Monday, June 21, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Kansas governor creates commission to tackle problem of high school dropouts
Fox 4KC, Topeka, KS – June 15, 2010
Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson says the state's high school dropout rate is too high, and he believes it's hurting the economy.  Parkinson signed an executive order Tuesday creating a panel called the Kansas Commission on Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery.  The governor's office says the commission will study the dropout problem and make recommendations with a goal and timeline for reducing the annual dropout rate. The commission will also develop systems for spotting students at risk of dropping out.

Second-chance school in Camden graduates 370
The Philadelphia Inquirer, Camden, PA – June 15, 2010
The futures of 370 high school dropouts got a big boost and education-choice proponents argued their case during a graduation ceremony Monday for a grassroots Camden alternative school.  Held at the Susquehanna Bank Center, the commencement was the largest in the three-year history of the Community Education Resource Network (CERN), according to cofounder and political activist Angel Cordero.

Salem County Alternative High School students graduate
New Jersey On-Line, Carneys Point Township, NJ – June 16, 2010
Students from the Salem County Alternative High School graduated Tuesday night representing a pure spirit of hope.  The 2010 graduates - Tyron Denby, Zach Durburrow, Jessica Freitag, Shawn Gardner, Arlene Lodge, Michael Robinson, Branden Wallace, and Lahara Williams - were awarded a diploma, something many doubted they could accomplish. "The most exciting thing about this graduation is that these are kids who didn't think they would graduate," said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Loren Thomas. "For me, this is a representation of hope and the fact that an alternative program can meet the needs of kids that just can't be met at the home school."

Employers Increasingly Expect Some Education After High School
The New York Times – June 15, 2010
The number of jobs requiring at least a two-year associate’s degree will outpace the number of people qualified to fill those positions by at least three million in 2018, according to a report being released Tuesday by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.  The report makes clear that some education after high school is an increasing prerequisite for entry into the middle class. In 1970, for example, nearly three-quarters of those workers considered to be middle class had not gone beyond high school in their education; in 2007, that figure had dropped below 40 percent, according to the report.  “High school graduates and dropouts will find themselves largely left behind in the coming decade as employer demand for workers with postsecondary degrees continues to surge,’’ write the authors of the report, led by Anthony P. Carnevale.

Juvenile Justice

Ramsey County aims for color-blind juvenile justice
Spokesman-Recorder, Ramsey County, MN – June 15, 2010
As deputy director of the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center, Michael Belton, 59, knows the current justice system is rarely blind, especially when it comes to color. During his 31-year career, Belton has witnessed youth of color repeatedly treated more severely. In April, he testified before Congress on the inequities in the juvenile justice system.  “We have two justice systems, one for Whites and one for kids of color,” said Belton in a subsequent interview from which all the following quotes are taken. “The one for kids of color is more intrusive, harsher and longer. The one for Whites is short and supportive.”

Senators pursue alternatives to juvenile detention
Citizen’s Voice, Harrisburg, PA – June 16, 2010
Senators are citing the breakdown of Luzerne County's juvenile justice system as reason to put greater emphasis on programs that stress treatment and rehabilitation as the key to keeping juvenile offenders out of state prison.  The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony Tuesday from witnesses advocating the use of community programs to address youth behavioral issues such as bullying and substance abuse and student-driven youth courts as alternatives to juvenile detention facilities for young offenders.

Legislation would set standard for juvenile detention
The News Star, Louisiana – June 17, 2010
The Louisiana Legislature has passed a bill that would set standards for juvenile detention facilities, one of the long-deferred promises from the state's landmark juvenile justice reform legislation. House Bill 1477, introduced by Rep. Damon Baldone, D-Houma, and passed by the state Senate last week, would establish statewide standards for the safety and secure custody of juveniles while they await a court's decision on their case. The bill directs the Louisiana Juvenile Detention Association to conform with nationally recognized standards and best practices. Detention facilities around the state would uniformly run their day-to-day operations, hire and train staff, according to certain qualifications, and maintain a staff-to-child ratio.

Foster Care 

New law supports foster care reform
NBC 2 KTUU, Anchorage, AK – June 16, 2010
Gov. Sean Parnell signed into law House Bill 126 Tuesday night.  House Bill 126 caps off a full package of foster care reforms aiming to support nearly 2,000 foster youths in Alaska.  The bill would allow youths to stay in foster care until they turn 21 and would allow others to re-enter into foster care.  Weeks ago, the governor approved foster care efforts in the operating budget.

Grand Jury wants county to support foster youths till 21
Ventura County Star, Ventura County, CA – June 14, 2010
Ventura County officials should support a bill extending foster care payments up to age 21 and track the progress of young adults after they leave foster care, the Ventura County Grand Jury said in a report issued Monday.  Each year, about 50 local youths who’ve turned 18 leave the foster care system. Under state rules, they’re considered adults and too old to claim benefits. Anecdotal evidence suggests they are at high risk for becoming homeless, pregnant, jailed and stuck in low-wage jobs.  In their report entitled “Youth in Shadow,” jurors pointed to AB 12, a bill passed by the state Assembly and now pending in the state Senate.

Older teens become key issue for social service agencies
The Florida Times-Union, FL – June 14, 2010
Starting a new semester at college. The second job she urgently needs to supplement her work-study gig. The trip to the doctor that she doesn’t have insurance to cover.  It might seem like Natalie Mancuso has a lot on her mind. And she does. Armed with a Bright Futures scholarship and becoming the first in her family to attend college, she had been working and going to school full-time.  But when her father kicked her out of the house, she was suddenly on precarious ground.  She had to fight for independent status to get a Pell Grant to stay in the dorms at the University of North Florida. After a bout with severe depression, things collapsed. She was forced to leave the dorms and withdraw from school; her job stopped offering full-time hours.  She bounced between nights crashing at friends’ houses and sleeping in her car.  That changed in January, when she moved into Project Prepare, the independent living program run by daniel, a child welfare agency in Jacksonville for homeless youth from 16 to 21 years old. It was a profound relief.

New rules ensure kids in Oregon foster care get right psychiatric drugs, but not too many
The Oregonian, Oregon – June 15, 2010
Justin Snegirev mostly remembers feeling nauseous, tired and alone during the more than seven years he spent in state foster care.  Placed in a foster home when he was 8, Snegirev says it wasn't long before he was prescribed Ritalin, a drug used to treat attention deficit disorders. Next came an antidepressant and then a sleeping pill. Between ages 8 and 15, Snegirev says he was given at least seven different types of psychiatric drugs.  But he wasn't mentally ill, says Snegirev, now 20. "I was in an abusive situation and was a kid who simply was expressing symptoms of abuse -- and nobody was listening to me."  As of July 1, Oregon will have a new law and new rules to ensure closer scrutiny of psychiatric drugs given to kids living in foster homes.

Monday, June 14, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


The Philadelphia Inquirer – June 9, 2010
Education pays, especially in tough times like these.  The unemployment rate last month for people without high school diplomas was 15 percent, more than three times higher than the 4.7 percent rate for those with at least a bachelor's degree.  For high school graduates, the rate was 10.9 percent, and for those with some college or an associate degree, the rate was 8.3 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

Breaking the Cycle of Latino High School Drop Outs: KidWorks Making Strides in Challenged Neighborhoods, Santa Ana, CA – June 9, 2010
KidWorks is hosting the graduation event “Day of the Stars” on June 19th from 10am-12pm at 1910 W. Chestnut Avenue in Santa Ana. City of Santa Ana Councilmember, David Benavides, will be giving a commencement address to the KidWorks high school graduates. KidWorks will also have a ceremony for the 48 preschool students who are promoting to Kindergarten.  KidWorks has been bringing hope to families living in challenged neighborhoods of central Santa Ana since 1994. While in some ways this community has changed in the last 15 years with some housing redevelopment and improved police relations, there continues to be high levels of gang activity and low educational attainment. According to the United States Census, in the KidWorks neighborhoods only 35% of adults have graduated from high school. This community is one of the poorest in Orange County where over 95% of the children qualify for the free lunch program at school and 45% of the families at KidWorks live below the Federal Poverty Line. Among KidWorks families, the average household income is $30,000 and the average household size is 5.

Virtual school seniors beat the odds to graduate
Dayton Daily News, Lebanon, OH – June 10, 2010
Friends, family and area educators gathered Wednesday afternoon, June 2, to see dozens of at-risk high school students receive their diplomas.  More than 30 students, out of 51 who completed the coursework, attended the first graduation ceremony of the Warren County Virtual School, held at the Lebanon High School commons area.  The graduates were recognized as “at-risk” students by the Ohio Department of Education and the virtual school enabled them to do 100 percent of their coursework over the Internet, said Tom Isaacs, virtual school board president.

High school dropouts impact Utah's economy
Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT – June 10, 2010
A sure-fire way to spur economic growth in Salt Lake City is getting kids in caps and gowns.  "Truly, the best economic stimulus package for Salt Lake City and the nation is a diploma," Bob Wise, president of Alliance for Excellent Education, a national policy and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., told the Deseret News.  Wise, former governor of West Virginia, and his colleagues released the findings of a study Tuesday that illustrate how communities are negatively affected economically when students drop out of high school. Wise estimates that there were 3,500 dropouts from the Class of 2008 in Salt Lake, Summit and Tooele counties.

Juvenile Justice

Project aims to get treatment for juveniles in justice system
Winston-Salem Journal, Forsyth County, NC – June 10, 2010
More than 2 million people under 18 are arrested each year in the United States, and four out of five of them are under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they are arrested.  But many of them don't get the treatment they need for their addictions, according to Reclaiming Futures. The initiative hopes to change that.  "They aren't bad kids," said Chief District Judge William Reingold said yesterday during a kickoff for the initiative at the Forsyth County Hall of Justice. "But if we have any hope that they will learn from their mistakes, punishment can't be the only answer."

WGIL News, Illinois – June 12, 2010
The Juvenile Justice Initiative is happy with its accomplishments during the spring legislative session, and hopes the governor will sign a group of measures that it supports.  The group's policy advocate, Mary Reynolds, says one measure will let an existing group -- the Juvenile Justice Coalition -- rather than a new task force study whether 17-year olds who are charged with felonies can be tried as juveniles in Illinois. A change last year put 17-year olds back in the juvenile court system if they are charged with misdemeanors.

Foster Care 

Salute to grads who defied the odds
San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, CA – June 6, 2010
If one knew nothing about the backgrounds of the young men and women gathered in the student union at City College, the end-of-semester scene could be mistaken as being merely poignant instead of extraordinary. More than 60 students filled their paper plates with food as they awaited the announcement of scholarship winners. They beamed when their names were called for having earned a scholarship or admission to a four-year university. They applauded each other's successes. They posed for photographs. Young mothers clutched their children's hands.

Fostering Success
Success Magazine – June 7, 2010
Nathaniel Williams has penned seven books about letting go of the past and other topics, but he’s never written about the tragic, foundation-shaking event from his childhood that made him an expert in the subject.  Williams, founder and CEO of Pennsylvania-based social services group HumanWorks Affiliates, was thrust with his 11 orphaned siblings into the New York City foster care system when he was 5 years old. Today, as a successful entrepreneur, CEO and motivational speaker, he helps children and adults with similar circumstances break free of their difficult pasts, to find success in all aspects of their lives.

‘You never stand so tall as when you stoop to help a child’
Financial News & Daily Record, Jacksonville, FL – June 7, 2010
Child advocacy is one of the most rewarding areas of practice.  The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program consists of just over 300 dedicated volunteers who act as the voice of abused, abandoned and neglected children in the dependency court system. The two primary ways that attorneys may volunteer are as a pro bono attorney, or as an attorney ad litem.  Pro Bono attorneys act as a point of contact for children aging out of the foster care system or represent them in specialty areas such as probate, special education, medical malpractice and immigration. The attorney ad litem serves the child in a normal attorney-client relationship and is responsible for representing the child’s wishes.

Monday, June 07, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Virtual high school catching on locally
The Holland Sentinel, Holland, MI – June 2, 2010
As Van Raalte Tech’s first graduation approaches, Principal Deb Feenstra has learned not to underestimate students’ drive to succeed.  The online learning-based school, started by Holland Public Schools last fall for high school dropouts and students behind in their studies, plans to graduate at least 18 students at the end of this week.  “The majority of the students we have want to be successful and they’re just looking for an opportunity to do it differently,” Feenstra said.  Many students who were unable to complete courses due to family emergencies, medical problems or frustration in a traditional classroom find Van Raalte’s system more flexible.

Models for success in US education reform
Daily Breeze, Kalamazoo, MI – June 6, 2010
Today, President Barack Obama flies to Michigan to congratulate graduating seniors at Kalamazoo Central High School for reaching one goal. After congratulating them, he will push them to go further and succeed in college. He will make it clear to them that their country is counting on them to help meet his goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the end of the decade.  It's a message that the president could give at any high school graduation, but Kalamazoo Central's graduates will hear the message in person because their school was the winner of the first annual Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.  Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale was one of the finalists in the competition. Like Kalamazoo Central, it represents what high schools should become - a place where all students are challenged with a college preparatory program and are offered help choosing a college and finding financial aid.

'Achieve Q-C' targets dropout rate
Quad-City Times, Davenport, IA – June 3, 2010
There’s a young writer in the making at J.B. Young Intermediate School, Davenport, and she has her seventh-grade language arts teacher to thank.  MacKenzie Gibson was handed a classroom assignment to write a poem. One assignment was all it took.  “I liked the assignment a lot,” an enthusiastic Gibson said Thursday following the launch of Achieve Quad-Cities, a community-wide collaboration to curb high school dropout rates in the region.  Gibson wants to transform her newfound enthusiasm for writing into a career and plans to write a story about a personal experience.  For Gibson, getting a high school diploma is a “safety net” to help advance her career.

Juvenile Justice

Paterson Proposes Juvenile Justice Overhaul
The New York Times, New York, NY – June 2, 2010
Gov. David A. Paterson introduced legislation on Wednesday to begin overhauling New York’s troubled juvenile prison system, in what aides described at a first step toward broader changes long sought by critics of the system.  The legislation would prohibit judges from placing youths in state juvenile prisons unless they had been found guilty of a violent felony or a sex crime or a judge had determined that a youth posed a significant risk to themselves or others. Such a move would set the stage to significantly shrink the number of youths in state custody.

States closing youth prisons as arrests plunge
Associated Press, Wales, WI – June 6, 2010
After struggling for years to treat young criminals in razor wire-ringed institutions, states across the country are quietly shuttering dozens of reformatories amid plunging juvenile arrests, softer treatment policies and bleak budgets.  In Ohio, the number of juvenile offenders has plummeted by nearly half over the last two years, pushing the state to close three facilities. California's closures include a youth institution near Los Angeles that operated for nearly 115 years. And one in Texas will finally go quiet after getting its start as a World War II-era training base.  The closures have juvenile advocates cheering.  "I can tell you it's the best thing they can do," said Aaron Kupchik, a University of Delaware criminologist. "Incarceration does nobody any good. You're taking away most of their chance for normal development."

Foster Care

Reforms help states cut foster-care populations
The Washington Post, New York, NY – June 5, 2010
No single youngster can be the poster child for America's foster care system, with its mix of happy endings and heartache. Yet Tatiana Fowler's smile, as she embraces the woman who adopted her, gives a hint at the groundswell of change that is altering that mix for the better.  Tatiana, 16, and her 15-year-old sister Brittany were adopted earlier this year by a cousin of their mother after four years in foster care. They became part of a dramatic trend in New York City, which has reduced its foster care population from nearly 28,000 in 2002 to under 16,000 this spring.

Foster children begin transition
Florida Today, Suntree, FL – June 5, 2010
Courtney Gagne spent seven years shifting in and out of the foster care system, before problems at home prompted her to place herself there permanently two years ago. Now 18, the Melbourne resident has reached the age where she is no longer protected by the system, and must venture out on her own. First on her to-do list: education and work. On Friday, she attended "Get Connected," a daylong series of workshops aimed at teaching young adults who have grown too old for foster care and other at-risk youth about personal relationship and workplace skills they may not have learned growing up but will need to become productive members of society.

Monday Profile: Educational liaison keeps foster youths on the right track
Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, CA – June 7, 2010
Tara Watkins is fighting to get her high school diploma.  As a former foster youth whose teenage years were rocked by an unstable home life, Watkins dropped out of high school and then an adult degree program.  "I have no parents, so it's like I'm out here by myself. It makes things a lot harder because I'm carrying the weight of being myself and I'm carrying the weight of being an adult," Watkins said.  Now 19 and emancipated from the foster system, Watkins is committed to returning to school in the fall and eventually getting a business degree. She says if it hadn't been for Carol Regalado, she wouldn't have gotten this far.  "There's a lot of stuff I just wouldn't have known about if I hadn't talked to her," Watkins said.  Regalado is one of three educational liaisons for about 1,100 foster youths in Contra Costa County. Working out of the Antioch office of the county's Children and Family Services department but employed by the county Office of Education, Regalado is a resource, advocate and mentor for East Contra Costa's foster youths.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


U.S. schools chief: We're in 'educational emergency'
CNN – May 20, 2010
The battered economy is devastating school districts nationwide. Faced with shrinking budgets, many schools say they have no choice but to lay off teachers, cut arts and sports programs or consider other drastic measures to save money.  CNN's Soledad O'Brien talked with the top school official in the nation, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, about the ties between the economy and schools, the state of education and options for the classroom.

Reducing Student Dropout Rates
R&D Magazine – May 27, 2010
Six years ago in the Western Heights School District near Oklahoma City, nearly half of all students were dropping out before they could graduate. This was unacceptable, Superintendent Joe Kitchens decided, and began looking for a solution. He thought that by collecting data -- such as grades, attendance, socio-economic factors and other variables -- his teachers and counselors could better understand what was happening with students, why they would suddenly disengage and lose interest in class, and then proactively intervene with specialized programs to keep more students in school. The district deployed a new data system for tracking student progress, and today, Western Heights has reduced its dropout rate from 45 percent to 21 percent -- an amazing accomplishment. 

Juvenile Justice

Gov. Ritter signs bundle of bills to promote rehabilitation of criminals
The Denver Post, CO – May 25, 2010
Gov. Bill Ritter today will sign several bills that aim to lessen punishment for criminals and promote rehabilitation among the convicted.  Curbing the rate at which criminals reoffend has been part of Ritter's agenda since taking office, but this year was the first that he and bipartisan allies targeted controversial topics such as sentencing and parole reform to pay for it. The biggest bills came from the Ritter-convened Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, a mix of prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement, human services officials, lawmakers and other advocates.  Ritter pointed to the lowering of penalties for some drug offenses as the epitome of the philosophical shift afoot in the state's criminal justice system.

Confinement use curtailed
Chicago Tribune, IL – May 25, 2010
Of the seven suicides in Illinois' youth centers since 2000, three took place in what authorities call confinement, a form of punishment in which a youth is isolated and receives limited services.  Experts say the isolation can have a tragically demoralizing effect on already-troubled youths. But under the Department of Corrections, which ran the state's eight juvenile facilities until July 2006, inmates sometimes spent several weeks in confinement as punishment for violating rules.  The department gave so little thought to confinement that it did not track its use, officials said. That changed after the Department of Juvenile Justice was spun off from corrections. Juvenile Justice director Kurt Friedenauer sought to limit confinement, recognizing that it often is counterproductive. The move was a culture shift for a department used to meting out discipline.

Changes in juvenile lockup pay off
Houston Chronicle, Harris County, TX – May 20, 2010
Harris County officials and juvenile judges Thursday said they are saving more than $700,000 a month after making changes in detention policies to reduce the number of children who end up in the criminal justice system.  “It is a lot of money, especially in these times,” said state District Judge Mike Schneider.  He said one of the most effective programs includes sending youth who have been convicted — known in the juvenile system as a finding of delinquent conduct — home on intensive community supervision instead of jailing them in county facilities.

Foster Care

Around Town: Mentoring program helps foster children counter assumptions
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh, PA – May 25, 2010
She's 19 and has spent most of her life in foster care, but whatever image you may be forming in your mind now, forget it.  Ivory Bennett will shoot down your preconceptions one by one.  At a recent weekday luncheon for Ward Home in the lobby of Heinz Hall, this Pitt freshman stood before a packed room of mentors and strangers and began by telling them what she wasn't.  Ward Home exists for people like Miss Bennett. The program takes boys and girls from the ages of 16 to 21, mentors some of them where they are living and sets others up in efficiency apartments, but helps all of them begin the transition into adulthood.

Laguna Creek beats odds with foster kid grads
The Sacramento Bee, Laguna Creek, CA – May 27, 2010
Meggan McKinley walked through graduation practice with the rest of the seniors at Laguna Creek High School Monday morning.  This afternoon she'll make her way to the stage at Arco Arena to the music of "Pomp and Circumstance," shake her principal's hand and receive her diploma.  She will wear a white cap and gown and move her tassel from the right to the left side when graduation is complete, just like everyone else.  But McKinley isn't like everyone else.  She is one of six foster youths at Laguna Creek defying the odds and graduating from high school this year. She will leave for Xavier University in New Orleans in a few weeks.