Monday, January 24, 2011

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


The State, Columbia, SC – January 21, 2011
A sweeping $350,000 state-funded initiative to prevent dropouts at a high school with one of the Midlands’ highest dropout rates is only five months old but already drawing rave reviews.  “This time of the year, we would have had about 15 students in the 9th grade drop out. They get discouraged and don’t come back after Christmas break,” said Nathan White, 53, principal of C.A. Johnson High School, which serves a low-income area in downtown Columbia.

Daily Camera, Boulder, CO – January 22, 2011
Johnny Fernandez hated seeing teens, year after year, give up on school and slip away to an uncertain future.  "I feel responsible for every single kid," said the assistant principal at Lafayette's Centaurus High School. "You get tired of seeing kids disengage."  So he and others at the school gathered a group of students who seemed most likely to drop out, those with a large number of absences and few credits, and asked them what they needed from the school to make it work.

The Herald, Smithfield, NE – January 19, 2011
Fewer students are dropping out of Johnston County schools.  Last school year, the one-year dropout rate in Johnston schools fell to 3.71 percent from 4.58 percent in 2008-09. Last year, 340 students quit school, down from 411 the year before. "A tremendous amount of work has been done to address this problem in last few years," said Keith Beamon, the school system's chief academic officer. "Our position around the region and the Triangle has elevated."

Juvenile Justice

Whither Young Offenders? The Debate Has Begun
The New York Times, California – January 23, 2011
Joaquin E. DiazDeLeon, a former Fresno gang member, spent two years inside California's juvenile prison system. What he found there, he said, was no better than the streets he came from.  Instead of rehabilitating young offenders, he said, correctional officers spent most of their time separating rival gangs. Violence was so pervasive, he said, that he kept his gang affiliation just to protect himself.

The Crime Report – January 19, 2011
The Coalition for Juvenile Justice, a national association of governor-appointed state advisory groups, is critical of the A&E series “Beyond Scared Straight,” which began airing last week. The series highlights an intervention that purports to turn children and youth away from delinquent and criminal behavior. In fact, such approaches, the coalition said, have been shown to have the opposite of the desired effect and to increase delinquency. Started years ago with good intentions, ‘Scared Straight’ approaches have now been well-evaluated and shown to have a damaging rather than positive impact, said David Schmidt, chair of the coalition and president of the New Mexico Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Youth Today – January 22, 2011
The number of independent state juvenile justice agencies has dropped recently, and it is likely that 2011 will drive that figure down again.  There were 21 independent agencies in 2007, according to information collected annually by the Braintree, Mass.-based Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators. By 2009, that number had dropped to 16. New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia had all moved juvenile services within the purview of their respective social services or child welfare agencies.

Foster Care

San Antonio Express-News, Texas – January 23, 2011
A new study commissioned by the state found that thousands of children bounce around in the foster care system for years and never find a permanent home, partly because of flaws in the judicial system.  Conducted by Texas Appleseed, an Austin-based social justice group, the study examined data for all 21,000 children in long-term foster care in Texas in 2008. It revealed that children in state custody for more than three years experienced an average of 11 different placements, according to a news release issued by the group.

The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah – January 18, 2011
Legislative auditors believe too many Utah children are being diverted to foster care instead of being treated, along with their families, at home.  A report released this week by Utah’s Legislative Auditor General says putting more children into foster care is costing the state too much money when alternatives are available that also can protect children, plus help resolve family issues.  The auditors pointed out that more than 700 children have been added to the Utah foster care system in the past decade, a 38 percent increase, and a trend opposite to what has happened around the U.S.

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