Monday, April 25, 2011

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


MLive, Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI – April 23, 2011
Slashing the high school dropout rate in half in the Grand Rapids-Wyoming metro area for just one class could pump millions of dollars into the local economy, according to a new study. The Grand Rapids-Wyoming metropolitan statistical area was among nine Metropolitan statistical area in the state analyzed in "Education and the Economy" by the nonprofit Alliance for Excellent Education, with the support of State Farm. The group studied the economic returns lost from young people deciding to leave school. "The best economic stimulus is a high school diploma," said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellence in Education, a Washington, D.C., think tank that advocates for resources for at-risk kids in middle and high school.

Albert Lea Tribune – April 23, 2011
If a state Democrat-sponsored bill gets signed into law, high school dropouts would be unable to obtain their driver’s licenses until they are 18. The proposal has bipartisan support, including the backing of Sen. Gen Olson, a Minnetrista Republican who heads the Senate Education Committee. The bill hasn’t had a hearing yet. “We need to make sure our students stay in school,” said Rep. Jeanne Poppe, D-Austin. “The biggest thing to prevent people from going into poverty or crime would be to have education.”

MindShift – April 22, 2011
Despite President Obama’s loftiest hopes to extend the number of school days per year, many schools are actually having to decrease them because of severe budget cuts. While the number of school days in other countries exceeds 200, they’re being cut further in the U.S. to fewer than 180. With families that have access to enrichment programs and encourage learning online at home, the discrepancy can be filled. But for low-income kids who don’t have those opportunities, fewer school days puts them at an even greater disadvantage. For these kids, the nonprofit organization Citizen Schools attempts to fill that gap. The organization works with low-income students in low-performing middle schools across the country to, in essence, lengthen the learning day by “bringing in a second shift of educators who work with students,” says Stacey Gilbert, the organization’s spokesperson.

Juvenile Justice

Pantagraph, Springfield, IL – April 21, 2011
A prison reform group is criticizing one of the state's juvenile detention facilities in southern Illinois for relying too heavily on solitary confinement to discipline youth. The Illinois Youth Center in Harrisburg, a medium security facility for boys, used solitary confinement more than any other Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice facility, according to a report issued Wednesday by the John Howard Association, a prison watchdog group. The 239-resident facility used confinement 122 times in January and 103 times in February this year, the report said. Kendall Marlowe, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, said the department is reviewing the use of confinement at all of its facilities.

Youth Today – April 21, 2011
After a long, frustrating wait for action on any juvenile justice-related legislation, the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – now known as No Child Left Behind – offers advocates a chance to improve the plight of youth who are incarcerated. The education act sets standards for schooling in juvenile facilities, which can be a key to improving a youth’s chances for staying out of such institutions in the future. “This is a huge piece of the day running 24-7 facilities,” said Ed Dolan, deputy commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services. Having a better school day can “stabilize things for so many other units.”

Tampa Bay Online – April 18, 2011
A program designed to give juvenile law-breakers a chance to avoid arrest records will be bolstered around the state under bills approved by the House last week and on track for passage in the Senate. Employing what are known as civil citations, the program provides social services for first-time youthful offenders who commit certain nonviolent crimes and allows them to take responsibility for their actions without having to enter the juvenile justice system. "This bill is a really important first step in our juvenile justice reform efforts," said Wansley Walters, secretary of the state Department of Juvenile Justice, speaking before a Senate committee that approved the bill sponsored by Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico.

Foster Care

The Spokesman Review – April 21, 2011
Justin Vinge, Josephine Davis and Mariah Hottell have a lot in common. They’re bright, articulate and successful college students. They’ve also been called disposable, unwanted and told they’d never succeed. These Spokane Falls Community College students are former foster youth who are proving their detractors wrong. Recently, the three shared their stories at a College Success Foundation storytelling workshop in Issaquah, Wash. The foundation funds and administrates several scholarship programs like Passport to College Promise, which makes it possible for foster care youth to attend college. “We’re all part of the Passport program,” Hottell, 19, said. For young people who’ve spent their childhoods moving from house to house, never feeling like they belonged, the sense of community they’ve found at SFCC is empowering.

Huffington Post – April 19, 2011
In the first part of this two-part series highlighting the hardships that half a million foster children face each year, Enrique Montiel shared his story. As a foster care alumnus, he now works as a social worker within the system that took him, and his five siblings, from his parents when he was only 9. Montiel advocates for teens who share the experiences he endured and the problems that persist in America's foster homes. His story provides hope for those who continue to deal with the rampant race issues, homophobia that results in the abuse of LGBT foster children and the denial of adoptive opportunities for LGBT potential parents, problems in education stemming from emotional stress and frequent relocation, and health hazards that result from neglect and abuse that plague the foster care system. However, as looming budget deficits force states to scramble to reduce recessionary spending, many may cut the programs that provide services to foster children.

­­NY Daily News – April 8, 2011
Like many young adults her age, Jessica Jimenez is looking for her first apartment. She's figuring out rent, calculating how she would get around, juggling figures to see how she can afford utility bills, health care and cable television. "It's stressful," Jimenez said. "A lot of stuff is going on and, sometimes, it's a little overwhelming. "But I have hope that everything is going to be fine." As she says this, Jimenez's eyes are a bit careworn and the set of her jaw resolute. Judging from where she came from to where she is now, there is little doubt the College of Staten Island second-year student will get where she plans to go. Jimenez has been in the city's foster care system since she was 8 years old. The 21-year-old will "age out" of the system in a few weeks, meaning she will be on her own.

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