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World headlines news relating to children, youth and families

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20 JULY

UK: More funding for councils won't halt care number increases

Providing more money to councils will not help to reduce record numbers of children being taken into care, children's minister Nadhim Zahawi has said. Appearing before the education select committee Zahawi acknowledged the financial challenges facing councils but said they should be able to support families and prevent children entering the care system through their existing resources. He said "throwing money" at the situation "doesn't work". Figures published last September show that the number of children in care is rising at its fastest rate in five years. There were 72,670 children in care in the 12 months to the end of March 2017, compared with 70,440 the year before and 69,480 in 2015. But Zahawi rejected suggestions that government spending on early support for families should be increased, instead arguing that the best way to reduce the children in care population was to spread evidence of schemes that are successfully doing this. He said that the £20m What Works Centre for Children's Social Care which is expected to launch in 2020 and is tasked with promoting evidence-based practice, will be central to the government's approach. "What we are doing is seeing what works, which is why we have set up the What Works Centre for Children's Social Care and the Innovation Programme, and spreading it. That's the best way," he said.

UK: Chronic lack of secure accommodation demands urgent action, judge reminds government

A family court judge in North Wales has become the latest to highlight the national shortage of secure accommodation for young people, which he called “very serious” and “chronic”. In a judgment made in May at Prestatyn, and published this month, Judge Gareth Jones said local authorities were being driven to make applications for secure placements “which are very often merited”. “But on the basis that the secure accommodation unit has not been identified, appropriate plans with regard to visits, therapeutic provision, educational provision and contact provision, simply cannot be provided for the court,” he added. The case before Judge Jones concerned a 15-year-old girl who had struggled to settle at a number of foster placements and had also absconded from an out-of-area residential placement. The judgment described her as being “fragile”, at risk of being preyed upon by older men, and in need of secure accommodation support in order to help her manage her behaviour. An interim secure accommodation order had been granted at a hearing on 28 March, but a 17-case backlog of pending referrals for secure beds across England and Wales meant no place could be found for the teenager until 16 April. Despite granting a three-month order, Judge Jones said sending the teenager to the available placement, which is a long way from her home area, was a far from ideal solution. “The distance involved means that local authority key workers have to travel a considerable distance to the location of the secure placement which has been identified,” he said. “The young person’s guardian and solicitor have had to make a similar journey and the young person’s extended family, who maintain contact with her, also have to make a similar journey.” Judge Jones ordered the judgment to be made public in order to “draw attention to this particular area, where deficiencies have become apparent and where remedial action is very urgently called for”. He said relevant authorities, including the English and Welsh governments, needed to be reminded of the ongoing breakdown in the system, and that the public should be able to “see what is actually taking place”. 

India: Government to move proposal to annul all child marriages

The Women and Child Development Ministry, under the central government, is set to move the cabinet to make all child marriages invalid, a senior ministry official said today. The proposal of the ministry, if approved, would amend the law that allows child marriages to continue, despite an October 2017 Supreme Court ruling that "sexual intercourse with a minor wife amounts to rape, as under no circumstance can a child below 18 years give consent, express or implied, for sexual intercourse". Currently, child marriages are valid in India, but can be annulled if a case is filed in a district court by either of the two contracting parties within two years of becoming adult, or through a guardian in case of minors. The ministry seeks to amend section 3 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, under which a child marriage is only voidable at the option of the contracting parties. The Women and Child Development Ministry official said a draft cabinet note has been circulated that proposes to make child marriages "void ab initio" (invalid from the outset). 

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18 JULY

England: Family drug and alcohol courts 'at risk' if national unit closes

Family drug and alcohol courts (FDACs) across England will be left to "wither on the vine" if a national support unit is forced to close due to a lack of funding, a professional association for social workers has warned. The unit supports the work of 10 family drug and alcohol courts (FDACs), which bring the judiciary and multi-agency services together to help substance-misusing parents involved in care proceedings to quit their addiction and keep their family together. The unit has relied on Department for Education innovation funding since 2015 but this money runs out in September and it is faced with closure unless a new source of income is found. Following an urgent meeting in the House of Lords attended by, among others, former children's minister Tim Loughton, Labour shadow children's minister Emma Lewell-Buck, and retired District Judge Nicholas Crichton, who helped establish the first FDAC in 2008, Nagalro described the government's decision not to continue funding the unit as "short-sighted and financially illiterate". "Whilst acknowledging that the closure will not directly lead to the closure of any of the 10 current FDACs, Nagalro is concerned that, without the national unit to support, train and promote those bodies and to maintain consistency, they will simply be left to wither on the vine," a Nagalro statement said. "One by one, cash-strapped local authorities, encouraged by the withdrawal of central government support, will find that funds can be directed elsewhere. "Without the co-ordination, training and promotional activities of the national unit, it is unlikely that new FDACs will be set up. "This is a tragedy for the families who are helped by the FDAC, a severe blow to the children and, in the medium to long-term will mean increased costs to the public." Since their launch in 2008, a number of studies have reported that FDACs are effective at keeping families together and saving money.

India orders inspection of child homes run by Mother Teresa's order

India has ordered the immediate inspection of all childcare homes run by the Missionaries of Charity, the Catholic congregation established by Mother Teresa, after employees at one shelter were accused of selling babies for adoption. The inspections were announced by the ministry for women and childhood development after a Missionaries of Charity home in Jharkhand state was shut earlier this month following the arrest of a nun and a social worker employed there. Sister Konsalia Balsa and social worker Anima Indwar were accused of having already sold three babies from the home, which provides shelter for pregnant, unmarried women. They were accused of trying to sell a fourth baby, a two-month old boy born in March, for about £1,325. The parents, a couple from Uttar Pradesh state, were told the proposed adoption was legitimate and that the money was for hospital expenses. “Taking cognisance of the recent cases of illegal adoptions carried out by Missionaries of Charity in Jharkhand, [minister for women and children] Maneka Gandhi has instructed the states to get childcare homes run by Missionaries of Charity all over the country inspected immediately,” the ministry said in the statement. The Missionaries of Charity, established in 1950 by Mother Teresa – now Saint Teresa of Calcutta – declined to comment on the inspections but earlier said the congregation was appalled by the baby trafficking claims. “We are completely shocked by what has happened in our home in Ranchi,” a statement from the order said. “It should have never happened. It is against our moral convictions. We are carefully looking into the matter.” 

UK: More funding for youth groups to help youngsters unlock their full potential

Communities Minister Lord Bourne has announced £250,000 to give more young people from diverse backgrounds across the country the opportunity to join national youth groups like the Scouts, Police Cadets and Guiding. This will give more youngsters the confidence, skills and experience they need to realise their potential. Youth United Foundation, a charity established to support a coalition of 11 uniformed youth volunteering organisations has already offered over 1.5 million young people the opportunity to develop teamwork, leadership, self-confidence and communication skills through a series of activities. Government funding to date has helped train thousands of new volunteers with their member organisations including the Scout Association, Girlguiding, and St John’s Ambulance. The new funding will be used to promote integration through building a national network of youth integration champions and rolling out long-term approaches to developing lasting relationships between young people from different backgrounds. This complements the government’s ongoing work to improve integration including the recent launch of the Integrated Communities Innovation Fund, announced by Communities Secretary the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP. Working in partnership with Sport England, the Innovation Fund will support projects that encourage integration including sport. 

Australia: 10yo kids are too young to be charged with a crime, Queensland youth justice report suggests

Ten-year-olds would no longer be held responsible for crimes under a proposal to cut youth offending in Queensland. Former police commissioner Bob Atkinson has recommended increasing the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Queensland from 10 to 12. The age of criminal responsibility is 10 in all other states and territories and Mr Atkinson said the change should be adopted nationally. It is one of 77 recommendations in his report on Youth Justice, which the State Government will now put out for public consultation. The report cites a 2017 information paper by the Queensland and Family and Child Commission (QFCC) that suggested children between the ages of 10 and 12 had not reached a stage of developmental maturity to be held criminally responsible for their actions. It said a lower age of criminal responsibility further victimised children who were already victims of circumstance. He also recommended 16 and 17-year-old offenders should be released into employment fitted with electronic ankle bracelets, and some minor offences should not be prosecuted. The report suggests more diversionary and education programs should be set up to give police and the courts other options besides putting young people in detention, although Mr Atkinson acknowledged that could be costly. He also emphasised the need for early intervention because authorities sometimes recognised potential problems in very young children in Prep and Year One.

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16 JULY

USA: Detaining immigrant kids is now a billion-dollar industry

Detaining immigrant children has morphed into a surging industry in the U.S. that now reaps $1 billion annually – a tenfold increase over the past decade, an Associated Press analysis finds.Health and Human Services grants for shelters, foster care and other child welfare services for detained unaccompanied and separated children soared from $74.5 million in 2007 to $958 million in 2017. The agency is also reviewing a new round of proposals amid a growing effort by the White House to keep immigrant children in government custody.Currently, more than 11,800 children, from a few months old to 17, are housed in nearly 90 facilities in 15 states – Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington. The recipients of the money run the gamut from nonprofits, religious organizations and for-profit entities. The organizations originally concentrated on housing and detaining at-risk youth, but shifted their focus to immigrants when tens of thousands of Central American children started arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years. Advocates on both sides of the aisle criticize the growing number of kids housed in government shelters. “You can’t put a child in a prison. You cannot. It’s immoral,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat who has been visiting shelters. "The longer a child is in government custody, the potential for emotional and physical damage grows", said Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

UK: Vulnerable children are falling victim to a social care ‘postcode lottery’

Vulnerable children are facing a ‘postcode lottery’ due to a wildly varying system of social care, according to an All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPG) inquiry. More than four in five directors of children’s services surveyed described problems of children receiving different levels of support depending on where they live – even when the child was at serious risk in two-thirds of cases. The inquiry identified differences between each local authority’s ‘threshold documents’ – which sets out how they respond to children’s needs – as a reason for the variance. Some children also received no support at all, with a requirement that they slip into crisis before social services step in – with 70 per cent of the 1,700 social workers surveyed insisting that the threshold for helping ‘children in need’ had risen in the last three years. And funding constraints also undoubtedly play a role. The APPG heard first-hand accounts about pressures on resources affected when social services intervened and provided safeguarding action. In other cases, families already receiving support were deemed to not reach the threshold for help because their local authority was shifting its priorities to more acute cases. Care leavers also called for better support in accessing and understanding information contained in official files. As a result, the APPG has called on the government close the children’s services funding gap, currently set to reach £3bn by 2025 according to the Local Government Association (LGA), and put in place a sustainable long-term funding settlement for early help and preventative services. 

Canada: It's time for kids to get outside and unplugged

Health-care providers will be leading walks in 100 B.C. parks on Canada’s Parks Day to help families reduce their kids' screen time and enjoy the great outdoors. The ‘Outside & Unplugged’ walks are part of BC Parks Foundation’s Healthy By Nature initative. “We want to target families when they’re just building their traditions and we want to incorporate green time as a social norm,” says Jennifer McCaffrey, head of Healthy by Nature. McCaffrey and Dr. Melissa Lem will be leading an hour-long walk on Mount Seymour. “There’s a lot of research coming out of Japan showing that spending time in nature versus spending time in the city can improve your concentration, lower your stress levels and boost your immune system,” says Lem. In June, the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health supported a position statement on active outdoor play – recognizing it as “essential for healthy child development. We recommend increasing children’s opportunities for self-directed play outdoors in all settings – at home, at school, in child care, the community and nature.” The benefits of spending time in nature are being recognized internationally. In the U.S. doctors can write ‘parks prescriptions’ for patients and in Japan, ‘forest bathing’ is an accepted practice that is becoming more popular in Vancouver. The ‘Outside & Unplugged’ walks are sponsored by the BC Parks Foundation and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. The walks begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 21 and you can register online. 

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13 JULY

UN: Security Council urges countries to factor child protection into conflict prevention efforts

Countries have been urged to mainstream child protection into the policies they introduce aimed at preventing conflict, in line with a Security Council resolution adopted on Monday. The Council met to debate the latest UN annual report on Children and Armed Conflict which revealed that once again, the number of boys and girls affected by fighting has increased, with more than 21,000 violations documented during the past year. Virginia Gamba, the UN expert on the issue, said these abuses should remind countries that they need to work together to reverse the trend. “We cannot further jeopardize our most precious resource through inaction, but must increase our efforts to develop preventive tools, utilize reintegration strategically to break cycles of violence and address the cross-border nature of violations through increased cooperation,” she said. Besides being maimed or killed, children caught in combat also suffer when schools or hospitals are attacked. Some are even forced into fighting, or fall victim to rape and other forms of gender-based violence. The head of the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, reported that one in four boys and girls globally has been impacted by conflict or disaster. Henrietta Fore asked the 15 ambassadors to think about what will become of these children, both in the short and long term. “In his lifetime, a seven-year old Syrian child has never known a peaceful Syria. An Afghan teenager has never known a peaceful Afghanistan. And consider what the children of South Sudan have endured – and continue to endure – as they mark their country’s seventh year of independence today,” she said. “How can we prepare children to shape peaceful futures if they don’t know what peace even looks like?” 

Vietnam joins international efforts to give children homes

Expanding alternative care is part of the national target program launched by the Vietnamese Government to ensure disadvantaged children in the country are able to grow up in a family environment. The revised Child Law2016, enacted on June 1, 2017, introduced legislative support for foster care, said Vu Thi Kim Hoa, Deputy Director of the Department of Child Affairs under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MoLISA). “The revision aims to ensure the enforcement of children’s rights in accordance with the spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC), and the country’s response to international efforts to reduce institutional childcare worldwide,” Hoa said. As part of its effort to implement the law, in July 2017, the Ministry signed a three-year cooperation agreement with Care for Children (CFC), a UK non-governmental organisation (NGO), to push the implementation of foster care in Vietnam. The foster care project, jointly implemented by the Ministry and CFC from November 2017, shows Vietnam’s determination to ensure the enactment of children rights, particularly the right to foster care, Hoa said. The four-phase project is being piloted in Hanoi and the northern province of Thai Nguyen up to 2020. It focuses on training and providing consultation for governmental staff and social workers in the two localities,while conducting publicity campaigns to raise community awareness on the positive social outcomes of family-based care.

Australia: Victoria criticised for delaying decision on reporting child abuse heard in confession

The Victorian government has been criticised for delaying its decision on whether to abolish the seal of confessional for disclosures of child sexual abuse, in its response to the recommendations of the royal commission. On Wednesday the state government issued its response to the royal commission’s 409 recommendations, 317 of which apply to Victoria. The state’s attorney general, Martin Pakula, said the government had accepted 128 recommendations, accepted 165 recommendations in principle, and would need to further consider another 24. Abolishing the seal of confessional for any disclosures of child sexual abuse was one of those recommendations still under consideration, Pakula said. “There are a range of jurisdictions, including the Commonwealth, who need to work together on this ... because the Uniform Evidence Act provision is just not something that we can move on alone.” However South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and Western Australia have all made moves to require the clergy to report any child abuse disclosed during confession to police. From October, priests in South Australia face a $10,000 fine if they fail to report confessions of child sex abuse. Co-founder of the Care Leavers Australasia Network Leonie Sheedy, whose organisation supports those abused in out-of-home care, said Victoria was “still putting the church ahead of children”.

UK: Youth offending teams link up with university to help tackle reoffending

Several youth offending teams (YOTs) have linked up with a university to help improve their work with young people, including developing psychological techniques to help them stop offending. The move will see the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) work with five YOTs in North West England – Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Cumbria, Lancashire and Liverpool – to support them on a range of projects. One project involves supporting Lancashire YOT to help young people develop psychological and social techniques when they feel emotionally vulnerable or at risk of offending. The university is also helping Lancashire YOT to develop a mobile app to improve communication between social workers and young people. In addition, Lancashire YOT is sponsoring a PhD student at the university in her work to examine the key factors behind reoffending. Through the move the university is helping all YOTs to work together to tackle organised crime across the region. Other areas of support through the initiative, which involves UCLan's criminal justice partnership team signing a memorandum of understanding with the five YOTs, will be around workforce development, student placements and volunteering opportunities.

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11 JULY

UK: Mental health – children failed at vulnerable point

The care of young people with mental health problems is suffering when the time comes for them to move to adult services in England, an inquiry says. The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) said many young people experienced a difficult transition from child to adult care at exactly the time when they were most vulnerable. Its report recommended a more flexible approach to moving into adult services instead of having the cut-off at 18. Every year 25,000 make this transition. But as adult services often have different thresholds for providing support, delays can happen or young people can lose their support altogether. The HSIB – a new body set up to carry out no-blame investigations to help the NHS learn from mistakes – recommended a wider window so transition could take place gradually up to the age of 25. The investigation was sparked by the suicide of an 18-year-old shortly after moving from child to adult mental health services. It said the young man had been let down, with his child mental health service hampered by the pressure to pass him on to adult care. HSIB chief investigator Keith Conradi said: "This is a very important issue. Many young people still do not have a positive experience and, as a result, disengage from services." Sean Duggan, of the Mental Health Network, which represents services, said the health service was aware there were problems that needed to be addressed. "Patients must be at the centre of all our service," he added. The findings have been backed by those who have experienced the system. Tee spent two years in a mental health hospital in Northampton when her transition from child to adult services went wrong. "Eighteen is such a vulnerable age," she says. "I don't know why it is like this. Something has to be done."

USA cannot reunite dozens of child migrants with their parents

The Trump administration has said 27 young migrant children are "not eligible for reunification" with their parents, according to a court filing. Twelve other children's mothers or fathers have already been deported from the US, said the government. "Legitimate logistical impediments" are delaying reunions for many of the 102 children under five years old who were taken from parents, US officials say. Nearly 3,000 children were split from undocumented adults entering the US. The government was bound by a court order to reunite children aged five and under by 10 July. The Department of Justice (DoJ) and American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) joint status report on Tuesday detailed why the 27 children cannot yet be reunited with their families. The parents of 10 children were being still held in criminal custody after crossing the US border without papers, and have yet to be fully assessed, said the report. Eight other children's parents have a "serious criminal history" including narcotics, human smuggling, murder and robbery. Two other children cannot be reunited with parents because of a possible threat of child abuse. Five children had been separated from adults who were not their parents. Another child's parent is being treated for a communicable illness. The location of another child's parent has been unknown for more than a year. Records show both parent and child might even be US citizens. Some 75 of the 102 separated children have been determined eligible to be reunited with their families, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). But as of Tuesday afternoon, the government said it had only reunited four of those children with their parents.

USA: Database offers resources for extending foster care for older youth  

A new searchable, state-by-state database from the Juvenile Law Center catalogs the laws, policies and practices related to foster care for youth ages 18 and older. The Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative – which focuses on improving outcomes for emerging adults in the foster care system – supported the National Extended Foster Care Review as part of its ongoing commitment to share what works to help young people successfully transition to adulthood. Topics covered include rules on eligibility, reentry for older youth, case management services, court oversight and subsidies to encourage family permanence. The resource is a significant step in building a stronger case for expanding the length of care across the nation, allowing policymakers, advocates and state agencies to see what's working in other states and where they stand in comparison – and, ultimately, to use that information to make improvements within their own systems. “We know that continuing support through early adulthood leads to better long-term outcomes for youth in foster care across the board – from education and employment to financial and housing security,” says Todd Lloyd, a senior policy associate with the Foundation who supports the Jim Casey Initiative. “This database gives us our first comprehensive survey of the national policy landscape, which will enable us to identify what’s working and where we need to do better.” While 45 states have policies that extend foster care eligibility past age 18, only about half currently take advantage of federal Title IV-E funding – allocated by law since 2008 – to provide services to young adults. Increasing that number to include all states is an important goal of the Jim Casey Initiative. Access to these federal resources allows states to extend the duration, quality and scope of care for young people as they become young adults, which helps to create the conditions that lead to stability and connection.  

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9 JULY

UK: Jersey 'needs to do more' to provide a better parent role in care 

People who work with children in care have told ITV News that Jersey needs to do a better job of providing a parental role. Developing the island's policy on what it means to be 'a corporate parent' was one of the recommendations of the Independent Care Inquiry. But a year on, people still think there is more to do. A group which is about to rename itself 'Jersey Cares' have been looking to Scotland to see how they are working to improve the lives of children in care. The country is currently doing a revolutionary review of the care system, focusing on listening to young people with experience of it. A team from Jersey visited Scotland earlier this year, and a return trip is planned later this year. Jersey already want to follow Scotland's lead on raising the age that care leavers get support until. In Scotland it can go up to 26. John Scally from Caritas said "We don't regard as having any responsibility for a child once they are past 18. Well you wouldn't do that with your own children, and in Scotland that can go up to in some cases to 26. So I think we should be looking at this cut off point at 18 as it doesn't seem to me to be a reasonable cut off." Jersey's Chief Executive Charlie Parker told ITV News he knows more needs to be done to improve the role of the 'corporate parent' in the island. 

South Africa: Parliament to help curb violence against children

The commission wants Parliament to establish a multi party caucus on violence against children. Parliament says it is serious about curbing violence against children. This is in response to a call by the South African Human Rights Commission during its recent appearance before Parliament’s Social Development Committee. The commission wants Parliament to establish a multi-party caucus on violence against children. Parliament’s Spokesperson Moloto Mothapo says the request was made before a committee of parliament so parliamentary processes will have to be followed. He says: “This might probably happen through a report that must be by that particular committee for the houses of the institution to make a decision. However, we need to emphasise that the issue of violence against children is a matter that parliament takes very seriously. As we are talking now, there are various committees of parliament that are dealing with the matter,” he adds. 

New Zealand: $23m funding for rebuild of two special schools, in Auckland and Christchurch

Two special schools will be rebuilt at a cost of $23 million, Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin has announced. Auckland's Sommerville Special School in Panmure, the country's largest special school, will be rebuilt on its current site at the former Tamaki Intermediate School site at a cost of $17 million. Another $6m will be spent relocating and rebuilding Allenvale Special School in Christchurch. It will move from Bryndwr to Belfast West. Martin announced the funding, which was allocated in Budget 2018, during a visit to Sommerville today. "We are prioritising new spending to remove barriers to young people's access to education and learning. We want to ensure every child with learning challenges has access to the tools and professionals they need. We know that learning support funding has been inadequate for more than a decade," Martin said. Sommerville, which already has more than a dozen satellite units in nine host schools, has more than 270 high-needs students aged five to 21, will get a second secondary site at Glendowie College. Work on that will begin in December. Allenvale is a specialist provider for students eligible to receive targeted funding through the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS). It has a number of satellite units, including an off-site tertiary education unit for students aged 17 and over. Today's announcement is part of the $332 million School Growth Package of new capital spending in Budget 2018.

Canada: More than $5 million in disability claims paid to kids 15 and under injured on the job in B.C.

Child safety advocates are urging the provincial government to change B.C. labour laws to protect the province’s youngest workers – those 15 and under – after more than $5 million dollars in disability claims was paid to kids injured on the job between 2007 and 2017. “The stories we’ve heard are very concerning,” said Adrienne Montani, provincial coordinator with First Call B.C., a coalition of organizations that advocate for children and youth. In its work across the province, the coalition has heard from several injured children, including a 12-year-old with battery acid burns and a 13-year-old with a back injury. She said First Call had reports of 13-year-olds on construction sites, sometimes working with their parents on the same job sites. In the retail and fast food industries they’ve heard about the sexual harassment of young girls and of children under 15 working until 1 a.m. Between 2007 and 2017, WorkSafeBC recorded 187 accepted claims by kids 14 and under, as well as 593 accepted claims by those age 15, for a total of 780 accepted claims, representing $5.2 million in disability benefits. The data does not include claims accepted for health care benefits only. “As many children and youth begin summer jobs, it’s important for everyone to realize how few safeguards are in place to protect them from exploitation and injury,” said Montani. “We want B.C.’s child labour laws brought up to international standards.” The call for reform was recently echoed by the B.C. Law Institute during its review of the Employment Standards Act.

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6 JULY

USA: Los Angeles approves $10M to help separated children

Los Angeles on Tuesday approved using a $10 million fund to provide legal help to children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. The City Council and county Board of Supervisors voted to expand the LA Justice Fund, created last year to help immigrants without violent pasts who are facing deportation. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Supervisor Hilda Solis announced creation of the fund in 2016 ahead of an anticipated immigration crackdown by President Donald Trump. Garcetti said in a news release Tuesday that “no child should endure the trauma of being separated from their parents or the terror of not knowing if they will ever see their families again. … We must do everything possible to reunify these families now,” Garcetti said. “Los Angeles is answering cruelty with compassion – by giving hope and assistance to people in desperate need.” Solis said the county “will always stand with immigrants and asylum seekers. No one in this country, let alone a small child, should be forced to defend themselves in court alone,” she said in a news release. She said the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement estimates more than 100 children are in the area after being separated from their parents. More than 2,000 children have been taken from their families at the border in recent weeks and scattered in different states under Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, which criminally prosecutes adults caught crossing the border illegally. But amid an international outcry, Trump issued an executive order last week to stop the separation of immigrant families at the border.

UK: More young children seeking help for eating disorders

Girls as young as 10 are increasingly suffering from an eating disorder, says leading UK charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). It says its Childline service received an average of 16 calls a day between 2017 and 2018 – a 22 per cent rise – from young people struggling with eating conditions such as anorexia and bullimia. Childline carried out over 5,900 counselling sessions with young people specifically about eating disorders, with nine out of 10 being girls. Of these, 148 sessions were with girls aged just 10 and 11. A third of young people interviewed also spoke about having a negative or distorted body image. Liz Rowe, Head of Childline at NSPCC said: “Young people tell us that they feel under pressure to look a certain way and live a certain life, and it’s worrying that we are seeing so many children contact us about eating disorders as a result, in some cases when they are still at primary school. “It’s crucial that all those struggling with such debilitating eating problems are given all the help they need to make a full recovery so that they can go on to enjoy their childhood and teenage years to the full. The starting point on that journey is to open up and talk to someone who can listen without judgement, which is why Childline is such a crucial service for these thousands of children.” The rise comes after repeated warnings by the NSPCC about pressures created by eating disorders on the child mental health system, and how thousands of young people are being left without the support they need. The UK government last y ear proposed mental health support for children in schools, yet with Childline counselling sessions taking place outside school hours, the NSPCC says this shows the need for better out-of-hours support.

USA: Inslee kicks off new Department of Children, Youth, and Families

Gov. Jay Inslee was joined today by youth, family advocates and state leaders to celebrate the launch of the state’s new Department of Children, Youth, and Families. The agency’s opening on July 1 was the culmination of a two-year effort to transform the way Washington serves at-risk children and families. Not only does the new department bring together early learning and child welfare services previously housed at separate state agencies, it supports the philosophy in Washington state that all children get an equal opportunity to succeed and that families benefit when services and policies take a preventative approach to problems, Inslee said. “We shouldn’t be waiting until a child is harmed to step in. There’s so much we can do starting as early as a mother’s pregnancy to reduce the chances of harm to children and increase the chances they can succeed in school and in life,” Inslee said. “By bringing together the staff who work most with children and families, we’re going to be much better able to identify children and parents or caretakers who are struggling and need support.” The cabinet-level agency combines the Department of Early Learning and the Children’s Administration, which was formerly part of the Department of Social and Health Services. In July 2019, DSHS’s Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration will also join the new department. 

UK: Award for county’s ground-breaking approach to care

No Wrong Door received the prize for Impact and Learning in children’s services at the annual MJ Awards, organised by the MJ, or Municipal Journal, a publication for UK local authorities. No Wrong Door was introduced just over three years ago to replace traditional council-run care homes. Instead, two hubs cover the county and combine residential care and fostering with on-site support from clinical psychologists who act as life coaches, speech and language therapists and a supportive police role. The service has proved highly effective in breaking the traditional cycle of young people who enter care and who go on to engage in offending and risk-taking behaviour. This award is the latest recognition for the programme. Since its inception, No Wrong Door has won the national award for Innovation in local government and has been rated outstanding by Ofsted. The Department for Education said it should inform national policy and practice. In making the award, the judges said: “North Yorkshire County Council has achieved exceptional results. It has obtained buy-in from wider service providers, including the police, health, housing and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. The model puts the child and young person at the core of their work, imbedding a culture of analytics which ensures service improvements are intelligence-led.”

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4 JULY

UK: Guides and Scouts unite for £2.4m expansion push

Girlguiding and the Scout Association are seeking to open 200 new units in deprived areas of England by 2020 as part of a £2.4m joint project between the UK's two largest youth organisations. The project will see the uniformed youth organisations work together to open the units, which they hope will attract 3,300 young people and 768 volunteers to join the movement. It marks the first time the Scouts and Guides have made a joint bid for funding to expand their networks. The expansion will be overseen by a joint service manager although each of the new units will belong to either the Scouts or Guides networks. The two charities do, however, intend to share their knowledge about different communities and how best to attract young people and volunteers. The money for the project is being provided by the Pears Foundation and the #iwill programme that was created by the Big Lottery Fund and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Tim Kidd, the UK chief commissioner of Scouts, said: "I am so excited to be announcing our partnership with Girlguiding as part of this project funded by our amazing supporters. Having the opportunity to open more sections in diverse communities is something fundamentally important to both Scouting and Guiding. It means more young people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to experience fun, adventure and learn key skills for life." Chief Guide Amanda Medler added: "There are still children who don't currently have access to all the amazing things that the movements can offer. We're hoping with this partnership that more girls and young women across England can have their lives changed by Guiding."

New Zealand: One great step for LGBTQI acceptance, now it’s NZ’s turn

The Counselling Association is calling on New Zealand to follow in the British government’s example, which yesterday banned gay conversion therapies as part of its LGBT Action Plan. The New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC) strongly commends the move which will go some way towards improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the U.K. Now, NZAC says, we should do the same and immediately outlaw such detrimental ‘therapy’ practices in New Zealand. “People express gender and sexuality in many diverse ways, so it’s incredibly wrong and hugely harmful to people’s wellbeing if they’re being ‘converted’ to fit a mould,” NZAC president Bev Weber says. “New Zealand is an understanding and accepting community, but we can do more for our LBGTQI Kiwis, so they feel comfortable expressing who they are without fear of persecution.” She hopes the government takes notice of the UK’s more than 75 commitments to tackle LGBTQI injustices across all walks of life – including health, education and discrimination. Part of the plan included legislating options to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy, with an intent to protect people who are vulnerable to harm or violence “whether that occurs in a medical, commercial or faith-based context”. “We would all greatly benefit from such action here in New Zealand. Every deserves to be comfortable in their own skin and have the same rights as everybody as,” Ms Weber says.

USA: New California budget sees big child welfare investments

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a $200 billion budget last week that includes significant investments for the state’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems, though many of those are on a one-time basis. The state’s budget is at an all-time high, but with Brown stepping down at the end of the year, many investments expire after one year. Brown and California legislators set aside $248 million from the general fund to support the largest child-welfare effort of his administration, the Continuum of Care Reform (CCR). Under CCR, the state is tasked with placing more of the children in its foster care system in family-like settings instead of institutional settings. The new budget will address one of the most pressing CCR implementation issues. Some resource families – the state’s new designation for both foster families and relative caregivers – have experienced lengthy delays getting through the approval process, meaning sometimes months-long waits for foster care payments for many caregivers, especially relatives. The new California budget will get around some payment issues by providing funding at the time of placement for families who take in a child on an emergency basis. Starting on July 1, 2018, counties in the state will pay a 30 percent share of non-federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) emergency assistance funds for all new emergency placements. The state would be responsible for the remaining portion.

China: One in five youth addicted to online video games: survey

About 18 percent of Chinese youth play online video games at least four to five hours per day, showing signs of addiction, according to a survey. According to a report in Monday's China Youth Daily, research on the online behavior of Chinese youth showed that 41.3 percent of Chinese young people understand that it is unhealthy to spend too much time online, but cannot control themselves. "Internet addiction is relevant to our lives. Almost one in every five youth has already been or is likely to become addicted to video games," said Zhou Huazhen, a scholar with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in charge of the research. Zhou said she believes the study has brought much more extensive and straightforward results in the study of internet addiction in China compared to individual cases reported by the media. The study showed that about 23.6 percent of Chinese young men played online video games at least four days a week, and 17.7 percent played every day. The percentage of students who play online games at least four days a week grows with age – 16.9 for elementary students, 21.3 percent for junior high school students and 31.8 percent for senior high school students. Accessibility of digital products and parental supervision are two main factors driving the increase, said Zhou. Older children need to use the internet more often than younger children, both for study and daily life, as well as to meet their social needs, and teachers and parents usually loosen their supervision as children grow up, Zhou added. Zhang Shuhui, vice president of CASS, conducted similar research in 2010, also working with Zhou, showing that only 6.7 percent of students spent more than six hours online from Monday to Friday at that time. Zhang said even with minor differences in parameters between the surveys, the results of the two surveys show increasing internet addiction among Chinese youth. In the beginning of 2018, addiction to video games was recognised by the World Health Organization as a mental health disorder. 

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2 JULY

Canada: Province announces plan to improve support for Indigenous youth

Changes to how the province deals with child intervention were announced Thursday in Lethbridge. Children’s Services Minister Danielle Larivee announced the public action plan at the McMan Youth Hub. Titled “A Stronger, Safer Tomorrow,” the plan highlights 39 actions, including 16 immediate steps, to be implemented before April 2019, intended to “improve services, address funding on reserves and increase supports for children, youth and families.” The plan is intended to address all 26 final recommendations released in March by the Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention and was developed with assistance from Indigenous leaders, communities and frontline partners who work directly with vulnerable young people. “Each and every child in Alberta deserves the same support to thrive, no matter where they were born,” Larivee said. “The fact this did not occur for generations is a tragedy. So our government will not let this continue. We will step up and do what is necessary.” The province will commit $4.3 million for implementing the 16 immediate actions to be taken. These include the creation of a new Indigenous advisory body to guide implementation in local communities. Early intervention and prevention services will be prioritized, and Alberta will fully implement Jordan’s Principle, the legal rule that ensures all children receive necessary services and supports, regardless of jurisdiction.
Larivee called the plan a priority for the provincial government.

UK: Children's services spending to increase by £542m

Local authority spending on children's services is rising at a faster rate than any other council services area, with expenditure this year expected to increase by £542m, government figures show. Statistics published by the Office for National Statistics show that councils have budgeted to spend £8.57bn in 2018/19, up £542m, or 6.8 per cent, compared with the 2017/18 amount of £8.03bn. Overall, 37 per cent of budgeted local authority total service expenditure is to be spent on education, 17 per cent on adult social care, 12 per cent on police and nine per cent on children's social care. In terms of changes in spending within children's services, expenditure on looked-after children is forecast to be £4.2bn, up by £350m (9.1 per cent) compared with the 2017/18 budget. Meanwhile spending on child safeguarding is forecast to be £2bn, up by £128m (6.7 per cent). There were 646,120 referrals to children's social care in 2016/17, up 3.97 per cent on the previous year. And there are currently record numbers of children in care. Earlier this year a survey of senior leaders at English councils found that children's services are now the top immediate pressure for councils, coming above adult social care for the first time in at least three years. The Local Government Association has calculated that by 2020, annual spending by councils on children's services will be nearly £2bn more than it was in 2015/16. Matt Dunkley, chair of the Association of Directors of Children's Service's resources and sustainability policy committee said: "The fact that local authorities are choosing to divert funding away from their other services to prop up children's services in the face of a huge increase in demand, should send out a warning shot across the sector. "We are facing an unprecedented surge in demand for some of our most expensive child protection services while at the same time we are having to cut the very services that we know reduce that demand. "We urge government to take action by plugging the funding gap of at least £2bn expected in children's services by 2020 and to help us to turn the tide of demand for statutory services." 

New Zealand: Biggest ever child poverty survey gets underway

New Zealand’s most extensive survey of child poverty kicks off this month to give a clearer picture of how poverty affects everyone; from children to the elderly, says the Minister of Statistics. Extra funding in the 2018 Budget means Stats NZ’s Household Economic Survey will be expanded from 3,500 households to 20,000 to get a more detailed picture of what Kiwis can afford and what they can’t; especially for their children. “Finding out about the extent of child poverty is a first step. Once we have a better picture, the Government will understand how to develop more effective policies and actions to reduce child poverty,” James Shaw says. Stats NZ will be asking families questions such as: “Do your children have two pairs of good shoes, two sets of warm winter clothes, and a waterproof coat?” Families will be asked if they have been forced to postpone a child’s visit to the dentist so they could afford essentials like food and rent. “Some families may not be able to afford a birthday party for their child, that could be an indicator of poverty, and the survey asks about that too,” Mr Shaw said. The first of 20,000 interviews started today (2 July). The survey will roll out around the country over the next 12 months. Results will be released later in 2019. 

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