Monday, August 02, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Group works to ease high school dropouts
News 14, Forsyth County, NC – July 27, 2010
Each year, hundreds of teens don't make it to graduation and end up dropping out of high school. It's a problem one group is working to solve with the help of the community. But now the group is in desperate need of volunteers for the upcoming school year. Every year, about 800 students drop out of Winston-Salem Forsyth County schools and officials say that only hurts the community. Statistics show high school dropouts are only qualified for twelve percent of jobs, are more likely to be on public assistance and 80-percent of prisoners never graduated high school. Most often, the students who are struggling and contemplating dropping out simply need a mentor or an alternative viewpoint to give them that extra boost.

Closing graduation gap for minority students: Putting a price tag on a high school diploma – July 27, 2010
There's a dollars and cents argument for graduating more students from America's high schools and for closing the graduation gap between white and non-white students, both here in the Twin Cities area and across the nation, a new study by the Alliance for Excellent Education shows. One education proponent goes so far as to suggest "the best economic stimulus package is a high school diploma.'' That graduation gap is particularly alarming given that minority birth rates are increasing, added Bob Wise, president of the Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that has long worked to improve America's high schools.

Brown unveils education reform plan
Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA – July 29, 2010
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown unveiled an education reform plan Wednesday that calls for a wholesale restructuring of California's public school system, from changing the way schools are funded to revamping the state's higher education system. The eight-page plan touches upon the major issues facing the state's education system, from the increasing cost of college to the state's dismal dropout rate. Some of the proposals, such as changing the way schools are funded, would take years. Brown urged patience.

Juvenile Justice

Merger of State Agencies Seen as Benefit for At-Risk Youth
WQAD, Moline, IL – July 29, 2010
When two companies merge, there can often be uncertainty and fear among the employees. Will the new union result in downsizing? Will everyone still have a job next month? Those were the concerns earlier this year when Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced what he called a major "sea change" in state service agencies-- merging the state Department of Juvenile Justice with DCFS, the Department of Child and Family Services. Critics said the move would wind up hurting Juvenile Justice, because the department would now be competing with DCFS for state funds. And those same critics say similar mergers in other states have failed. In the Quad Cities, though, two major services agencies say the merger is a great idea. Angela Moody is CEO of Arrowhead Ranch in Coal Valley, a service agency that receives state funds to help juvenile offenders and other at-risk youths. "The merger with DCFS creates opportunities for kids to maybe go and receive therapeutic services that they might not have received if they just remained with the Department of Juvenile Justice."

Peer pressure of another kind
Star Tribune, Minnesota – July 24, 2010
The roomful of teens in black shirts eating pizza, chatting and swilling soda seemed ordinary enough. Except for the police officers sitting among them -- one in uniform, two in plainclothes. And then there were the four students in a nearby hallway who had run afoul of school rules or state laws. The kids in black were there to decide their fate. It's called Peer C.O.R., or Peer Council for Offense Resolution. It is a program that started last year at East Ridge High School and already has spread to the other two high schools in the South Washington County district -- Park and Woodbury -- and a few others.

New program keeping troubled youths out of judicial system, Connecticut - July 25, 2010
A system of referring troubled teens to Family Support Centers rather than to detention facilities is keeping a large number of them out of the juvenile justice system, according to a new study drawing national attention. Since the program's launch in 2007, there has been a 41 percent decline in the number of youth who break rules but not the law referred to juvenile court, and a 94 percent decrease in the number of those youth cases handled by the judicial system. Developed by the Connecticut Judicial Branch's Court Support Services under the direction of an advisory board led by two University of Connecticut professors, the model is seen as so successful it's being touted as a "best practice" by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Foster Care

DCF Secretary to testify in D.C. on foster care
The Miami Herald, Tallahassee, FL – July 29, 2010
The head of the state's child welfare agency will testify in Washington D.C. about how states can use federal funds to keep children out of foster care. Florida's Department of Children and Families was the first to accept a federal waiver that allows unprecedented flexibility in funding abuse prevention services, which include parenting classes, substance abuse and mental health treatment and even emergency cash assistance. The flexibility allows the department to keep more families together by offering them help up front, instead of removing the children first. DCF has reduced the number of foster children by 36 percent since 2007.

Make Room for Emancipated Foster Youth
Santa Barbara Independent, Santa Barbara, CA – July 30, 2010
The Artisan Court studio apartments are intended to provide affordable housing for young people who have recently aged-out of foster care. To raise fund for supplying the apartments with basic, starting essentials, Second Story Associates, a nonprofit affiliate of the City of Santa Barbara’s Housing Authority, has launched the Adopt-a-Room campaign. Thirty-two percent of foster kids experience homelessness within three years of emancipation, according to a Santa Barbara Housing Authority press release. Hopefully, the 55-unit Artisan Court, currently under construction at 422 E. Cota Street and expected to be ready for occupancy December, will improve that statistic and the cruel reality behind it.

Fewer Pa. children in foster care earns praise
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania – July 24, 2010
Thanks to a host of new strategies -- the latest a reference guide for family court judges and child practitioners -- the state is improving the way cases involving neglected and abused children are handled both in the courtroom and outside it. According to Department of Welfare statistics, the number of Pennsylvania children in foster care fell from 21,395 in September 2006 to 15,920 in March 2010. As a result of 5,475 fewer children in foster care, the child welfare system has saved Pennsylvania $220 million. The number of children in foster care in Allegheny County decreased by 1,005, from 2,918 to 1,913, during that four-year period.

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