly tough labor market for young and uneducated workers, is amplifying the trend.

Foundations offer $506M for education innovation
Associated Press, Seattle, WA – April 28, 2010
A coalition of wealthy foundations is offering up to half a billion dollars to match federal grants meant to encourage education reform, taking the pressure off schools scrambling to find the matching dollars they need to get the money.  A dozen foundations plan to announce this week that they are investing $506 million, a portion of which is for a matching fund for the $650 million federal government grant program, called Investing in Innovation.  The foundations also set up an Internet portal for applying for matching funds from all the foundations in one step, streamlining the task of seeking money from multiple sources. School districts, schools and other nonprofits have until May 12 to apply for the money, which will be paid out by the end of September.

Juvenile Justice

Reforms of juvenile system prove effective in Erie, Onondaga counties
Democrat and Chronicle, New York – May 2, 2010
For a system initially geared toward rehabilitating troubled children, juvenile justice laws had turned increasingly punitive by the 1990s.  Across the country, states were prosecuting more youths in adult courts, jailing them in juvenile prisons for minor offenses, and using the courtrooms as a dumping ground for children with other issues such as mental health problems or learning disabilities, according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a Baltimore-based nonprofit in the forefront of juvenile justice reform. Even as juvenile crime rates were falling, the foundation's research showed, more youths were being taken out of their homes and little attention was given to the families and the communities they'd return to after placement.

Why are more Monroe County kids in the juvenile justice system?
Democrat and Chronicle, Monroe County, NY – May 2, 2010
With his handcuffs off and a guard trailing him, Calvin didn't look at the judge when he first walked into Monroe County Family Court.  The lanky 17-year-old made a beeline to his mother that morning in March to kiss her, before standing with his attorney to hear how much more time he would serve in a juvenile facility for being caught a second time in a stolen car a year earlier.  In Buffalo, he might still be at home and serving probation for the misdemeanor charge of unauthorized use of a vehicle. Syracuse officials may have diverted Calvin's case to a program that keeps him with his family while providing services to get him back on track.

Community Conversation: Racial Disparity in the Juvenile Justice System

Chicago Public Radio, Chicago, IL – April 27, 2010
When you look at which kids wind up inside our juvenile justice system you find some startling statistics. For example: African-Americans make up 18 percent of Illinois’ youth population, but they represent over half of Illinois kids who are locked up. As part of our series, Inside and Out¸ we heardtwo reports last week on the long-standing problem known as Disproportionate Minority Contact. Then last Tuesday night, we gathered 200 some community members into a building on Chicago’s South Side - to talk about the issue. 

Foster Care 

New Foster Care Program Gives Hope to Kids, Families
Fox4KC, Kansas City, MO – April 30, 2010
Kids who enter the foster care system have usually gone through a pretty traumatic event, like abuse, neglect, or parents into drugs or in jail. They're torn from the only family they know and passed around to strangers. Now, a new study through the University of Kansas called the SPARK Project looks at why some kids can bounce back so easily while others struggle.

Eagan student testifies in Washington, D.C. on foster care, Washington, DC – April 29, 2010
U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) invited Eagan High School senior Kayla VanDyke to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing today (Thursday, April 29) regarding special populations and education reform.  Sen. Franken invited VanDyke to testify to illustrate the obstacles facing foster youth in the education system, an issue he has been working to improve in the upcoming education reauthorization bill.  VanDyke is an 18-year-old foster youth who has lived through seven different foster care placements as well as a period of homelessness. She testified today that she was regularly forced to change schools, often missing important lessons and repeating others. She also testified that, had she had access to liaisons and counselors and known about transportation arrangements such as those included in Sen. Franken’s Fostering Success In Education Act, it would have helped her stay in the school of her choice.