Monday, December 06, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


The New York Times – November 30, 2010
The nation’s high school graduation rate, which declined in the latter part of the 20th century, may have hit bottom and begun to rise, according to a report to be issued Tuesday by a nonprofit group founded by former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. “The United States is turning a corner in meeting the high school dropout epidemic,” General Powell and his wife, Alma J. Powell, wrote in a letter introducing the report.

Tennessean, Rutherford County, TN – December 2, 2010
Strategies to get high school students to graduate on time like those implemented by the Rutherford County seem to be working. Don Odom, assistant superintendent of instruction and curriculum for Rutherford County Schools, said in 2009 Rutherford County's graduation rate was 91.3 percent, compared to the state's rate of 83.2 percent, according to the state report card. Four years prior, the state's rate was 77.9 percent, while the county's rate was 88.1 percent.

The New York Times, Baltimore, MD – December 1, 2010
For years, this city had one of the worst school systems in the country. Fewer than half its students graduated, enrollment had fallen precipitously and proficiency levels were far below the national average.  In 2007, the school board hired Andres Alonso, a Cuban immigrant with a Harvard degree and strong views on how to change things. In three years, he pushed through a sweeping reorganization of the school system, closing failing schools, slashing the central office staff by a third and replacing three-quarters of all school principals.

Juvenile Justice

The Washington Post, District of Columbia – November 30, 2010
In an effort to keep serious school misbehavior from spiraling into even more serious juvenile delinquency, the law school at the University of the District of Columbia is taking up cases of public school students who have been suspended for weeks or months.  Hundreds of D.C. public school students are suspended every year for periods of up to 90 days. Critics of the practice say that far from encouraging better behavior, the suspensions often open the door to more trouble.

Kane County Chronicle, Kane County, IL – December 1, 2010
A recent inspection of the Kane County Juvenile Detention Center by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice listed seven areas of improvement.  The detention center’s assistant superintendent, Amy Sierra, has been with the center for 19 years and was promoted to her new position in February. She said she has seen improvements over the last year that she credits to a new approach to dealing with youths.  “I think we focus a lot more on training now,” Sierra said. “Punishing them does not always work.”

The Gadsden Times, Alabama – November 29, 2010
Alabama is changing the way juvenile justice and detention operates and The Bridge, which operates an adolescent drug and alcohol treatment facility in Gadsden, has developed programs that some officials are saying should be adopted for use throughout the state. “We're leading the way in the state, really, in the way the way things are shaped,” said Terry Schrimscher, director of marketing for The Bridge.

Foster Care

Public News Service, Minneapolis, MN – November 30, 2010
The transition to adulthood can be a bumpy road for young people, and family support is often a critical lifeline. But for foster kids who have aged out of the system, the transition is even harder, as many lack the skills needed to make the jump to adulthood. A recent study from the University of Chicago suggests that extending foster care, or providing additional support until age 21, helps aid the transition, and one Minnesota program is doing exactly that. The Division of Indian Work's Healthy Transitions program teaches a range of life skills such as resume building and job hunting, applying for college, and apartment hunting.

Tallahassee Democrat, Florida – November 30, 2010
The Department of Children and Families has launched an initiative focusing on the educational needs of children in the state's care. Foster children tend to have a lot on their minds. School can easily become second priority. They often have the burden of worrying about court dates, life on their own or where they are going to get their next meal, said DCF Circuit 2 Operations Administrator Traci Leavine.

Central Florida Future, Orlando, FL – December 5, 2010
Last year, while some students went home to celebrate the holidays with their families, one UCF student, still in Orlando, found herself sleeping on four different couches. As this holiday season nears, she's still not sure what her plans will be. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, there are currently 423,773 foster youths in the U.S.; junior advertising and public relations major Tara Dinoski is one of them. Dinoski was 14 when her mother's parenting rights were terminated when she tried to commit suicide in front of Dinoski and her brothers, who were ages 5 and 3. Today, Dinoski is a student with a mission: She wants to help foster students succeed in college and encourage foster youths to do so. This led her to create Golden Hearts at UCF, a student organization dedicated to raise awareness about foster care and build a family-like support group for former foster students, international students and students from broken homes.

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