Monday, July 26, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


America's Promise Alliance and DeVry Announce Major Multi-Year Partnership to Increase High School and College Graduation Rates
The Wall Street Journal, Washington & Downers Grove, IL – July 22, 2010
America's Promise Alliance (the Alliance) and DeVry Inc. today announced a major, multi-year partnership to help increase high school and college graduation rates across the country. The partnership will be a featured component of the Alliance's Grad Nation campaign. Launched in March with the support of President Obama and Secretary Duncan, Grad Nation is a new 10-year campaign to mobilize all Americans to take action in their communities to end the high school dropout crisis and ultimately prepare young people for postsecondary education and the 21st century workforce. In support of the partnership, DeVry will donate $1.5 million to the Alliance, to be distributed over three years, and provide additional in-kind donations of up to $750,000 per year in each of 10 cities to support a key goal of both organizations -- to see more young people earn a postsecondary or college degree.

Students draft a lesson plan of their own
Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL – July 23, 2010
Amara Brady's academic life changed when she transferred to Mother McAuley High School on the Southwest Side last year. She got better books, more passionate teachers and access to postsecondary education information she'd never had. "The schools aren't on a level playing field. And some systems are just set up for failure," said Brady, 16, who lives in the North Lawndale neighborhood, where many teens are faced with drugs, violence and a rising dropout rate. Deciding she wanted to do something about it, Brady joined World Vision's Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), which gives young people a voice to become what they call "agents of change." World Vision is a Christian organization dedicated to fighting poverty.

Governor Perry: No driver’s licenses for dropouts
WOAI, San Antonio, TX – July 16, 2010
Facing criticism over the Texas high school dropout rate from gubernatorial opponent Bill White, Governor Perry wants to solve the problem with a little tough love. "If you are of high school age and you are not in a bricks and mortar or virtual high school, you are not going to get a drivers license. It's that simple," said Perry. When police make traffic stops, Perry wants to give them access to the database of high school dropouts. But it’s not all tough love. Perry would also like to see a $1,500 tax break for employers who aid a worker in earning a diploma.

Juvenile Justice

Macomb Co. program teaches troubled youths to teach dogs
The Detroit News, Mount Clemens, MI – July 22, 2010
Canine companionship is helping some local kids turn around their troubled pasts at the Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center. A program called Teacher's Pet has them train dogs taken in by animal control, helping them develop responsibility, empathy and self-esteem -- and, eventually, finding homes for the strays. "The dogs can be frustrating to work with sometimes, but it's good to have someone to talk to when things aren't going right," said Lindsay, 15, who has been in the program for a couple of months. "I like knowing that I helped these dogs find a good home."

You Can't Fix Juvenile Justice and Ignore Race
Color Lines – July 16, 2010
The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) recently released a report that provides some useful strategies and examples of states and localities that have successfully downsized juvenile detention institutions and/or redirected funds to more community-based alternatives--programs that are proven to be more humane and effective toward reducing recidivism rates. The report is specifically designed to arm advocates during these "difficult fiscal times," as indicated in its subtitle. But from the perspective of realizing long-term reform of the injustice inherent in the "criminal justice" system, it's more than a bit surreal to scan the report and find not a single mention of the word race. Or black. African-American. Latino. Minority. I mean, nothin'. 

Adams County awarded $50,000 grant, joins Juvenile Detention Alternatives
Ritzville Journal, Washington – July 22, 2010
The Washington State Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee has awarded a $50,000 grant to Adams County to implement alternatives to secure detention for low-risk youth. Adams County will become the eighth county in the state to join the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Other counties participating in the initiative include Benton-Franklin, King, Mason, Pierce, Skagit, Spokane and Whatcom Counties. JDAI is the nation’s largest juvenile justice system improvement initiative, operating in more than 26 states for the past 20 years.

Foster Care

Too old for foster care, youths struggle
The Detroit News, Detroit, MI – July 21, 2010
A growing number of youths in Michigan are reaching adult age while in foster care, a situation experts fear leaves them vulnerable to homelessness, poverty and incarceration. State and welfare agencies say a lack of funding has been the greatest obstacle to getting these youths the safety net they need when they age out of the system. When they're pushed out onto the streets at age 19 after years of jumping from home to home, the trauma of being separated from their families and getting inconsistent adult guidance destines them to multiple problems, said Paul Toro, professor of psychology at Wayne State University. At Covenant House, a haven in Detroit for homeless and runaway youths, as many a third of residents have aged out of foster care, up from a fifth in previous years, said Melissa Golpe, spokeswoman for Covenant House. At the 75-bed facility, residents follow a strict schedule: waking at 6 a.m., breakfast at 8, and classes from 9:30 to 3:30 on life skills, GED study or career guidance. Staff members serve as counselors, life coaches and parents, teaching the youngsters to take responsibility for their actions.

Foster youth speak to policymakers about education
WMU News, Kalamazoo, MI – July 22, 2010
High school-aged youth who will soon age out of Michigan's foster care system will describe their experiences in finishing their education to legislators and other community leaders during a special meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 29, in Room 208 of the Bernhard Center on the campus of Western Michigan University. Young people from Kalamazoo, Jackson, and Washtenaw counties are expected to share their ideas and recommendations for policies and programs that could help them and other foster youth continue through college and into a career.

Life after foster care is an uphill battle
The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah – July , 23, 2010
Until she entered foster care, Bianca Flores was too busy tending to her three younger siblings to attend school. Her mother was either sick or MIA, gone for nearly a week at a time. There was no dad — never had been. So Flores filled in as best she could, putting her own life on hold. But since January 2009, Flores has powered through three years of high school credits, and this spring she will do what seemed unimaginable a year ago: Flores, 18, will graduate from high school, the second person in her family to do so. Next up is an even bigger challenge — at the end of August, Flores will exit the state’s foster care system and become a student at Snow College, where she plans to pursue a degree in graphic design.

Monday, July 19, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Gates Foundation playing pivotal role in changes for education system
The Washington Post, Tampa, FL – July 12, 2010
Across the country, public education is in the midst of a quiet revolution. States are embracing voluntary national standards for English and math, while schools are paying teachers based on student performance. It's an agenda propelled in part by a flood of money from a billionaire prep-school graduate best known for his software empire: Bill Gates.

Educational forum for Hispanic youth stresses opportunities
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Ettrick, VA – July 15, 2010
J.A. Rodríguez Jr. grew up as a member of a low-income minority family in the Bronx. Today, he is a senior manager with a Fortune 100 company and serves as a role model to Hispanic youths who may face similar obstacles. "If I can do it, you can do it, too. You just have to want it . . . and you have to be able to pay the price," he said. "You have to believe in yourself and you can get it done." Rodríguez is one of the "Hispanic Heroes" at the 2010 Hispanic Youth Symposium hosted by Virginia State University. He manages international programs for Raytheon Co., and his travels abroad have led him to Germany and the South Pole. The four-day symposium, which began yesterday, is one of eight throughout the country sponsored by the Hispanic College Fund. It's aimed at increasing awareness about higher education opportunities and addressing the high school dropout rate within the Hispanic community.

Students take drop out issues into their own hands
Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, SD – July 15, 2010
Her baby is due about the time of midterms. Camille Williams, a 17-year-old Jefferson Academy student with thick brown hair and a soft voice, touches the small swell of her belly as she talks about the upcoming school year. Williams started out at Central High School, but soon found she was on a slippery slope to dropping out. "My mom would drop me off, and I would wait and then leave," she said. She fell behind in classes, transferred to Jefferson and "started taking as many classes as I can" to catch up. Then she found out she was pregnant. "I keep coming up to a lot of brick walls," she said. But this baby, a girl she will raise with the father, is not going to deter her from graduating high school. "I'm going to do my best to make bottles and read books at the same time," she said. Part of her resolve can be attributed to a new group of friends, a summer class and the unwavering support of a former teacher. Williams is part of a new Rapid City Area Schools summer class, sponsored by the Indian Education Department and Partnership Rapid City, devoted to studying drop-out issues and coming up with solutions.

Juvenile Justice

Federal Oversight for Troubled N.Y. Youth Prisons
The New York Times, New York, NY – July 14, 2010
Four of New York’s most dangerous and troubled youth prisons will be placed under federal oversight, strict new limits will be imposed on the use of physical force by guards, and dozens of psychiatrists, counselors and investigators will be hired under a sweeping agreement finalized on Wednesday between state and federal officials. The agreement will usher in the most significant expansion of mental health services in years for youths in custody, the vast majority of whom suffer from drug or alcohol problems, developmental disabilities or mental health problems.

Juvenile Justice Advocates Suggest Cost-Effective Strategies For States
The Crime Report – July 14, 2010
With many states facing alarming budget shortfalls, a coalition of juvenile justice advocates has issued a report recommending what it says are cost-effective strategies to improve and shrink juvenile justice systems. The National Juvenile Justice Network has published “The Real Costs and Benefits of Change: Finding Opportunities for Reform During Difficult Fiscal Times,” which explores reforms that states have successfully utilized to improve outcomes for youth, increase public safety, and reduce costs.

Foster Care

DHS says housing, other assistance available for foster kids until age 21
Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia, PA – July 13, 2010
The Department of Human Services said there are services available for high-school students like Jason Rodriguez who have "aged out" of traditional foster-care services. When one of the counselors at Rodriguez's high school first contacted DHS, she was told that he was no longer eligible for foster-care services that now are available for youth until age 21 as long as they remain in school, said DonYvonne Owens, a retired counselor at the Bodine High School for International Affairs who now works as a part-time substitute. But Dell Meriwether, DHS deputy commissioner for children and youth, said even after a former foster child turns 18, he or she wouldn't be excluded from other DHS services, such as transitional living programs available through the Office of Supportive Housing.

Children's shelter adds transitional living space for foster kids
American-Statesman, Austin, TX – July 13, 2010
Under state law, when foster children turn 18, they have to strike out on their own hopefully to find jobs or enroll in college or job-training programs. But the reality, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, is that up to 50 percent of youths who "age out" of foster care become homeless within 18 months of leaving the system. A new transitional living center that opened last month at the Austin Children's Shelter is intended to combat that statistic. The Therapeutic Living Center for Boys will serve 16- to 21-year-olds, who tend to struggle the most when leaving foster care, state officials said. The center is designed to house up to 14 foster children and will teach them life skills such as applying for jobs, opening a bank account, paying bills and finding an apartment.

Program to help foster kids ease into adulthood
The Chicago Tribune, Indianapolis, IN – July 16, 2010
Indiana is getting $75,000 for a new national program designed to help young people bridge the gap between foster care and adulthood. The program, called Fostering Futures, was developed by the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association with help from the Walmart Foundation. Based on a study at the University of Michigan, Fostering Futures helps young people build a positive self-image and set goals.

Monday, July 12, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Money to help dropouts return to school restored
Daily Herald, Springfield, IL – July 8, 2010
A program to re-enroll high school dropouts will receive funding through this year. Sen. William Delgado was a sponsor of IHOPE last summer. It's a program that encourages dropouts to get back to school with year-round classes, summer school, evening courses and community college classes. The Chicago Democrat says funding for the program was in jeopardy, but that Gov. Pat Quinn has ensured money to keep it going.

Grad rates up for one west Alabama school district
NBC13, Tuscaloosa, AL – July 6, 2010
Facing a rising drop out rate, The Tuscaloosa City School District created several positions to increase the graduation rate.  The district hired a “graduation director” and “grad coaches” for each of it’s three high schools.  Officials believe the investments have paid off. For three years in a row, Tuscaloosa city high schools faced an increasing drop out rate.  But this year, they’ve turned that around and are celebrating, even if the celebration is short lived. For the first time in three years, graduation rates are up at all three Tuscaloosa City high schools.  Compared to rates a year ago, they’re up 14 percent at Central, 7 percent at Bryant and and 1 percent at Northridge.  The key appears to have been grad coaches at each high school and this man, the district’s director of graduation success and dropout prevention.

Legislature wants more high school grads
The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC – July 6, 2010
The legislature wants the state Board of Education to figure out how to get all high school students to graduate in four years. Under a measure the Senate approved unanimously Tuesday, the Board of Education must set minimum goals for graduation of 74 percent by 2014, 80 percent by 2016, and 90 percent by 2018. The measure now goes to Gov. Bev Perdue for her signature. The long-term goal, with no date attached, is to have all students graduate.

Ackerman, Nutter highlight schools’ progress, Philadelphia, PA – July 8, 2010
Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and Mayor Nutter Thursday told business and community leaders about "significant gains" the Philadelphia School District made in the last year because they said the news was not being fully reported by the media. In a program that drew more than 45 leaders from the business, nonprofit, civic and education communities, Ackerman and Nutter cited eight years of rising test scores and an improved high school graduation rate, and said that 12,000 parents had participated in classes at the district's Parent University. "I think it's important to get our story out and not just depend on the media to do it," Ackerman told reporters in a briefing after the program at City Hall.

Juvenile Justice

D.C. youth justice agency's school improvements deemed 'remarkable'
The Washington Post, Washington, DC – July 9, 2010
The monitor overseeing the court-ordered reform of the District's juvenile justice agency said in a report filed Thursday that the city has staged a "remarkable" turnaround in how it educates juveniles in long-term detention and had moved a step closer to ending a long-running class-action lawsuit. Once marked by a dearth of certified teachers and a lack of appropriate special-education services, the school serving sentenced juveniles was turned over to a private foundation three years ago and has become a model educational program for a juvenile correctional facility, the monitor, Grace M. Lopes, said.

Reform helps ease overcrowding
Shreveport Times, Shreveport, LA – July 9, 2010
The small cell blocks inside of Caddo Juvenile Detention Center are reserved mostly for teens charged with armed robbery, sex crimes and other violent felony offenses. Despite a reported increase in younger, more violent criminals on the streets of Shreveport — including two teen girls charged with the attempted murder of a 70-year-old youth center worker — the facility houses fewer juveniles per day than it has in years. In Caddo Juvenile Detention Center, the daily occupancy dropped to nearly half of the average 45 to 50 children housed three years ago. Prior to 2007, juvenile officials struggled with overcrowding and young offenders making repeat visits.

Residential treatment facility to open at South Bend’s Juvenile Justice Center
WSBT, South Bend, IN – July 6, 2010
The Children’s Campus, a division of the Family & Children’s Center, has reached an agreement with the St. Joseph County Probate Court to operate a residential treatment facility at the Juvenile Justice Center. Consisting of 34 beds, the secure facility will provide clinical, psychiatric, medical, educational, recreational and vocational services to adolescent males with disruptive behavior disorder.

Foster Care

'The Teen Project' Helps Teenagers Aging Out Of The Foster System
The Huffington Post, California – July 7, 2010
For 18-year-old California teen Carla, aging out of the foster care system meant facing life on the streets, with no where to go and no way to support herself. She is one of over 4,000 teenagers who age out of the foster system each year -- in California alone. Luckily for Carla, The Teen Project was able to lend a hand. The organization was founded by Laura Burns, a former foster care child who found herself homeless when she turned 18. Thanks to the organization, Carla has a new home, which she will share with other former foster children, as she attends beauty school to get her cosmetology degree.

Berkeley natives tap media to speed foster care reform, California – July 8, 2010
When Daniel Heimpel and Eytan Elterman were back in town recently, they hit nearly every media outlet in the Bay Area and beyond, from the San Francisco Chronicle to the Sacramento Bee, appointment or not. The team behind Fostering Media Connections, a media-centered, grassroots enterprise aimed at hastening the implementation of foster care reform, was spreading the word about a system that often gets a bad rap. Of course there has been rejection, frustration and stress. But for every story printed and clip streamed, the pair’s social justice endeavor is validated.

Reforms help states cut number of foster-care kids
Richmond Times-Dispatch, New York, NY – July 3, 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 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 less than 16,000 this spring. Thanks to sizable reductions in several other states, it's a coast-to-coast phenomenon -- the latest federal data, from 2008, recorded 463,000 children in foster care nationally, down more than 11 percent from 523,000 in 2002. By reducing stays in foster care, speeding up adoptions and expanding preventive support for troubled families so more children avoid being removed in the first place, the numbers are promising.

Monday, July 05, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


How To Keep Students In School?
Metro News, Charleston, WV – June 30, 2010
The dropout rate for high school students in West Virginia is at 25%.  But Patrick Crane, Governor Joe Manchin's Education Policy Advisor, says the state comes out better than most.  "We're doing better than the national average by about 2-3% points, but this is a huge problem throughout the country."  The Governor's Education Panel met for the first time Wednesday in Charleston with other people who have a vested interest in that number.  "The only way to approach this is as a group that can bring this together from all sides," Crane says.  West Virginia is one of six states to receive a grant from the National Governor's Association to study dropout rates and try to find out the reasons why students leave school.

Program to target high school dropouts
Tampa Bay Online, Sebring, FL – June 26, 2010
A program new to Highlands County will seek out high school dropouts to bring them back to the classroom and working toward a diploma.  The Alternatives Unlimited's Drop Back In Academy program targets 16-21 year-olds who have dropped out of the educational system, given up and stopped attending high school.  Deputy Superintendent Rodney Hollinger said, "It's a neat idea that's a grass roots effort."

New Diploma Standard in New York Becomes a Multiple-Question Choice
The New York Times, New York – June 27, 2010
When the State Education Department announced five years ago that all students would soon be required to pass five tests to earn high school diplomas in New York, officials applauded themselves for raising standards.  The new requirements do not take full effect until the class of 2012 graduates. What is clear is that if they were in place today, New York City’s graduation rate would almost certainly drop after years of climbing steadily. What is not so evident, educators and testing experts say, is whether the higher bar will inspire students and schools to greatness, or merely make them lean more heavily on test-taking strategies. Nor is there agreement on whether it will actually make a difference in how students perform in high school and beyond.

Juvenile Justice

Proposal would identify youths after second serious crime
The Washington Post, Washington, DC – June 29, 2010
For juvenile delinquents in the District, it could soon be two strikes and you're out.  Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the public safety committee, is set to propose legislation this week that would make public the identity of any juvenile offender after a second serious crime.  It would be a radical shift for a juvenile justice system grounded in rehabilitation, and it comes as Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), Mendelson and others city leaders face election-year criticism over their handling of juvenile crime.

Task force: Juvenile justice improving
Citizen’s Voice, Luzerne County, PA – July 2, 2010
The Luzerne County Juvenile Justice Victim Task Force has been trying to change "the culture" of juvenile justice in the county since May 2009, two task force officials said Thursday.  James Davis, a mental health specialist for the Luzerne County Mental Health/Mental Retardation Agency, and Michael Zimmerman, executive director of the Family Service Association of Wyoming Valley, talked to The Citizens' Voice editorial board and claimed some accomplishments.  "Word hasn't really gotten out about some of the positive changes," Zimmerman said.  As a result of former judges Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. being charged in the kids-for-cash scandal, the task force was formed last year. Zimmerman said Carol L. Lavery, the state victim's advocate, helped organize the task force, which consists of more than 40 members.  "It is our hope that because of the damage that's been done, we can put some things together so that we can become a model for other counties," Zimmerman said.

Foster Care

Brighter Tomorrows program helps maturing foster kids
WCF Courier, Waterloo, IA – June 27, 2010
Samantha Banser of Janesville is in her second year as a pre-med student at Wartburg College. She also holds a job.  Despite taking steps toward independence, Banser, 19, said it's still nice to be able to call home for help with a car repair, homework, job networking or simply to share a meal together. Having her family's unconditional love is important.  "They are still there," Banser said.  Banser and her mom, Pam, think every young adult deserves such support. Unfortunately, the Bansers have witnessed firsthand how some young adults exiting the foster care system can struggle with the weight of new responsibilities.

Foster youth an investment worth making
The Bakersfield Californian, CA – June 25, 2010
There's not any fat in the state's anorexic budget. There's not even enough muscle to adequately animate some of California's most vital moving parts. Some cuts we should be able to live with. Others, not so much. Valuable and worthy programs, including many that would have been regarded as essential under other circumstances, have been visited by the fiscal scalpel. As a state, we're the poorer for it.  Some deserving programs are hanging on, albeit barely. One, which was being debated in the state Senate's appropriations committee last week, provides funding for programs to help aged-out foster youth transition into the real world as independent, self-sustaining, tax-paying adults.

Youth in Transition
The Daily Journal, Ukiah, CA – July 2, 2010
It's just a typical Wednesday afternoon in the shady backyard of a transitional living home. There are five young adults speaking with their program director, Mary Tindall, about what they want to have at their Fourth of July barbecue. There's discussion on what meat they want but they all agree on one thing: no potato salad and that Anthony and Amanda will do the grocery shopping, except they'll be using donated funds to pay for it.  The five participate in a program that provides free housing and counseling as well as group activities, such as the occasional communal meals. In fact, the counseling is required in order to take advantage of the free housing and the other benefits. But there are rules: no drugs or alcohol on the premises, youth have to be either working, volunteering or going to school. Some tend to do a combination of all of that.