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Today's News

World headlines news relating to children, youth and families

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UK: Birmingham recruits Lincolnshire children's services chief
Birmingham's embattled children's services department has appointed a director from an Ofsted-rated outstanding authority to turn around its fortunes. Peter Duxbury, currently executive director of children’s and adults’ services at Lincolnshire County Council, was offered the job earlier this month following a series of interviews, including one by a panel of four young people. He will take up the director of children’s services post in Birmingham from the beginning of April, replacing Eleanor Brazil who was drafted in by government on a temporary basis to overhaul local services as part of an improvement notice. Duxbury became the director of children’s services at Lincolnshire in 2005 and led the authority from being rated adequate by Ofsted to outstanding. Prior to that he worked as a social worker and youth justice worker at several local authorities in the north-west of England before becoming assistant director of children’s services in Liverpool in 2001.

New Zealand: South Canterbury child abuse escalates
Almost 370 child abuse cases were confirmed by Child, Youth and Family in South Canterbury last year, and at least a dozen people are facing criminal charges. The number of cases also means six more care and protection social worker roles are being established within CYF in South Canterbury. Confirmed abuse rose more than 22 per cent last year, from 300 in the year to the end of June 2010, to 368 incidents of abuse in the following 12 months. The abuse figures come as no surprise to South Canterbury CIB head Detective Sergeant Dylan Murray, as an extra detective was assigned more than 12 months ago to deal with the increasing number of investigations being handled by police locally. Other CIB staff also have to assist the two dedicated child abuse officers. What the abuse statistics do not include are the 212 kids referred to CYF because they have witnessed serious domestic violence. "I think, hopefully, people are sick and tired of putting up with family violence and sexual abuse of women and children and are getting more prepared to report it," Mr Murray said.

UK: Call to Derbyshire youngsters over youth council vote
YOUNG people in Derbyshire have until Friday, February 10, to nominate themselves for election in the Big Vote for Derbyshire Youth Council. The election, run by Derbyshire County Council, is open to students from Derbyshire secondary and special schools, along with colleges in the county. There will also be a young person elected to represent looked after children. Youth council members get involved with decision-making and have their say about issues that affect young people.

Ontario: Local CAS closes last group home
The Children's Aid Society of London and Middlesex shut down the last of its six group homes Friday, moving youth to "community partners." The move raises fear quality of care will be compromised, said Ellen Long of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents CAS workers. "I think when you have dedicated resources and a structure, that is when you can be effective, you do not lose accountability," Long, a spokesperson with the union's Toronto office, said Friday. "We need to support young people, they fall through the cracks repeatedly when they go from service to service." But the CAS believes the model, with Friday's closing the final step in a six-long plan, will mean better care for youth in need, said Pat Finch, a communications official with the CAS in London.

Australia: Foster care agencies demand more cash
THE biggest shake-up in foster care in the state's history has hit a snag as child welfare agencies demand more government funding to take on responsibility for thousands of children in care. A survey of 23 agencies has found only two had signed letters of intent by the January 20 deadline signalling acceptance of the government's offer. Under the shake-up, the government will transfer responsibility for all court-ordered foster care, including for nearly 8000 children now with Community Services, to a phalanx of non-government agencies, such as Barnardos and UnitingCare Burnside. These agencies manage about 2500 children. But the government's offer of a fixed price of $37,000 per child in standard care has been widely rebuffed as inadequate and inflexible.

Florida: Former Foster Youth Face Cut
Only three percent of kids aging out of Florida’s foster care system receive a college degree. The state pays their tuition and offers a stipend for living expenses until they turn 23. Advocates say it’s helping, but as Whitney Ray tells us, the stipend is under attack as state lawmakers try to balance the budget with two billion fewer dollars. Derrick Riggins was first placed in foster care at two. He was beaten, sexually abused and shipped from home to home. “I went back to my mother and then eventually around the age of 12, 13 I was placed in foster care,” said Derrick. When he turned 18, Derrick fled, enrolled at FAMU and paid his bills with student loans. It was a struggle to make ends meet. Derrick didn’t know the state offers free tuition and a monthly stipend for living expenses to kids who aged out of the foster care system. When he found out, it made all the difference. He graduated at 23, enrolled in grad school at FSU and received a master’s degree.

UK: Fostering service in East Sussex gets thumbs up from Ofsted
THE Fostering Service in East Sussex has been given a glowing report by Government inspectors who concluded that the service is “outstanding”. The service, run by East Sussex County Council, received the top grade across all areas put under the microscope by Ofsted. The news has been welcomed by Cllr Colin Belsey, the council’s Lead Member for Children and Families. He said: “This is an exceptionally good inspection result and it’s hard to imagine a more glowing or positive report from the inspectors. “Everyone involved in the service, whether that be the young people who are looked after, their carers, or the staff working to support them, should be extremely proud of this result.” The council’s fostering service is responsible for the recruitment, assessment, supervision, support and training of foster carers who look after approximately 520 young people in care. All areas of the service’s work were subjected to scrutiny in the latest inspection and, in all respects, the outcome was that the service was outstanding.

Kansas: KDHE implements changes for child care licensing
Post-hearing changes have been completed to proposed new and amended regulations for licensed day care homes, group day care centers, child care centers and preschools, according to an announcement this week by the KDHE’s Child Care Licensing program. The Kansas Legislature passed significant changes to the Child Care Act in 2010. The changes, known as Lexie’s Law, increased protection for children in child care settings and directed KDHE to develop additional health and safety regulations. According to the announcement, the regulations have been published in the Kansas Register and will become effective Feb. 3.



UK: Brighton councillors vote to strengthen ties with voluntary youth organisations
Plans to strengthen links between voluntary organisations and Brighton council's youth services have been approved by councillors, in an attempt to retain universal provision while offering more targeted support to young people. Brighton and Hove City Council’s children and young people cabinet group voted in support of plans, which propose to improve involvement of young people in decision-making and develop closer links with voluntary organisations. A joint commissioning board made up of council officers and partner agencies will be established to co-ordinate the commissioning of services for young people and an independent broker, funded through the Local Government Association’s leadership centre, will work with community and voluntary sector providers and the youth service to produce proposals for local youth service delivery.

Toronto: Child advocacy centre closer to reality in Toronto
The City of Toronto continues to take leadership in issues key to making the community a better and safer place for citizens. Children’s advocates are one step closer to opening a centre that will provide a coordinated approach to child-abuse investigations. The Toronto Police Service welcomed the announcement that the federal government and local philanthropists will fund the city’s first-ever Child & Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC). The centre will house all the professionals required to take part in an investigation, from law enforcement and child protection staff to medical professional and trauma counsellors. “Today, we celebrate the announcement of an incredibly generous offer of support from our community partners, who have provided us with an opportunity to bring to life a centre where we can provide one-stop shopping services to children and families who are in need of those services,” Chief Bill Blair said. “I am confident that, through this investment, there will be an extraordinary return and that the people of Toronto will be better served and, most importantly, the children of this city will be better protected because we are going to work better together.”

New Zealand: Child abuse law changes in the spotlight
Former All Black Norm Hewitt says people concerned about children born to parents who already have children in state care should let their views be known. The call comes after the release of two Families Commission reports that look at the issue of children born into families where Child Youth and Family (CYF) have removed previous children from the parents' care because of abuse. The issue is critical, because of all the children placed in CYF care, nearly half had a sibling who had previously been removed, the commission said. Social Development Minister Paula Bennett asked for the reports after the death of Morrinsville toddler Hail-Sage McClutchie, who died last year after suffering serious head injuries.

US: Alumnus of Foster Care from Kentucky Honored
Casey Family Programs, a national operating foundation committed to improving the lives of children and families in communities across America, has named William Earl Washington of Lexington, Ky., among the winners of the annual Casey Excellence for Children Awards. The foundation gives the awards to recognize outstanding individuals who have demonstrated distinguished work, exceptional leadership and relentless dedication in improving the child welfare system. Mr. Washington received the award in the category for alumni of foster care. The award recognizes alumni of foster care who have helped other alumni advocate for themselves, or have helped them become advocates for other alumni. William Earl Washington spent nearly 10 years in foster care in Kentucky. He grew up in a low-income, inner-city neighborhood in Lexington where conditions of the community sometimes made it difficult for him to realize his full potential. Mr. Washington has spent the last 11 years as an advocate for at-risk youth – in particular, older youth – both in and out of the foster care system. After completing his undergraduate studies, he became a case worker for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, where he advocated for children and families in the system.

Florida: Debate Hot Over Foster Transition Funding
A passionate debate over a stipend for foster-care youth ended Tuesday with a House panel voting to reduce eligibility in the Road to Independence program from age 23 to 21. Less than two weeks after the Senate voted unanimously to make changes to the transition program, the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee voted Tuesday to reduce the cap to 21, a move backers say will save the state $11,680,309. The vote in favor of the conforming bill was 9-5. Supporters of the measure, including Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples and the panels chairman, said 21 is old enough for young adults to be independent. "Were not just going to keep handing out money," said Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala and father of two adopted sons. "We can't just keep extending childhood till they're 40." Hudson said that to put the bill in perspective, it affects just 657 of about 19,000 children and youth in the state system. Its the right thing for Florida, he concluded. But opponents including young adults who told lawmakers they're succeeding thanks to the stipend say the help is needed to repair the damage done, first by failed parents and then by state care.

Foster Kids Lobby Lawmakers
Foster kids were at the Iowa Statehouse today as part of a group called Achieving Maximum Potential or AMP. They represent youth service groups from across Iowa and had plenty of suggestions for lawmakers today. Each foster child who came to the Statehouse had a specific problem they've experienced and had a suggested solution for lawmakers to consider. For example, 17-year-old Austin Bonar has moved around a lot in foster care, so he's advocating for universal high school credits across the state. "Kids bounce from school district to school district and their credits don't transfer over," said Bonar. "Ultimately, kids don't graduate." Children who move from place to place can face other problems like bullying. "Foster care children tend to be bullied more because of the fact that they aren't at their home," said Jacob Carmi, a child who has had experience being bullied. "People take that as a sign that they did something wrong and so they get bullied for something they have not have done."

Australia: Refugee given inadequate care: court
A teenage refugee who tried to hang himself in immigration detention did not receive adequate psychological care, a court has heard. The 18-year-old's lawyers are asking the Federal Court to force the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) to release the boy into a community-based detention facility. The Kuwaiti youth, who has just turned 18, was granted refugee status last year. He didn't get his visa because the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) gave him an adverse security check. The youth, who arrived in Australia in late 2010, remains in indefinite detention. He has spent time at Christmas Island, Melbourne and Darwin detention centres.

UK: More money for foster carers
Foster carers will be paid more as Essex County Council (ECC) seeks to tackle a caring gap. ECC needs another 100 families to sign up as foster parents in order to cut the numbers of children placed in more costly private care.
Families will now receive up to £250 per week, up from £240, plus expenses, to care for the most challenging children. Jim Bond, chairman of the Essex Fosters Care Association, welcomed the funding increase, but believes there are other areas which need improving. Leader of the council, Peter Martin, said ECC is looking at other methods to attract foster carers, including promotional DVDs and recruitment drives.

Florida: Will cuts to foster care cost more in the long run?
Mental health professionals will tell you there are children across the Tampa Bay area who have been through hell. Many have been ripped out of the care of their parents due to abuse, neglect, or even death. Some are forced to live in a stranger's home and, in some instances, children in state care will live in dozens of foster care homes while waiting to be adopted. The experience can be traumatic, but for those young people who age out of the system, they're getting a rude awakening. Florida lawmakers want to cut back on how long it will pay to help them get their lives on track. April White, 21, of St. Petersburg has been through more heartache and disappointment in her young life than most experience in a lifetime. She was born into state care when her mother gave birth to her in prison. White went through 32 different foster homes between the ages of 5 and 12. She was eventually adopted by her case worker, but was returned to state care a second time when she was 16. She aged out of the system before she could find a permanent home.

UK: FCA targets fostering recruitment in the police force
Foster Care Associates (FCA), a leading Independent Fostering Agency, has announced its new campaign to attract foster carers with experience in the police force. This latest initiative is currently underway across the United Kingdom and is designed to attract previous and existing members of the police force to provide fostering placements for young people who may require a high level of support. FCA specialises in providing foster care for children and young people with complex needs or difficult behaviours. To tie in with an approach that offers the highest level of support for these young people from professionals within the agency, FCA seeks to recruit foster carers to provide additional support within the home. It is hoped that potential foster carers with a professional history within the police force may be able to bring a unique level of relevant experience and motivation to the task of fostering.


UK: Brighton and Hove charities welcome youth strategy
Community groups will have a greater say on shaping youth services under a new strategy. Brighton and Hove City Council’s commissioning strategy for services for young people has been welcomed by charities who say it will help “protect and enhance” services in the city. Voluntary and community groups will work more closely to ensure both specialist youth work and general drop-in facilities can continue running. The strategy will also see the council working in partnership with other organisations to commission a range of services, from sports and leisure activities, arts and cultural opportunities to specialist support for vulnerable young people.

Ireland: Govt 'improving its record' on children's rights
Parents of youngsters starting school this year may be pleased to hear the government's record on children's rights is said to be improving. This is according to the Children's Rights Alliance, which has issued its latest report on the country's performance in this area, which awarded the Fine Gael/Labour coalition an overall grade of C+. It was noted this is the highest score since the annual study was introduced four years ago and reflects moves such as the establishment of a dedicated Department of Children and Youth Affairs and a commitment to hold a referendum on children's rights this year. Chief executive of the organisation Tanya Ward said despite concerns surrounding the impact of last month's Budget on vulnerable families, it is good to see progress is being made.

Czech Republic: Youth offenders increasingly brutal
Brutality of underage perpetrators has been steeply rising in the Czech Republic and they often attack their victims merely to have fun without any apparent reason, the daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes yesterday. It cites several acts recently committed by children and youth in the country. In Pardubice, east Bohemia, six boys aged between 17 and 19 brutally beat up two homeless and they urinated on them just to vent their anger on them. The first victim nearly died and the other will have permanent health consequences. The perpetrators were sent to prison for many years last week. The police say juvenile perpetrators intensify not only their physical brutality but also psychological tormenting of their victims, LN adds. It refers to a case of a group of underage schoolmates in Central Bohemia who dragged a drunk student into a cellar and raped her. Moreover, they shot the act on a video camera and released the shots on the school's website. They face up to five years in prison

US: Foster-care agency earns top ranking
A local agency centered on foster care, adoption and family services has been ranked best in the state, according to a new state scoring report. Big Bend Community Based Care, which serves 12 counties in the Big Bend, ranked No. 1 in the recently released Community-Based Care Lead Agency Scorecard. The scorecard, developed by the Florida Department of Children and Families and Florida Coalition for Children, evaluated the 20 community-based nonprofit agencies in the state. The goal, DCF spokesman Joe Follick explained, was to consolidate the information.  "These are things we have always measured," Follick said. "The idea of putting them in one place, on a score card, for anyone interested in how the CBCs are performing — that's a new idea." Mike Watkins, CEO of Big Bend Community Based Care, said that although the high ranking was given to the agency, the designation belonged to the people who worked for and with it. "It is really a reflection of the judges we are working with and the case workers who are taking care of kids," Watkins said, "the foster parents and adoptive parents who are tucking them in at night."

Tasmania: Council turns to kids
The Hobart City Council will consult children to help develop policies. Hobart Lord Mayor Damon Thomas launched the council's children and families strategy yesterday and said developing policies with children was nothing new. Ald Thomas said children were consulted last year in a review of the council's arts and cultural strategy. "The Commissioner for Children (Aileen Ashford) and child and youth family services can help the council on how to deal with children, because it is a pretty delicate thing to be negotiating with six-year-olds," Ald Thomas said. "This is about directly asking children what they want as opposed to saying here is another piece of paper you will have a skateboard park over there because we are telling you." Ald Thomas said the plan supported and promoted council and community opportunities for families and children to participate fully in community life, have access to appropriate services, and increase opportunities for children to live in healthy, safe environments.

Canada: BCCLA wants to prevent changes to female
young offender services

The BC Civil Liberties Association hopes the province’s children’s rights advocate will push for changes to the government's plan to centralize services for female young offenders. It was announced last week that two such units in Prince George and Victoria would be shut down and moved to Burnaby. BCCLA executive director David Eby says he's concerned about girls having to spend many hours shackled in sheriffs' vans while travelling to Burnaby and that they’d be away from their families. "Manitoba tried something like this where they shipped girls long distances from their communities to a centralized facility, and they had two very tragic suicides that arose from these girls being so detached from their communities." Child and Youth Representative Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond has responded to Eby's request, saying she will look into it.

UK: Foster system held back by council fear of criticism
A culture of fear has led some councils to protect themselves more than the children in their care, according to the government's child protection adviser. Professor Eileen Munro was responding to "distressing failings" in the foster care system highlighted by the BBC. They include children being removed from homes because of unsubstantiated allegations. The government says it has committed to overhauling the fostering system. With 65,000 children in care in England alone, and with a shortage of foster carers, the need for homes has never been greater. But the BBC's File on 4 programme has found evidence of foster carers being shut out of the system following disputes with social services departments. Professor Munro, from the London School of Economics, said councils were often too quick to remove children from foster homes because they were afraid of criticism.

UConn outlines new abuse policy for lawmakers
University of Connecticut officials have outlined for lawmakers new policies for responding to reports of sexual abuse and child abuse on campus. The policies, expected to be adopted by the school's Board of Trustees on Wednesday, would require almost all employees, including coaches, to report suspected abuse to one of three campus offices — the school's Title IX coordinator, the Office of Community Standards, or the Office of Diversity and Equity. The school officials testified Tuesday before two committees considering legislation in response to the child abuse scandal at Penn State.
Lawmakers also are looking at proposals that would expand the list of professionals required to report child abuse to the state Department of Children and Families to include college and youth coaches.

New Zealand: Three young Aucklanders join UNICEF as youth ambassadors
After searching the length and breadth of the country for young, passionate New Zealanders who want to make a difference in the world, UNICEF NZ (UN Children’s Fund) has chosen six students to become its 2012 Youth Ambassadors. The new UNICEF NZ Youth Ambassadors were chosen from an in-depth process of written applications and interviews. The successful six began their new role with a workshop weekend at the charity’s offices in Wellington which took place from January 21–23. The practical training weekend was an opportunity for the new Ambassadors to get to know each other, learn more about the mission and values of UNICEF New Zealand, share ideas about how to make a difference, and gain the skills needed to take action.



Youthful tinge to Australian awards
There's a youthful theme to this year's Australian of the Year nominees - many of them have been given the nod for their work with children and young people. The Queensland couple's son Daniel was kidnapped in 2003. Since then, they have fought two heartfelt campaigns - to find Daniel and educate children about stranger danger through a foundation set up in their son's name. Child safety crusaders Bruce and Denise Morcombe are the hot favourites to win the award, according to Centrebet. Nominees include children's advocate and health researcher Professor Donna Cross, actor Geoffrey Rush who was nominated partly for his role mentoring young artists, and Robyn Layton who has long been a social justice campaigner, particularly for children. She conducted a review of child protection laws for the South Australian government in 2005 and has also been a strong campaigner on behalf of Aboriginal people. Northern Territory nominee Dr John Boffa is another advocate for indigenous people, mainly for improving Aboriginal health.

Ohio: Effort aims to link Cleveland's many youth mentoring groups
An effort begins Friday, Jan. 27, to link up the dozens of Northeast Ohio organizations that provide mentoring to young people, and to strategize about ways they can work together. The drive kicks off with "A Celebration of Youth Mentoring," set for 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Friendly Inn Settlement House, 2386 Unwin Road, Cleveland. Co-sponsors are the Cleveland Foundation, its MyCom youth initiative, the Sisters of Charity Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland. Organizers hope to get a handle on how many mentoring programs there are locally, and discuss ways to work together in the coming year, said Lisa Bottoms, Cleveland Foundation program director for human services and child and youth development. "We in the mentoring world have not had any kind of infrastructure. We haven't looked at how we do recruitment and retention and what are the best practices," Bottoms said. "Those are things we'll be exploring."

BC. Rights groups angered by closing of girls' jails
Legal and civil rights advocates have joined forces against a B.C. government decision to close two jail units for girls in Victoria and Prince George. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association, West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund and Justice for Girls want a review of the plan to house all female young offenders at the Burnaby youth custody centre. "Separating girls from their families and communities is bad policy and will be especially damaging to girls from isolated and remote parts of the province," Laura Track, legal director of West Coast LEAF, said in a statement Friday. The Ministry of Children and Family Development has said the move will save $2.5 million and stems, in part, from the fact that B.C. has one of the lowest youth incarceration rates in the country. The number of youth in jail has fallen 75 per cent from a high of 400 in 1996 to a current average of 105.

Ireland: Concerns about aftercare for young
THE CARE provided to unaccompanied young people once they reached 18 was “a long way short of adequate” and left the young people forgetting “how to be happy”, a conference in Dublin heard yesterday. Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald addressed the conference hosted by Young People at Risk. After hearing some of the stories of unaccompanied young people’s experiences of the care system, she said she would meet Gordon Jeyes, HSE director of child and family services, next week to discuss the issues. The conference heard of young foreign nationals who had been in residential care but once they turned 18 were sent to adult direct-provision accommodation, sometimes on the other side of the State, sometimes sharing rooms with older people while they were studying for their Leaving Cert, without any aftercare support.

UK: 100 children's services jobs go at Leicester City Council
More than 100 jobs in Leicester City Council's children and young people's department could be axed. The authority said the cuts were necessary as a number of grants to the department have been reduced or discontinued. It plans to save more than £10.5 million from the department over the next three years. The jobs set to be axed include the teenage pregnancy co-ordinator, a youth counselling manager and the school co-ordinator for the Duke of Edinburgh award. Three children's centre teachers, two child care management posts, eight family support workers and four community development staff are also set to go. In other areas, staff including education welfare officers who deal with truancy will have their hours reduced to term- time only.

Alberta cutting political ties for children's advocate
Amid praise for legislation that aims to give Alberta’s child and youth advocate the power to act independently from outside political interference, the advocate himself says his office will need more funding to manage its new responsibilities. Del Graff, appointed the province’s child and youth advocate last June for a five-year term, wonders whether he will get a budget hike in line with his increased workload. Graff’s office is taking on extra responsibilities, including speaking for all youths in the criminal justice system — whether they’ve ever been in the care of the province. He will also be asked to investigate systemic issues emerging from serious injuries or death cases among the approximately 8,700 children in the care of the province.

UK: Councils admit confusion over youth role in health service commissioning
Further evidence has emerged that children and young people are at risk of being excluded from new patient involvement and commissioning structures being developed as part of the NHS reforms. Councils are due to take over the commissioning of some children and young people's mental health services through new health and wellbeing boards, which form part of proposals outlined in the Health and Social Care Reform Bill. The bill also includes plans to set up local patient health watchdogs called HealthWatch. But according to the charity YoungMinds, many councils are unclear how to involve local young people in both new structures. A survey of council health scrutiny committee chairs, which was completed by more than a quarter, found that 79 per cent had not been informed how local young people could get involved in shaping services.

Chicago: Hull House to close after 123 years
After 123 years in operation, the Jane Addams Hull House Association is going bankrupt. Jane Addams was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1931. Hull House was a settlement for immigrants and other poor families; band leader Benny Goodman grew up there. In recent years, the Hull House Association has provided foster care, domestic violence counseling and job training; but the association says costs are too high and income from fundraising is too low to make ends meet. So the association will shut down by the end of March. The closure will not affect the Hull House Museum on S. Halsted St.; the museum is an entirely separate entity.  (See today's Archives feature),0,439559.story



BC: Girls' jail units close as inmate count falls
The declining number of young people in B.C. jails has prompted the government to close two units for girls in Victoria and Prince George. All female young offenders will soon be held at the Burnaby youth custody centre. The Ministry of Children and Family Development, which oversees youth corrections, said the move will eliminate 23 jobs and save $2.5 million. Children's Minister Mary McNeil said the move stems from the fact that B.C. has one of the lowest youth incarceration rates in the country. The number of youth in jail has fallen 75 per cent from a high of 400 in 1996 to a current average of 105. On average, fewer than five girls were in custody at the eight-bed unit in Victoria and just two in the six-bed Prince George facility. The 16-bed Burnaby unit holds nine female offenders on average.

2nd Methodist Youth Ranch planned in North Florida
The Florida United Methodist Children's Home here is expanding, with plans to build a second campus in Madison between Lake City and Tallahassee. The children's home unveiled a conceptual design of the new Youth Ranch on Tuesday in Tallahassee to legislators, the state Department of Children & Families and other leaders. The Florida United Methodist Children's Home, in operation for 104 years, plans for the second ranch to be similar to the Enterprise campus. Mike Galloway, president and CEO of The Florida United Methodist Children's Home, said the ranch's 120 acres were donated, along with full funding for one children's home. The first phase, expected to be completed in 2014, will include two homes for children, an administration building, chapel, horse stable, and maintenance building, in addition to a home for the campus director. Eventually, about 100 children ages 8 to 17 will be served in the residential program and provide foster care services to Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties.

Youth Obesity Rising in Males, Steady in Females Over Past Decade
Despite numerous federal and statewide efforts to reduce childhood obesity over the past decade, more young males are now considered obese than at the turn of the century, while the overall rate of childhood obesity in the United States has remained steady, according to an analysis published online today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers examined a representative sample of data from roughly 4,100 children, from birth to 19 years of age, taken from the 2009-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The researchers recorded each child's height and weight, then examined overall body mass index trends. Among children ages 2 through 19, 16.9 percent overall were considered obese (they had a BMI above the 95th percentile of the BMI-for-age growth charts) in 2009-10. In total, 31.8 percent of children ages 2 to 19 were considered either overweight or obese that year.

Florida: Leon County students to help advise Florida's Children
and Youth Cabinet

Three Leon County students have been chosen to serve on the newly formed Youth Commission, part of the Florida’s Children and Youth Cabinet. Chiles High School’s Hanna Karimipour and Harold Lyons and Lincoln High School’s Matthew Morse will serve on the commission, which aims to give students a voice on policy affecting Florida children and families. Along with the youth commission, the cabinet is comprised of government officials, policy makers, children’s developmental and advocacy experts. Students across the state applied to be one of 12 selected to serve on the commission, who will participate in a “teens only” town hall meeting at the Capitol during Children’s Week, which will kick off Jan. 29.

Shattered Families: children of undocumented immigrants
who are under detention or deported

In Arizona hundreds of children are abandoned and left in foster care or in the care of already burdened extended family when birth parents are arrested, detained and then “disappeared” into Arizona ICE detention facilities in Eloy, Florence and Phoenix. A press conference addressing the community impact of children left behind when their parents are detained and deported by ICE is scheduled for Tuesday, January 17, 10:00 am, at the Arizona State University School of Social Work campus, 340 N. Commerce Park Loop Suite 250, Tortolita Building, Tucson, Arizona. Over 20 family service providers and attorneys, as well as representatives of affected families, will participate in this press conference. Seth Wessler, author and principal investigator of the newly released Applied Research Center publication Shattered Families: The Perilous Intersection of Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System,, will review the findings of his research in Arizona and elsewhere. His report estimates that up to 15000 children of immigrants face the risk of being trapped in foster care over the next five years due to policies that prevent their reunification with a detained or deported parent.

Australia: Homeless kids drops to 20-year low in Cairns
THE number of homeless kids on the streets in Cairns is the lowest in 20 years, according to a new report. In his Street Level Youth Care report for January, Baptist Church minister Harald Falge said last year was one of the quietest years in his two decades of serving homeless and disadvantaged youth. He told The Cairns Post he believed better home lives and improved government services had led to the fall. "We even had some nights with no one seeking our help," Dr Falge said. "This has rarely happened to us. Maybe once or twice a year. Last year, we had quite a few nights with no one turning up. "When we started 20 years ago, and up until last year, we were serving, on average, between 50 to 60 meals a night. "Now we’re averaging between 12 to 20 a night

Legislative panel hears Nebraska child welfare bill
A legislative panel would keep tracking Nebraska's child welfare reform efforts through at least 2014 and report annually on the progress made, under a bill heard Wednesday in the Legislature. The Health and Human Service Committee heard the proposal by Omaha Sen. Gwen Howard that would require annual committee reports to the Legislature, the governor and the chief justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court. Howard said the measure would continue the work of an interim study of the state's child services, most of which are provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. "I've always believed it is impossible to create policy in an information vacuum," she said. "If we lack accurate and timely information, it is impossible to know whether an agency is operating effectively and efficiently." Critics say the state's child welfare services have grown too costly, lacked transparency and failed to meet the needs of many children with behavioral and mental health problems.

Norway authorities take away Indian kids for not using spoons
and sharing bed with parents

An Indian couple, Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya from Kolkata living in Norway is facing the worst part of their lives after their children – a three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter – were taken away from them by Norway’s child protective services and placed in foster care eight months ago. It comes as a shocker to the couple when they were told that their children were not brought up properly because they fed their children with hands and slept with their parents in the same bed. “My son was sleeping with my husband. They said he should sleep separately from your son,” said Mrs. Bhattacharya. “Feeding a child with the hand is normal in Indian tradition and when the mother is feeding with a spoon there could be phases when she was overfeeding the child. They said it was force-feeding. These are basically cultural differences,” said Mr. Bhattacharya. The matter was reported to Indian authorities and recently the officials of the Indian Embassy in Oslo held talks with the authorities of Norway’s Child Protective Service. The Indian officials even met the children. Their innocent parents however were not even allowed to have a glimpse of their beloved children.



Alberta: Third program earns accreditation
With the goal of providing only the best quality programming to the residents within the area, Drayton Valley Early Childhood Education Centre (ECDC) proudly announced that its Out of School Care (OSC) program received accreditation in December of 2011. Given out by the Accreditation of Early Learning and Care Services (AELCS), a not-for-profit organization funded and contracted by Alberta Children and Youth Services, the purpose of this title is to raise the standard of child care (ages 0-12) in Alberta and improve best practices in early learning and child care services. "What this means is as a municipality we have said we are striving for excellence in the service provided by our childcare centre," says Annette Driessen, director of community services for the Town of Drayton Valley. "Because we're striving for excellence, parents can feel comforted by the fact that we are making every effort to follow the highest standard of care."

UK: Youth restraint challenge rejected by High Court
Although certain restraining measures had been taken unlawfully against young people in secure training centres for a number of years, the court had no jurisdiction to grant an order that the victims of this activity be identified and advised of their rights. The claimant charity alleged that children and young persons held in one or other of the four Secure Training Centres in the UK had been unlawfully restrained under rules which approved certain techniques of discipline. It sought an order requiring the defendant to provide information, to the victims or their carers on the unlawful nature of restraint techniques used in Secure Training Centres (“STCs”) and their consequential legal rights.

UK: Minister rejects calls by thinktank to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12
Fewer children should be sent to jail, the prisons minister said yesterday as he rejected calls to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12. Crispin Blunt said he did not believe that offending by youngsters should automatically lead to prosecution. And he called for the introduction of ‘restorative justice’, under which young offenders are made to apologise to their victims rather than receiving a stiff punishment. Controversial new proposals set out by a thinktank set up by Iain Duncan Smith say no child should be prosecuted for any crime, whether it be shoplifting or murder, until they are at least 12. The current age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is ten. It is likely to spark fierce debate among ministers - not least because under the proposals Robert Thompson and Jon Venables would have escaped justice for murdering toddler James Bulger in 1993 as they had just turned 10.

Vietnam: Child abuse on the rise because of the lack of strict law implementation
According to the National Assembly’s Committee for Culture, Education, the Youth and Children, the child abuse not only occurs in the community, at works, but also at families and schools. The violators are diversified, from teachers, friends, to neighbors, strangers, or even foreigners. The number of sexual abuse, exploitation of child labor and school violence cases has increased rapidly. A report by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs showed that in 2007, 1001 children bore violence and abuse, while the figure rose 10 1613 in 2008 and 1805 in 2009. In 2010, 1245 children were reportedly abused, but this was just the figure from 46 out of the 63 provinces. Meanwhile, according to UNICEF in Vietnam, if counting on other vulnerable children, such as trafficked, exploited, and the children from poor families, the total number of children that need support may reach 4.3 million, or 18 percent of the total children nationwide.

In Greece, child malnutrition and abandonment rising
Reports are coming out of Greece that in light of that country’s financial crisis, more parents are claiming that they are too poor to care for their children. Cases of child abandonment at youth centres and various charities in Greek capital of Athens have shocked a country where family ties are strong. In a report by BBC, Father Antonios, a young Orthodox priest who runs a youth centre for the Athens's poor, has found four children on his doorstep - including a baby just days old, in that last couple of months alone. There are reports of others charities being approached by parents who feel that they are no longer able to look after their children due to poverty. One such documented case involved a couple whose twin babies were in hospital being treated for malnutrition, because the mother herself was malnourished and unable to breastfeed.

Jamaica: Hanna calls for integrated approach on children policies
Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna says there needs to be a more integrated approach to the way national stakeholders communicate on policies that impact the lives of children. Miss Hanna was speaking at a church service to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) in St Andrew yesterday. She says young people are the most critical population to ensure that the country progresses and adds that everyone has to be more vigilant and accept their roles in the development of each child. The newly-appointed minister also wants stakeholders to make a commitment to work closely with the OCR, saying it was important to give children confidence. The OCR was established in 2007 under the Child Care and Protection Act 2004 and is responsible for receiving reports of child abuse and recording, assessing and referring them to the Child Development Agency or the Children’s Advocate for investigation and action. Since its inception the OCR has received over 24,000 reports of child abuse, with 7,000 coming 2011 alone.

 Programs May Help Foster Teens Grow into Responsible Adults
Idaho teenagers in foster care may soon have more support as they transition to adulthood, thanks to two initiatives from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. During a presentation Monday to the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, Robert Luce, administrator for the department’s Division of Family and Community Services, said children who turn 18 while still in foster care are ill-prepared to become self-sufficient adults. Without stable families to turn to or continued support from foster families, young adults who have aged out of the system are at a high risk of becoming pregnant, homeless and incarcerated. Luce and his staff hope to address those concerns by spearheading two programs: The One Church One Child Initiative and the Scholarships and Trust Account Initiative.

Children's ombudsman sees positive trends in adoption of orphans
in Ukraine

There was a positive trend in 2011 regarding the upbringing of orphans in family-type orphans or foster families, the Ukrainian president's commissioner for children's rights, Yuriy Pavlenko, has said. "A total of 1,388 children found their parents in foster families and family-type homes in 2011. Despite the fact that this figure is less than in 2010, the trend in November and December 2011 gives all grounds to make an optimistic forecast that in 2012 local government agencies will fully fulfill their task of ensuring the rights of all orphans and children deprived of parental care regarding their upbringing in foster families," he said at a press conference in Kyiv on Monday. Pavlenko noted that foster families and family-type homes received 197 children in December 2011, which was twice as much as the average monthly figure in 2011. According to the children's ombudsman, 594 family-type homes were created last year, and as of Jan. 1, 2012, foster families and children's homes brought up 9,905 orphans and children deprived of parental care, or 10% of the total number of orphans and children deprived of parental care.

Nicola Roberts Gets Behind Barnardo's Fostering & Adoption Week Campaign
Girls Aloud's Nicola Roberts has thrown her weight behind a Barnardo's campaign to place more homeless children with foster parents. As part of the charity's Fostering & Adoption Week, the singer has called for more people to help older children without families who are normally less likely to be adopted. Nicola - who became an ambassador for the children's charity last year - has spoken of the shortage of carers for those between the ages of 10 and 18 in an exclusive blog for us. "When people think about children in care they generally think of babies and toddlers," she said. "But what many of us forget is that children can be in care up to the age of 18. And what many people also may not know is that there is a real shortage of carers for older children."



Philippines: Outreach program targets street kids
Believing that no child needs to be in the streets, the Department of Education (DepEd) on Saturday launched a campaign to deliver educational services to street children and out-of-school-youth (OSYs) to entice them to return to school. The “K4” Outreach Program is DepEd’s version of Dynamic Teen Company’s (DTC) “Kariton Klasrum” program which has been very successful in encouraging over 200 street children to go back to mainstream schooling not only in Cavite City—where it originally started — but also in other areas in the country. The project was conceptualized in collaboration with 2009 CNN Hero of the Year Efren Peñaflorida Jr. Education Secretary Armin Luistro said the DepEd decided to adopt DTC’s program because it is “our ultimate goal to identify the best intervention for them [street children and out-of-school youth] and help them continue learning despite their situation.”

Report: Virginia is last in nation in placing foster children with relatives
The Virginia Commission on Youth has found that Virginia is last in the nation when it comes to placing foster children with relatives, in part because of a perception held by child welfare workers that "the apple does not fall far from the tree," the Staunton News Leader reported Saturday. Just 4.6 percent of all foster children in Virginia were being cared for by relatives in 2010, the commission said, compared to a national average of 24 percent. The commission said many Virginians object to the idea of people getting paid to take in relatives who need foster care. But the commission also found that people who do provide foster care for relatives have a hard time getting help with health care, child care, housing and mental health services that children in foster care are supposed to get. The state's official policy is to encourage care by relatives.,0,886520.story

California: Sierra Vista seeks mentors for foster youth
January is National Mentoring Month, and the Community Moms Guild, a program of Sierra Vista Child and Family Services, is recruiting mentors for local foster youth. The Sierra Vista mentoring program has been in place for several years, and there are currently between six and 10 mentors. The program matches mentors with foster children who could benefit from the consistent attention of a caring adult. “It’s all about building a trusting relationship… what they do together depends on what the interests of the mentor and the child are,” said Mary Jo Mastin, director of foster care services for Sierra Vista. Mentors first go through a background check and interview process. Then they receive several sessions of group training before they are matched with a foster child. They meet at least one hour per week with their mentee at the Sierra Vista office. The first several meetings are facilitated by a Sierra Vista staff member, to make the child and his or her mentor comfortable. Mentors do everything from crafting to sports and games with their mentees. One pair quilts together, another plays basketball. After the first few months mentors might choose to take their mentees on adventures to the library, a coffee shop, the park or wherever the pair wants to go.

Manitoba premier shuffles his cabinet, creates new youth department
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger elevated two rookie backbenchers to his cabinet Friday and created a new department that will focus on children’s services.  Kevin Chief, a former youth programming co-ordinator in Winnipeg’s inner-city who was first elected to the legislature last October, will head a new Department of Children and Youth Opportunities. Selinger said the department will take over some existing programs in Health, Family Services and other departments. “It will put services for young people and children in one department, on the prevention side, so that we can make those investments and put together those programs and activities that will prevent crime and allow young people to have the opportunity to thrive in our communities,” he said. The department will also launch new initiatives such as after-school programs, Selinger added. The new department comes at a time when the province is running a deficit, and Selinger said the cost of the new department will be made clear in the spring budget.

California: New law gives foster youth support to succeed after 18
The California Fostering Connections to Success Act (AB 12) took effect Jan. 1 -- giving foster youth the choice to stay connected to foster care services through age 20. The new law empowers youth to make their own decisions about their futures and gives them the tools they need to succeed. California is among the first states to extend foster care services under a federal law that provides funding to help foster youth stay connected after 18. Foster youth who turn 18 this year will have access to additional educational and employment training opportunities, support finding consistent and safe housing, and improved ability to make permanent connections with caring adults, including relatives, mentors and community members. The law also contains important provisions that help former foster youth take on the responsibilities of adulthood: Foster youth who chose to stay connected to services must keep commitments to meet with social workers and stay in school or on track to employment.

Maryland: Juvenile court sees a range of problems, misdeeds
Mom shrugged. "No comment," the woman said when asked by Assistant Public Defender Brian Hutchison in Washington County juvenile court if she agreed that her son would be better off remaining in foster care. Her 13-year-old son, one of hundreds who find themselves in juvenile court each year in Washington County, had admitted to vandalizing a vehicle. Other charges, including a threat to commit arson, were dismissed. A Department of Juvenile Services caseworker told Judge John H. McDowell that the boy was doing well in foster care, and McDowell ordered him to remain with that family. "I couldn't ask for a better kid," the foster mom said. The young people finding themselves in the juvenile justice system range from juveniles with often profound mental, emotional and behavioral issues to those who are accused of more commonplace misbehavior, such as underage drinking, marijuana possession, fights at school and shoplifting.,0,6482079.story

UK: Youth projects encouraged to apply for funds
before February 1 deadline

Youth and voluntary groups still have time to apply for funding from Bath & North East Somerset Council's Youth Enablement Fund. The fund of £120,000 was set up last year and already 24 different youth projects have benefited – but there is still some money available and groups have until February 1 to apply. Due to its success Councillors are exploring ways of finding further funding during 2012. The aim is to support activities and opportunities for young people between 11 and 25, focusing particularly on 13-19-year-olds, through the provision of grants of up to £5,000. The grants can help launch aspiring projects and youth groups, as well as supporting new ideas from existing organisations.

New York: St. Lawrence County DSS forms partnership
with Children’s Home

The St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services is working on a plan to have the Children’s Home of Jefferson County take over recruitment and training of all of its foster homes so it can focus on an increase in child abuse and neglect cases. The expanded role for the Children’s Home means the opening of an office, most likely in Canton, and 20 to 25 jobs. “We’re very excited about this opportunity,” said Karen Y. Richmond, Children’s Home director. “It’s really a continuation of what we already do.” The Children’s Home in Watertown already handles 17 of the county’s foster care cases, and having the nonprofit agency take over the remainder is seen as a way for the county to reorganize its services without additional cost. The goal is to cut down on the amount of time children spend in foster care, keep them within their home county and prevent them from returning to care.

French care leavers overcoming the odds
A long-term follow-up study of adults raised in a particular type of foster care known as SOS children’s villages reveals some interesting trends in typical pathways for young people after leaving care in the largest country in Western Europe - France.
SOS children’s villages operate internationally and currently serve 600 children and adolescents in France alone. Children’s villages comprise a community of caregivers known as ‘SOS mothers’ who foster children and sibling groups. They provide long-term placements in family units and work closely with family helpers, case workers and psychologists. SOS also provide a host of other care services including job training, informal housing and job support, transitional apartments and residential accomodation. The research study, involving 123 adults who had spent at least three years in a children’s village placement, revealed that the majority transitioned out of care and into independence without major difficulties, many of them by their mid-twenties.



Canada: Governments need to do more for kids’ health
Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments should be doing more to promote the health and safety of children and youth, says the Canadian Paediatric Society in its latest biennial report card. The report card, the fourth since 2005, ranks how well the provinces and territories use legislation and programs to address 13 specific issues under four broad areas, including injury prevention and health promotion. "Since we last published our report in 2009, there have been too few improvements across all provinces and territories," said CPS vice-president Dr. Andrew Lynk. "There continues to be a piecemeal approach to keeping children and youth healthy and safe in Canada, and it’s putting kids at risk." While the CPS gives British Columbia and Ontario a mark of "excellent" for their booster-seat legislation, "the prairie provinces in-between" aren’t making the grade, said Lynk, noting that Alberta and Saskatchewan scored a "poor" for having no law and Manitoba is "fair" because its legislation needs to be bolstered. The territories also received a poor or fair grade, while the Atlantic provinces are all rated excellent.

UK: Waltham Forest children's services threatened
with government intervention

Children's services at Waltham Forest Council need to improve significantly to avoid government intervention, children's minister Tim Loughton has warned. Loughton said the government would step in, unless the council makes major improvements to services protecting vulnerable children. His criticism comes after damning reports into aspects of children’s services at the council. An inspection carried out by Ofsted in September 2011 found that, overall, safeguarding services in Waltham Forest were "adequate", but services for looked-after children were judged to be "inadequate". Furthermore, in its annual assessment published in November, the overall performance of the council’s children’s services was rated as "poor".

Florida: Finding Homes for Harbinger Youths
In October, regional staff with the Florida Department of Children and Families issued a report to administrators at Harbinger House, a residential facility for abused or neglected boys, that required them to to take corrective action to address concerns about care for Harbinger youths. In late November, the top administrator of the nonprofit that ran Harbinger House, told the state she was “voluntarily surrendering” the state licensing for the home. Isabella Cox, executive director of Juvenile Services Program, told the state she would surrender the licenses on the day the last youth living at Harbinger would be "discharged," which was scheduled for Dec. 1. The state said the boys were moved elsewhere.

Observing National Human Trafficking Awareness Day
The Florida Department of Children and Families and the Department of Juvenile Justice will be handing out blue ribbons to legislators today in observance of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The ribbons are attached to cards describing human trafficking and how Legislators can help. The cards read: “Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. It affects children, adults, U.S. citizens, residents, and foreign nationals alike. More specifically, it affects Florida’s children. … Already, state statutes provide greater penalties for perpetrators of child sex trafficking; bills to help protect exploited children continue to be filed; and, both DCF and DJJ are exploring ways to identify and address the needs of this unique population.” “In just the past year, more than 400 Florida kids were reported as potential human trafficking victims,” said DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters, chair of the Human Trafficking Workgroup of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet. “That statistic just makes me wonder how many more children are being trafficked without our knowledge. This month and all year long, we will continue to send the message that our children are not for sale.”

Scotland: Looked-after children's education debate
Looked-after children's education debate 1Education Committee convener Stewart Maxwell invited the "whole chamber" to inform on the committee's report on its inquiry into the educational attainment of looked-after children, during a debate on 11 January 2011. A child is deemed "looked-after" when he or she is living in care or subject to any kind of supervision requirement or order, which means the local authority has responsibilities in respect of the child, even if living at home. Mr Maxwell called for the "views of members across the chamber" after the committee had taken evidence on the issue, but unusually before the report was finalised and published.  The SNP MSP said there had been "numerous attempts to get it right for looked-after children" but these children still had lower attainment levels. He asked "Are we failing these children?" Mr Maxwell explained that the Education Committee had taken written evidence from 32 groups and oral evidence from a number of witnesses and that five themes had emerged :
Children's readiness to learn
Support of children at school
Better implementation of existing legislation and policies
Greater joined up working between agencies
Resources to address barriers to learning

New Jersey: Gov. Christie signs bill to create youth suicide prevention plan
New Jersey's Department of Children and Families and Department of Human Services have six months to create a youth suicide prevention plan. So says the law the Gov. Chris Christie signed Tuesday. Princeton Patch reports Christie has made bill A-3659 official. The plan will identify, collect and share data throughout the state about suicide attempts and deaths. The Senate approved the plan late last month after two Monmouth County Assembly members introduced it

Manitoba auditor finds foster care system flaws
Manitoba's auditor general says some of the province's foster homes are not being reviewed consistently and the central child welfare database is inaccurate. The problems continue to exist despite being raised years ago, Carol Bellringer writes in a wide-ranging report that also highlights problems with food inspection, automobile insurance and government appointments. "Similar issues were reported in our 2006 report … and we would have expected these areas to have been remedied within (child welfare) agencies," Bellringer wrote in the report released Wednesday. Bellringer's office examined Animikii Ozoson Child and Family Services Agency, which serves aboriginal children in Winnipeg. The review found 22 of 62 foster home licences under the agency's purview were expired. When the auditor's office delved into 10 foster home files, it found half had not been received quarterly visits by social workers as required under provincial standards. The review also found the agency hadn't provided up-to-date information to the province's central registry for children in care.

UK: Council’s ‘outstanding’ foster care
An Ofsted report found that Somerset County Council’s adoption service was ‘of exceptionally high quality.’ Cllr John Osman, cabinet member for children and young people at the council, said: “This inspection result is fantastic and welcome recognition for the adoption team in Somerset, who work hard every day to find loving and secure families for children in care.” The inspection team praised the adoption service for their thorough assessment of potential adopters and their successful matching of children with parents. The news comes after the council revealed a need for more foster carers last month. It issued an appeal for an extra 50 foster carers in the next 12 months. More than 500 children are currently in care in Somerset, up from 370 three years ago. Cllr Osman said: “We have children, particularly sibling groups, waiting for a new mum or dad right now and we need more couples and single people to come forward to give them a home.

New Mexico: Gov. Endorses CYFD Background Check Legislation
Gov. Susana Martinez today announced her support for state legislation that would close a potentially dangerous loophole in the current procedure for placing children in state custody with relatives or family friends. The legislation, to be introduced in the coming session, would add to the New Mexico Children’s Code. Under the current statute, the state removes children from their homes if their parents are unfit, then places them with foster parents (who undergo an intensive background check process that can last 6 months) or with relatives or family friends. The relatives or family friends still go through an emergency background check, which can take a few weeks. This causes a problem for Children, Youth and Families Department workers: choose to put children with relatives who may turn out to be unfit caregivers themselves, and remove the children again, or place the children in foster care for a few weeks before moving them in with relatives. At a time when children need lots of stability, neither is good.

Minnesota Laws in Limbo From Last Year's Legislative Session
When the Minnesota Legislature reconvenes on Jan. 24, lawmakers will have some unfinished business to attend to: A handful of bills from 2011 that are still in limbo—many of which deal with controversial topics such as gun control, sex offender treatment and development of nuclear power. In some instances, the legislation passed the senate, the house, or both, but didn't have a chance to be reconciled.  The Family Reunification Bill: This bill would give parents who have lost rights to their children a means to petition the state for a reversal. About 1,200 Minnesotan children are in foster care because the state deemed their parents unfit and terminated their parental rights. In some cases, these parents are serving a criminal sentence or are struggling with chemical dependency. If passed, Minnesota would be one of just 10 states to provide errant parents with a path to reinstates rights if certain conditions are met. The bill—sponsored by Burnsville Sen. Dan Hall (R) and Rep. Steve Smith (R-Mound)—was approved as amended by the House Civil Law Committee, but is awaiting action in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

Wales: Council caring for more youngsters
THE number of children looked after by Monmouthshire council rose by 20 per cent in the last six months. A report by county councillor Liz Hacket Pain, cabinet member for children, young people and learning, says the average number of looked after children between September 2009 and September 2011 was 85. Six out of 19 children in foster care were unaccompanied asylum seekers and only one child has been adopted since April 2011, due to the needs of children and not due to a lack of adopters. In the report, Mrs Hacket Pain said the reason for the recent rise in the number of looked after children is not clear but could be part of a national trend. The report finds the number of cases of children over 16 being cared for by the council has decreased because many of the unaccompanied asylum seeking children are reaching the age of 18.


UK: Family cuts forcing Britain's youth into dire straits, say campaigners
Britain's child poverty hotspots were revealed yesterday and campaigners warned the nation faced ‘economic and social disaster’ if the government continued to target families with its cuts. London features heavily in the list of the most deprived areas, with Tower Hamlets clearly the worst off, said The Campaign to End Child Poverty. More than half of the East End borough’s children live below the breadline, with 52 per cent considered poor – compared with the national average of one in five. Islington takes second place on the list, with a rate of 43 per cent, ahead of Manchester with 40.
Campaign executive director Alison Garnham said: ‘The child poverty map paints a stark picture of a socially segregated Britain where the life chances of millions of children are damaged by inequality.’

Over 1,000 children are listed as missing in Israel
Child welfare NGO says better information-sharing could help solve cases – and prevent new ones. More than 1,000 children and teens are considered missing in Israel, according to information released Monday by the National Council for the Child. Improving the flow of information between government ministries and the police could either prevent or solve these cases, the NCC said. The information was released to specifically raise attention to the case of 15- year-old Nofar Ben-Hemo, who has been missing since December 17. She was last seen leaving her home in Lod at 9 p.m., she did not take her mobile phone with her and her parents have not heard from her since then. Even though the police started to investigate her disappearance within 24-hours of it being reported, there is still little information as to what happened to Ben-Hemo.

Australia: Little girl lost shames us all
WORDS cannot adequately describe the death of the eight-year-old girl after four days in the harsh West Australian desert. This tragic loss of a child's life should serve as a wake-up call to government and Aboriginal communities alike. Our children, the most vulnerable members of our community, deserve better. It is time that Aboriginal children's human rights, including their right to life and security of person, are given due recognition and respect. As this tragic case shows, these are matters that require our urgent attention and response. In WA, Aboriginal children comprise more than 50 per cent of children in the care of the state. As Aboriginal people make up only 2 per cent of the state's population, this figure is staggering. Aboriginal children are also grossly over-represented as victims of crime within the state's criminal justice system.

BBC: Greek Parents Too Poor to Care for Their Children
According to a BBC World Service report, more Greek parents are giving up their kids because they can no longer afford to feed themselves, much less their children. In the story published today, the BBC recounts the story of a four-year-old kindergartner who was left with her teacher, with the following note: “I will not be coming to pick up Anna today because I cannot afford to look after her. Please take good care of her. Sorry. Her mother.” In an interview with the BBC, a young Orthodox priest who runs a youth centre in Athens said that he, too, has seen an increase in the number of children dropped off at the shelter. “Over the last year we have hundreds of cases of parents who want to leave their children with us – they know us and trust us,” father Antonios said. “They say they do not have any money or shelter or food for their kids, so they hope we might be able to provide them with what they need.”

Illinois: Catholic Charities in Springfield, Ill., transfers its foster care
Catholic Charities in Springfield, Ill., said Monday that it will transfer its foster care staff, foster parents and children to other child welfare agencies. The move comes in the wake of a new state law that granted same-sex couples the right to seek civil unions. The Springfield foster care program will move Jan. 31 to the Center for Youth and Family Solutions, formed in Peoria last year by two former Catholic Charities officials. The Madison County and Effingham offices' foster care programs will transfer to Christian Social Services, formerly Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois. In November, the Catholic Diocese of Belleville and Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois parted ways because of the civil union law. Days later, three of Illinois' six Catholic bishops said they would abandon legal appeals against the new law. Illinois oversees the foster care system but contracts 80 percent of the case load to private agencies, of which many are faith-based.

California: New state law could help foster kids past age 18
The transition from high school to emancipation happened in a matter of days for Shawna Thomas. The day before graduation, the 18 year-old was alone in front of a judge as a foster youth for the last time. Two days later, her bags were packed and she was leaving her Santa Ana foster home. Thomas, now 23, said she was lucky to be accepted to a transitional housing program for former foster youth through the Orangewood Children's Foundation because she had nowhere else to go.
"It's that quick. That's why a lot of foster youth end up on the streets," Thomas said. Foster youth will be eligible to remain in the system and receive housing assistance and support until they are 21 under a state law that affects youth who are 18 on or after Jan. 1. When foster youth are on their own at 18, they are much more likely to face homelessness, joblessness, pregnancy or incarceration than the general population. Those statistics decrease for young adults who remain in assistance programs. Youth with extended support past 18 are twice more likely to complete a college degree than those without it.

UK: Charity's plea for people to foster older children
A FOSTERING service run by a charity is highlighting the urgent need for more people to provide care for older children. Barnardo’s made the plea for help in Burton and South Derbyshire at the start of its national Fostering and Adoption week campaign, which runs until Sunday. The charity’s East Midlands Family Placement service, based in Derbyshire but which also finds homes for young people in Staffordshire, revealed statistics that showed that nearly 12,000 of all the children who entered care in England last year were aged 10 and over — this includes children as old as 16 and 17. This aligns exactly with the number of young people in the 12 to 16 age range who were referred to the East Midlands based service in the last year. The situation is particularly worrying as there is a general shortage of foster families across the UK, with at least 8,750 new foster families needing to be found within the next 12 months — 500 of those in the Burton and South Derbyshire areas.

Tennessee: Mentoring offers transition into foster parenting
Youth Villages also offers ongoing, individual mentoring classes for single or married adults age 21 or older who can pass a background check. While different than taking care of a child at home, mentoring can be a transition into becoming a foster parent, said Youth Villages Mentor Liaison Charlotte Chester. “We match mentors with children who live within 15 minutes away, and we request the mentor to spend 4 to 6 hours a month minimum with their mentee,” Chester said. “They can go to the park, ball games, movies, art exhibits, anything that’s beneficial to the child and helps expand their worldview.” Mentors act as volunteers and are not expected to spend money on activities with their mentee. However, they can turn in expenses and mileage, which in some cases can be reimbursed through DSC grants. In not reimbursed, mentors can write expenses off on their tax return forms, Youth Villages officials said. “If the child has a problem at home, they can call their mentor and talk it through,” Chester said. “Statistics have shown that having a mentor helps children improve their grades, family relationship and social life.

Connecticut DCF Forcing Itself To Fix Foster Care System
The state Department of Children and Families has been saying for years that it wants to improve its foster care system — a network of more than 3,000 homes that lags behind the national standard for the percentage of young people in state care who are placed with foster families. What's different now is that DCF has no choice. The sprawling, $880 million-a-year agency has been under new leadership for one year, and Commissioner Joette Katz is forcing her own hand to confront deficits in the care of troubled children that have plagued the department since the late 1980s. Outside forces are coming to bear on that system, too. It will add up to either a period of vast improvements in foster, kinship, and adoptive care — or a crisis.



Ireland: Twenty six children in HSE care became pregnant in one year
Twenty six young girls in the care of the State became pregnant in a single year, the Health Service Executive has confirmed. Another 218 youngsters vanished from their care homes, according to official figures, with many disappearing for days or weeks on end, and one of them – Daniel McAnaspie – found killed. The vulnerable children are amongst more than 2,000 who were taken into care during the course of just one year, 2010, the Irish Mail on Sunday has learned. In all, 26 girls in care homes or care facilities became pregnant across the Republic, a significant number of them believed to be under the age of consent. The HSE has declined to specify the ages of the girls, saying it could serve to identify them. The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, were only provided by the HSE nine months after first being requested, and have never been made available before.

Canada: Foster care probe is a test: Swann
Disturbing allegations that a 13-year-old boy sexually assaulted three younger boys in his Calgary foster home will be the ultimate test of the province's promise to protect children in its care, critics say. Following shocking criminal charges laid against the teenager Tuesday, critics are calling for openness and transparency as the province investigates. "This is a test case, and we're going to be watching very closely how this is going to be managed," said Calgary Liberal MLA David Swann. "This is one of the most secretive governments that I've been aware of. I'm not optimistic, but we will be calling for openness and accountability." The province has removed the children from the foster home, which is shut down during an investigation by Alberta Human Services, which oversees children's welfare.

Eckerd Youth Alternatives gets child protection contract
in Hillsborough County

Can anyone guarantee Hillsborough County's thousands of children under state protection won't be hurt or killed or neglected or abused? On Friday the state replaced the home-grown, nonprofit agency that has tried for the past decade. It turned over a $65.5 million annual contract for child protection services to another agency. The takeover starts July 1. At least eight deaths of Hillsborough children under state protection in the past two years preceded the ouster of Hillsborough Kids Inc., which was created in 2001 after the Legislature voted to outsource services. The agency now protects 2,500 children. CEO Jeff Rainey had already tendered his resignation. Eckerd Youth Alternatives was awarded a $65.5 million annual contract through 2017. Eckerd, headquartered in Clearwater, already provides those services in Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Report: Connecticut making progress in services for abused youth,
but group says more work is ahead

A new report shows Connecticut is making progress on court-ordered improvements to help abused and neglected children, though a watchdog group says there's more work ahead. The Connecticut Department of Children and Families' quarterly report, released Friday, shows the number of children ages 12 and younger housed in institutions and similar facilities has dropped significantly since January 2011. It also found DCF is placing many foster children with relatives instead of strangers when possible. DCF must complete quarterly reports under terms of a 1989 lawsuit filed by the New York-based Children's Rights advocacy group. Ira Lustbader, its associate director, says the advocates are very impressed with new DCF Commissioner Joette Katz, but progress is still needed to ensure quality and regularity of caseworkers' visits, and to provide mental health care and other services.

US: National Hub Started for State Child Welfare Reform
A group of nonprofits will work with the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation to establish a national hub for state child welfare reform assistance. The State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center (SPARC) will be led by national advocacy group First Focus, and will focus on helping a handful of states make large strides that “could inspire policy change on a national scale,” according the Casey’s announcement of the project. “In this economic climate, state budget cuts across the nation are draining resources from programs that provide critical services to vulnerable children who need safe, strong and permanent families,” said Lisa Hamilton, vice president of External Affairs at the Casey Foundation. SPARC will over the next five years provide technical assistance, offer networking opportunities for child welfare leaders, and proliferate evidence-based guidance on policy and reform strategies. Nonprofit organizations Child Trends, ChildFocus and the North American Council on Adoptable Children, and policy expert Yali Lincroft, will assist First Focus with SPARC. The interests of SPARC focus mostly on youths who have already been removed from their families and placed in foster care. Casey lists several front-burner issues in child welfare as priorities. Among them:

Florida: Former Naples High principal named Youth Haven director
Former Naples High School Principal Rosanne Winter has been named executive director of Youth Haven, the nonprofit's board of trustees announced Thursday. Rosanne brings to the position a great depth and breadth of experience as an educator and administrator, as well as a deep passion and commitment to working with children and families in need," Jay Cook, president of Youth Haven's Board of Trustees, said in a statement. Winter succeeds Ron McSwiney, who retired in December after five years in the executive director position. Winter has held leadership positions in public and private school systems in Ohio, California, Virginia and Florida. A native of Cleveland, she began her career in Northeast Ohio teaching children with special needs. She served as the district-wide director of instructional technology for Fairfax County, Va., public schools before moving to Naples where she served as principal of Naples High School, a job she held from 2004 to 2006. She ran unsuccessfully for the Collier County School Board in 2010 and most recently worked as a consultant in organizational improvement.

Australia: Call for special commissioner
Aboriginal community leaders have called for increased protection of vulnerable Aboriginal children after an eight-year-old girl died on a hunting trip. Nyoongar human rights lawyer Hannah McGlade said the State Government needed to appoint a deputy children's commissioner with special responsibility for Aboriginal children to ensure they had a voice. "I think this case highlights the need for the State Government to commit more fully to Aboriginal children," Dr McGlade said. She said at no level of government were the rights of Aboriginal children being protected. "This is not an isolated incident," Dr McGlade said. "We are seeking the full implementation of the Gordon inquiry recommendation that there be a deputy children's commissioner for Aboriginal children and youth. "It is time that Aboriginal children's rights, including their right to life, were taken seriously."

New York: Children’s Home eliminates Big Brothers Big Sisters program
The Children’s Home of Jefferson County has eliminated the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the North Country program, effective Jan. 1. Children’s Home Executive Director Karen Y. Richmond said that the decision wasn’t made lightly, and that it will save about $18,000 per year in administrative costs alone. “We do mentoring in other programs, and Big Brothers Big Sisters let us be aware of that,” she said Wednesday. “When Big Brothers Big Sisters started, we started it on a shoestring and we had school support and state Office of Children and Family Services support.” As state funds and other support have dwindled, Mrs. Richmond said, Big Brothers Big Sisters became a program supported only by grant funding. As an organization that constantly looks at sound financial support, Mrs. Richmond said, the Children’s Home decided that continuing to support the Big Brothers Big Sisters program was not viable.

Iowa: Black Hawk Co. Youth Shelter future in question
The future of the Black Hawk County Youth Shelter was in question during county budget talks Wednesday. Members of the county Board of Supervisors discussed whether they should continue next year to operate the 15-bed shelter, which provides temporary housing and care for children in need of assistance. Black Hawk is the only Iowa county operating a youth shelter, which takes care of kids who can no longer stay in their homes for any number of reasons. The facility on West Dunkerton Road, north of Waterloo, requires a property tax subsidy of roughly $300,000 a year. But the Iowa Department of Human Services' new child welfare emergency services initiative last year aims to provide more support services to keep children with their families rather than removing them to shelters and foster care.

APA Responds to Reports on Antipsychotic Prescribing
New research on alleged overuse of psychotropic medications in both nursing-home and foster-care settings signals a need for better training of nonpsychiatric physicians and increased funding to bolster the mental health workforce, stated APA in recently submitted congressional testimony. In November 30, 2011, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing exploring an audit issued earlier in the year by the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG). The report found that 14 percent of nursing-home residents were prescribed an atypical antipsychotic during the first six months of 2007. One day later, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs’ Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security heard testimony from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that foster children are prescribed psychotropic drugs at a significantly higher rate than children not in foster care.


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