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World headlines news relating to children, youth and families

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Toronto centre helps foster kids with tough transition out of care

From the outside, the unassuming house partly hidden behind a tree in the corner lot on Pape Avenue doesn’t look like much. But for hundreds of youth aging out of the child welfare system, the Pape Adolescent Resource Centre (PARC) is the only hub in the GTA where they can access services designed to help with the transition out of foster care. Still, a lack of basic life-skill training while in care, absence of government data on the adult experience of foster kids, and being the only centre of its kind makes it challenging for programs like PARC to service youth at a critical time in their lives, advocates say. “It is a program that is well-used, under-resourced, and it is the only game in town for kids that are transitioning from in-care to independence that has this kind of sophistication to its programming,” said Rob Thompson, director of communications at the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) of Toronto. Five full-time Adolescent Workers and six other staff, all from CAS, offer individual support and group programs including financial literacy, emotional support, immigration, mental health, housing, and legal help.

Juvenile justice working group gathers for first meeting

Earlier this month, a new NCSL work group formed to develop a set of bedrock principles of effective juvenile justice state policy, met for the first time in Newport Beach, California. The Juvenile Justice Principles Work Group, made up of 15 state legislative leaders in juvenile justice from across the country, was convened through a partnership with NCSL and the Pew Charitable Trusts’ public safety performance project. NCSL will publish a report to guide policy review and reform in the state based on the work group’s findings. The report is intended to identify policy-making strategies that are rooted in research, reflect bipartisan values, and help states invest in proven methods to put justice-involved youth back on the right track, while also keeping communities safe. The group is led by co-chairs Senator Whitney Westerfield (R) from Kentucky and Senator Patty Pansing Brooks (NP) from Nebraska.

New Zealand: $49m investment in Family Start

Minister for Children Anne Tolley says a total of $49 million is being invested in Budget 2017 to boost Family Start, an intensive home visiting programme. Mrs Tolley today visited Ngati Awa Social and Health Services, Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau and Te Pou Oranga o Whakatohea in Whakatane. This additional funding will help all three providers extend their Family Start programme into rural areas in the Bay of Plenty. “It’s important to intervene early and target support to our vulnerable families and whānau who are struggling with challenges that put health, education and social outcomes for their children at risk,” Mrs Tolley says. “Family Start is an evidence based programme with proven results where funding is aligned to support New Zealand families with the highest needs.

Center for Child Welfare and Education celebrates 20 years of serving Illinois children and youth

The NIU Center for Child Welfare and Education is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of its Educational Access Project (EAP), a project that promotes educational success for children in foster care. According to Angela Baron-Jeffrey, the Center’s director, since 1997 the EAP has partnered with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to provide educational interventions, consultation, support for and collaboration with youth, caregivers, caseworkers, educators and others who serve youth in foster care. EAP’s goal is to help youth maintain consistent access to quality education in spite of barriers, which include movement to a new family or school, trauma and its impact, academic issues and disabilities. “DCFS has about 15,000 youth. Youth in foster care face a lot of obstacles in pursuing educational services,” says Baron-Jeffrey. “We have a stable group of Education Advisors who advocate for them and do a phenomenal job promoting what’s in the child’s best interest.” These Advisors are in DCFS offices throughout the state, in close proximity to the families they serve. They are called to intervene on education issues that affect the youth.

India: Hospitals, orphanages ordered to put cradles for unwanted kids

The Government has ordered all hospitals and orphanages to put up cradles in front of their buildings so that parents can give up unwanted babies safely. The 'Palna' scheme will help bridge the gap between the number of children available for adoption and the burgeoning list of adoptive parents. As of May 2017, there are 1,766 children in child-care institutions across the country, while there were 15,200 prospective adoptive parents waiting in queue. "The idea is to encourage parents to come and surrender their babies in the cradles so that they don't abandon them or kill them. It is a humane and yet anonymous way to give up your child," Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi told PTI. The ministry has already sent out orders for implementation of the scheme even as it is awaits clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs to set up such cradles in front of police stations. "We want such cradles in places where there is night staff present so that they can take the child in immediately," the minister said. The cradles will be fitted with a bell by which the staff can be alerted to the arrival of the child. Then the baby can be taken to the local child welfare committee and screened further to evaluate if it is fit for adoption.



New Zealand: Family violence reports reach record high

Police family violence investigations reached a record high in 2016, statistics released today show. Police investigated 118,910 incidents of family violence last year, an increase of more than 8000 on the year before. This is up from 110,126 in 2015 and 101,955 in 2014, according to the new statistics from the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse, based at the University of Auckland.“We don’t know whether this is due to an increase in violence or an increase in people coming forward. However it is clear that demand on services continues to increase,” Dr Pauline Gulliver from the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse said. Responding to family violence accounts for 41 percent of a frontline police officer’s time. “Intimate partner violence and child abuse do not just affect a few ‘vulnerable’ individuals, but are problems that need addressing in every community,” she said. Dr Gulliver called for better resourcing for specialist family violence services and prevention programmes. “Police and the criminal justice system have received increased funding for responding to family violence in the last 12 months, however this needs to be matched by resourcing for specialist family violence services and prevention programmes in the community. “Currently just 1.5 percent of government spend goes on violence prevention.”

Florida has launched an initiative to find more foster parents for children with developmental and intellectual disabilities

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities is working with 18 community-based care agencies to push foster parenting locally. “We need good foster parents – outstanding foster parents – to be there at a time of need for these children,” Department of Children and Families spokesman John Harrell said. “We’ve also realized that children who have these disabilities really need special people to step up because you’re talking about more involved care.” Harrell said the initiative is about connecting children with foster parents who are committed to working with a child until they can be reunited with their biological families. DCF’s Northeast Regional Manager Patricia Medlock said providing a homelike experience for a child by becoming a foster parent can be very rewarding. “Parents really become advocates for the kids by fighting for what they need. They’re apart of our whole system of care.” Medlock said. “They work with us in the court systems and private providers to really give the kids what they need to survive and be very successful.”

Government unveils teacher mental health training plans

Every secondary school in England is to have a mental health "first aid champion" to identify and respond to the early signs of mental illness in children, under plans announced today. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the training will help fill a gap in many teachers' knowledge of children's mental health The government is to provide £200,000 of funding to train 3,000 teachers in all English secondary schools as "youth mental health first aid champions" over the next three years. It has also committed to extend the scheme to primary schools before the end of this parliament. The training will be delivered by social enterprise Mental Health First Aid, which will provide practical advice to teachers and other school staff on how to recognise issues including depression, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders. The government hopes first aid champions will share their knowledge with colleagues and across the community to raise awareness of mental health problems and reduce stigma.

UK: Autistic young people struggle to access mental health support

Four out of five young people with autism have experienced mental health problems but are struggling to access support, research has revealed. Autistic children can sometimes struggle to communicate that they are feeling depressed The research, commissioned by the charity Ambitious about Autism, found that too often mental health problems, such as depression, are seen as normal for young people with the disability.The social communication issues associated with autism also make it harder for young people to seek help. Of the 130 young people with autism surveyed for the research just four per cent said they felt extremely confident in knowing who to ask for help if they experience a mental health problem. In addition, 90 per cent said they felt uncomfortable disclosing mental health issues with teachers and other education professionals. Two thirds said that if they did ask for help with a mental health problem they had little or no confidence that their needs would be met."It is not acceptable for unhappiness and depression to be seen as the 'normal' state for young autistic people," said Dr Laura Crane, senior teaching and engagement fellow at the Centre for Research in Autism and Education, which carried out the research. "Indicators of the presence of a mental health problem can be subtle - this may make it difficult for the young autistic people, and other people who know them, to identify that they are experiencing mental health problems. "This is a particular issue since young autistic people often reported finding it hard to express their needs."

South Dakota county plans program to keep youth out of jail

A judge has approved a program that Davison County's lead prosecutor hopes will keep more juveniles out of the court system. State's Attorney Jim Miskimins told The Daily Republic that he'll base the local program off a model in New Jersey that directs youth away from the justice system while still holding them accountable for their actions. Judge Steven R. Jensen's approval is the first step in laying the groundwork for a larger Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative that has been discussed this year. Miskimins said his plan will create the foundation necessary for the program. Miskimins said the program will work with multiple law enforcement agencies to offer services to stabilize family situations or place juveniles in programs to teach them how to handle difficult situations. "I guess, to just summarize it, I sort of envision it as being a throwback to the days of 'Officer Friendly,' where officers are not just citing kids into court, but they're working on solutions for the families, building relationships with children and their families," Miskimins said.



Australia: Indigenous review to track kids' care

The Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Rachel Stephen-Smith has ordered an independent review into the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care in Canberra. According to Ms Stephen-Smith, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has reported that in 2015-16 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the ACT were represented at more than 12 times the rate than they represented in the community generally. "As a consequence, I have asked that an independent review be conducted to provide us with a deeper understanding of this problem and how to best respond," Ms Stephen-Smith said. "The primary focus of the review will be to inform systemic improvements.' Ms Stephen-Smith said the review would examine case planning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children or young people known to ACT Child and Youth Protection Services.

UK: Popular child protection practices 'may not work'

Many child protection practices currently used by social workers, such as multi-agency safeguarding hubs (Mash) may be ineffective, as there is a lack of evidence about whether they make a positive difference, it has been claimed. The Early Intervention Foundation has said it remains unclear whether multi-agency child protection arrangements actually work. A study by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) concluded that the lack of evidence underpinning some practices and approaches that are widely used in the child protection system means it is "difficult to be sure protection services are producing good results or providing value for money". A particular concern is a dearth of evidence relating to approaches where professionals from a range of organisations work together to protect children. This includes "a lack of robust evaluation" of the impact of multi-agency safeguarding hubs (Mash), where professionals link up to deal with concerns of children at risk of harm. Researchers also found there was a lack of evidence that Signs of Safety, which aims to improve the relationships between child protection workers and vulnerable families, is effectively reducing the maltreatment of children.

Missouri Supreme Court seeks to improve juvenile justice system

The Missouri Supreme Court is in the process of examining the status of the state’s juvenile justice system. Part of that process included a public forum at the Greater St. Mark Family Church in north St. Louis County. “This is a listening session where we want to hear the stories of people regarding their experiences in the juvenile justice system,” said Hon. Sandra Hemphill, St. Louis County Circuit Judge. She is also co-chair of a working group representing the Missouri Supreme Court’s Juvenile Subcommittee for the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness. The working group invited citizens to share their experiences in hopes of finding ways to improve the system. “Part of our task is to take this information along with other information that we will be gathering and make recommendations to the Missouri Supreme Court to improve our juvenile justice system,” said Hemphill. Some community activists feel the system is too quick to push accused offenders away from their families. Amanda Davis attended the meeting. She’s a member of Metropolitan Congregations United and said some juveniles have been held in custody for months until authorities determine no crime was committed. “All that time the child is missing a lot of the family and education,” said Davis. The commission does plan on having more opportunities for the pubic to share experiences.

Kids as young as 12 experimenting with drugs

South Africa’s illegal drug use is spiralling out of control with the country among the top 10 narcotics and alcohol abusers in the world – twice the world norm. What’s even more alarming, according to the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use, is that the average age of experimentation in South Africa is now 12. With World Drug Awareness day coming on Monday, Shelley Andersen, addictions counsellor at Akeso Clinic, said we were not winning the war against drugs. “Psychiatric hospitals and treatment centres in conjunction with the DSD (Department of Social Development) are largely looking at prevention and outpatient programmes to try to address the problems. The SAPS and customs border control units are facing a huge task to try and combat smuggling and dealing in narcotics. One person may be eliminated only for another to replace them. Drug courts are also necessary, as our prison systems can’t cope with capacity currently, and often minor drug offenders are put into the prison system without receiving help and with no treatment programmes being available,” she said.



Canada: Youth in danger in indigenous communities

Concerns for youth in Natuashish and other indigenous communities have been reinforced by recent suicide-related deaths and injuries of children and youth in Natuashish. The provincial government is completing its review of the Children and Youth Care and Protection Act, which means a new approach to providing child welfare and youth services in indigenous communities in the province could be implemented. “It is vital that the communities are at the centre of all planning,” child and youth advocate Jackie Lake Kavanagh said. “They must be heard in order to develop plans and solutions that make sense within their cultures and to address the historical roots of many of these issues.” Kavanagh stressed the government needs to support broader community healing to help deal with years of intergenerational trauma. “Children do not exist in isolation,” Kavanagh said. “They need to be able to rely on healthy families and healthy communities.” Kavanagh said she plans a visit Labrador this summer to meet with young people, community leaders and agencies.

UK: Government 'ignoring children's social care crisis' 

Council leaders and children's campaigners have criticised the government for failing to tackle the "children's social care crisis" as part of its legislative programme for the new parliament. The Local Government Association (LGA), Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) and the National Children's Bureau (NCB) have all spoken out about a lack of focus on improving children's social care in the Queen's Speech, which outlines the government's legislative intentions for the next two years. The NCB said that while the government proposes to stage a consultation on the future of adult social care it has no plans for an equivalent for children's social care. The charity said cash-strapped children's services are struggling to meet demand for social care and it fears that vulnerable children are missing out on support unless extra money is made available. "We urgently need a review of how the social care needs of vulnerable children will be met, alongside the consultation of adult care announced in the Queen's Speech," NCB chief executive Anna Feuchtwang said. "The government continues to overlook the crisis facing children's services. Demand is outstripping resource, leaving thousands of children missing out on the help they need, including children in local authority care, children who have been abused and neglected, and young people with disabilities. "Without additional funding, social care will become an emergency service - stepping in only when children reach crisis point."

Kansas foster care contractor sees benefits of trauma-informed training

The foster care system in Kansas has problems, but a national child welfare group sees one area where it could lead the way for other states. Tracey Feild, director of the child welfare strategy group at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said work on childhood trauma by KVC Kansas, one of the state’s two foster care contractors, could be a model for others. The Casey Foundation sponsors the annual Kids Count report and other child-focused research. KVC partnered with Child Trends, a nonpartisan national research group, to find out if training foster parents and caseworkers about childhood trauma would result in fewer moves for foster children. Childhood trauma includes experiences such as such as being exposed to violence, experiencing economic hardship or living with parents or guardians who abuse alcohol or drugs, are mentally ill or served time in prison. KVC and Child Trends found that if adults understood the effects of traumatic events, children were more likely to stay in one home during their time in foster care. Children working with better-trained adults also were observed to have better behavior.

UK: County considers converting empty properties into homes for care leavers

Norfolk County Council is set to turn empty properties into homes for care leavers in a bid to improve services for vulnerable young people. The council currently uses a range of providers to house young people over the age of 16 who have been in its care. However, it says their needs vary and the market for those with the most challenging behaviour is currently underdeveloped. Penny Carpenter, chairman of the children’s services committee, said: ‘Developing accommodation for care leavers was one of our key manifesto commitments. ‘These young people are among our most vulnerable and we need to ensure they have the right support and accommodation as they move towards independence. ‘Finding suitable accommodation for young people is often difficult and expensive, particularly for those with the most challenging behaviour. ‘That is why it makes sound sense to develop our own and to ensure we have clear and effective oversight of the support on offer.’

South Africa: Funding for cash-strapped students goes digital

A tertiary education crowdfunding Trust, along with the support of Standard Bank, launched their official digital platform in Johannesburg on Tuesday. The Feenix Trust, built on a crowdfunding platform called Fundular, brings together students in need of financial assistance and willing donors. It is aimed at addressing the issue of lack of access to education currently facing South Africa by providing a link to students to acquire funding. Jayshree Naidoo, interim CEO of the Feenix Trust explained that this initiative is aimed at boosting channels, not replacing or competing with channels that currently exist such as merit-based scholarships and bursaries, adding that it came without the burden of the administration that comes with a bursary. She said that Feenix is intended to support the so-called missing middle students who fall through the cracks of government assistance and corporate sponsorship.“The fees cover everything from tuition to accommodation, and books. We don’t take pass rates into consideration, we just want the students to not be burdened by the onus of having to pay for fees, but rather focus on finishing their academic career,” said Naidoo, saying funding was dependent on the fees statement from universities. “We are currently only affiliated with 14 out of the 26 public universities because this was a pilot project, but we are hoping to cover all 26 by August this year,” Naidoo said.



UK: Loughton voices 'concern' at lack of plans for children's services

Former children's minister Tim Loughton has described an apparent lack of firm government plans to improve services for children and young people as "concerning". Speaking to CYP Now, the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham said there was little mention of children and young people's issues in his party's manifesto, conceding that Brexit will be the main preoccupation over the next few years. He added that there is the additional challenge of having new faces in key policy areas after three ministers with briefs relating to the sector failed to retain their seats at the general election. The Conservative manifesto features several pledges relating to children and young people, including introducing a new criminal offence for perpetrators of domestic abuse directed at a child, review of support for children in care, and to boost childcare provision. There is also a pledge to look at ways to improve the family justice system. But Loughton said he does not believe the commitments amount to significant change for the sector.

New California budget includes $31 million to support foster parents with child care

After a two-year fight, the California legislature adopted a $31 million budget item that is aimed at providing child care services to caregivers who are taking in young children involved with the state’s foster care system. Passed by legislators on Thursday, the 2017 budget sets aside money for the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program, which would provide child care vouchers to foster parents and parenting foster youth for children ages 0 to 5 living with them. Money from the program will also go toward providing caregivers with navigators to help them find affordable, long-term child care and training aimed at helping child care providers give trauma-informed care to young children in the system. In recent years, as California has faced a shortfall in the number of foster homes for the children in its child welfare system, a lack of child care has emerged as an important barrier. A survey of L.A. County-based foster family agencies by the Association of Community Human Service Agencies in 2015 found that a dearth of available child care had played a part in discouraging almost 70 percent of respondents from taking in children, especially younger ones.

Dutch youth institutions growing at alarming rate; youth inspectorate struggles to keep up: report

The number of youth care institutions in the Netherlands is growing explosively. In 2014 the country counted 120 major institutions, including things like foster homes and group homes for young people, now there are around 3 thousand, according to newspaper Trouw. The Youth Care Inspectorate is struggling to keep up. There is no obligatory registration for offering private care, according to the newspaper. So the Inspectorate does not know exactly how many small youth care providers there are in the country. Those who do register themselves are sent a comprehensive questionnaire to complete. The Inspectorate uses this to decide whether a visit is needed, according to Trouw. Over the past months the Inspectorate visited 26 providers. Six of them did not meet all the requirements. For example, all providers must have at least one qualified professional in house that is registered with the Youth Quality Register. In some homes the provider was unable to properly assess what help a child in his or her care needs. Senior inspector Hans Jagers finds this worrying. "There must be someone in the house who can assess risky situations", he said to the newspaper.

B.C. Foster care connection to homelessness

Results from last year’s youth homeless count in Kamloops have now been released by A Way Home. Among the findings are revealing figures concerning youth who age out of foster care. Of the youth surveyed, 57% of those currently homeless are former youth in government care, and 40% of those aged out of foster care at 19. Read more: 2016 Kamloops Youth Homelessness Count



Vermont ranks third in the nation for child welfare

One of the most influential child welfare organizations in the country has named Vermont one of the top states for child well-being. According to the 2017 Kids Count Data Book, which was released earlier this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the state ranked third in overall child well-being, fourth in child health, fifth in education, and ninth in economic well-being. The data book focuses on key trends for children in the post-recession years and uses 16 indicators to rank each state across the four domains listed above. Last year, the state ranked sixth in overall well-being. The top-ranked state in overall well-being was New Hampshire, and the second was Massachusetts. Connecticut ranked sixth, Maine ranked 13th, and Rhode Island ranked 29th. The bottom five states were Arizona, Nevada, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Mississippi.,510644

New Zealand: Children's homes struggling due to lack of staff – advocates

The government needs to start paying a salary to caregivers at state-owned family homes if it wants to help young people in need, advocates say. Figures from the Ministry of Social Development show in January this year 13 of its 59 houses were not operating, meaning almost 80 bedrooms were unavailable. The family homes aim to operate as normal households for up to six children or teenagers whose own parents can't look after them. They are run by two live-in caregivers – usually a couple – who get free rent and electricity, a vehicle and a small allowance, but no salary. The ministry said the houses were empty for various reasons, including the need for maintenance and a lack of people to run them. Lucy Sanford-Reed, who ran a family home in the 1980s, said the lack of a salary was a big problem – and it has been for about 30 years. Earlier this year, RNZ reported on the number of youths being held in police cells because there was nowhere else to put them – with Principal Youth Court Judge John Walker at the time describing the figures as unacceptable. Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft said these vacant homes could go a long way to sorting that out. But Judge Becroft said in order to fulfil their potential, the ministry would have to re-open the homes and staff them properly with professionals.

UK: National child sexual abuse centre launches evaluation fund

A national centre established by the government as part of efforts to tackle child sexual exploitation and abuse has launched a fund to give organisations the opportunity to prove the effectiveness of the work they do. The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse, which is backed by £8m in Home Office funding until 2020, launched in January with the aim of gathering and sharing high-quality evidence of successful schemes in preventing child sexual exploitation and abuse. It has now set up an Evaluation Fund, which will issue £250,000 worth of grants, of between £5,000 to £25,000, to organisations across England and Wales to help them evaluate their work. Among organisations being encouraged to apply are those that provide direct support to victims and those at risk of harm, as well as those running education programmes around abuse and exploitation. Organisations working with care leavers and young people with learning difficulties - two groups seen as particularly at risk - are also being urged to apply, ahead of the deadline of 7 July.

Supporting children and youth with autism through mentorship

Ontario is supporting skill-building mentorships for children and youth with autism through a new program at Toronto-based Jake's House for Children with Autism. Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau made the announcement today at Chaminade College School in North York. This support will allow Jake's House to launch the Legends Mentoring Program. In partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, this program will pair children and youth with autism between the ages of 6 and 18 with mentors to help them develop strong communication and relationship-building skills. This support is in addition to the new Ontario Autism Program (OAP), which will begin June 26. The new OAP will provide flexible, family-centred service for children and their families all across the province. The program includes a single point of access to make it easier for parents to access services for their child, individualized service based on each child's unique needs and a direct funding option to be implemented by the end of the year that provides all families with a choice between receiving direct service or receiving funding to purchase services for their child. Ontario is committed to providing supports for children and youth with autism to help them thrive and reach their full potential.



New Zealand: Youth campaign for better mental health education

A petition calling for better mental health education in high school curriculum has been delivered to Parliament. Over 9,000 people have signed 21-year-old Lucy McSweeney's petition. Lucy McSweeney was inspired to begin the campaign by her own challenges with mental health in high school. It was accepted by Act Party leader and Education Under-Secretary David Seymour, and tabled at Parliament. Miss McSweeney says she has received cross-party support. Candidates have told her mental health is a top issue and election-year issue for young people. “Mental Health problems in youth are so common that if a young person isn’t dealing with it themselves, it’s likely a close friend will be,” she says. “However, they are not given adequate information or support to manage this.” McSweeney says young people need better tools on hand to deal with mental health issues and know where to go when they are in distress. “It’s common sense – teaching young people a balanced mental health curriculum at school is the way to influence an entire generation,” she says. “Making these tough conversations mandatory will mean a whole generation will grow up just thinking it’s normal to talk candidly about mental health and its effects.

South Africa: Researchers call on governement to improve policies that protect children

Research by the Children's Institute shows that 80% of children under the age of four, who are victims of sexual assault,are abused by those closest to them. Presenting the research to scores of social workers at the 9th Child Trauma Conference in Durban, it was also highlighted that many of the incidents occur either at the child's home or at the perpetrator's home when the child is visiting. The Children's Institute focuses on child policy research and advocacy in South Africa, based on key challenges to the well-being of South Africa's children. It has called on policy makers to improve policies that will protect children who are victims of sexual or physical abuse, especially from those closest to them. Research by the institute shows that rape victims are usually assaulted by those closest to them, which often makes it difficult for these victims to speak out. Speaking at the 9th Trauma Conference in Durban, senior researcher at the institute, Lucy Jamieson, said current policies fail to protect children especially when the perpetrator is released. Jamieson says it is disappointing that mothers are often involved in protecting the perpetrators. The research further shows that out of 100 cases reported, 60% are withdrawn, while only 12% of perpetrators are found guilty. The conference ended with all social workers pledging to work harder to protect the rights of children.

UK: New child cruelty sentencing guidelines proposed

Abusive or neglectful parents who blame their partner for their own child cruelty could face tougher sentences in new court proposals. The new sentencing guidelines in England and Wales say blaming others should be considered an "aggravating factor" when deciding a sentence. The change comes after many cases where one parent or carer sought to blame the other for what had happened. The Ministry of Justice backs the plan, saying child cruelty is "abhorrent". The proposed guidelines are to be applied in those cases where there are charges of cruelty to a child, allowing a child to die or suffer serious physical harm, or failing to protect from a young girl from female genital mutilation (FGM). The Sentencing Council has launched a public consultation over the proposals. To date, there have been no convictions under laws relating to FGM in England and Wales despite estimates suggesting it has affected tens of thousands of women and girls. The Sentencing Council said the guidelines have been designed to allow a "better assessment of these complex offences" to help ensure "consistent and proportionate sentencing".

UK: Gloucestershire council sorry for 'serious failings' in children’s services

Gloucestershire county council has been forced to apologise after an Ofsted report into its children’s services division questioned the integrity of the senior leadership team and found that “serious and widespread failures” were putting children at risk. The damning report found that the quality of support given to families had “deteriorated significantly” since a previous “inadequate” rating of some aspects of its performance in 2011. While one area, adoption, was rated “good”, inspectors described a culture in which relationships between managers and frontline social workers had broken down. Despite its relatively affluent profile with few pockets of deprivation, the local authority is one of 29 in England to be given the worst Ofsted rating for its children’s services. 



Ontario transforming autism services for children and their families

The province is transforming the way that children and youth with autism, and their families, receive services and supports through the new Ontario Autism Program (OAP), beginning later this month. Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau made the announcement today at the ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development in Mississauga. The new OAP will ensure autism services for children and youth are delivered consistently across the province, allow for flexibility and choice based on each child's needs, and give families confidence in receiving quality services. On June 26, families will begin to transition into the new OAP. The province has worked closely with families, caregivers, advocates, clinicians and providers to build the new OAP, and will continue to engage with key stakeholders, including the OAP Advisory Committee, on the design and implementation of the new program. The new OAP will be fully in place by spring 2018.

UK: Extend Staying Put foster care initiative to age 25, urges charity

Young people must be allowed to remain in foster care placements up until the age of 25, a children's charity has said. Under the Staying Put policy, which was made law through the Children and Families Act 2014, councils have a duty to support looked-after children who want to remain with their foster carer until they are 21. But an election manifesto put together by The Adolescent and Children's Trust (Tact), based on interviews with children and young people, has called on the next government to extend the entitlement up to the age of 25 in order to improve placement stability. "Problems arise when children leave foster care," the charity's manifesto ahead of tomorrow's general election states. "To smooth transition, the government has promoted Staying Put arrangements, enabling care leavers to remain with their former foster carers after they turn 18 and until age 21, helping prepare for adulthood and limit the risks of social exclusion. "But young people questioned about Staying Put frequently asked for it to be extended to age 25."

New Zealand: Mandatory social work registration requirement welcomed

The announcement on mandatory registration for social workers by Minister Tolley has been welcomed by leading tertiary education health and social services providers Whitireia New Zealand and the Wellington Institute of Technology. “The requirement for all social workers to be registered has been long-awaited by those working and teaching in the social work field,” says Jean Mitaera Whitireia Social Work Lead and Registered Social Worker. Jean Mitaera, attending the Family Violence Summit in Wellington yesterday where the announcement was made, says, “The registration requirement means professional standards will be in place across the social work sector; the use of the name and profession of social work will be protected; and there will be recourse around the practice and safety of social workers which can be accessed by the public. “This is a landmark announcement which has been supported by Whitireia, not only as an educator of social workers, but also as an Executive Member of the Council of Social Work Education Aotearoa New Zealand.

Canada: First Nations mother wins right to daughter's remains over foster parent

A First Nations mother was granted the right to her daughter's remains after a hearing in an Edmonton courtroom Wednesday. "I'm very humbled, full of emotion," said June Deschamps, a member of the Louis Bull First Nation in Maskwacis. She petitioned the Court of Queen's Bench after she learned her 23-year-old daughter, Danika Deschamps Yellowhorse, had died Saturday and the young woman's former foster mother intended to donate her organs and cremate her remains. Both practices are contrary to Indigenous beliefs. While going to court over her daughter's body was draining, Deschamps said it was a battle she needed to fight. "I get to take my daughter home," she said. "It's been a long time coming."



New Zealand: Family violence response guides launched

New guides to support the family violence sector to provide consistent and effective help to victims and perpetrators are being launched today by Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley at the Family Violence Summit in Wellington. Over 120 key players in the family violence sector are attending the Summit today to build on conversations to date about how to work together better to tackle New Zealand’s horrific rate of family violence. “Thousands of New Zealand families are affected by family violence every day and too many of them are not getting all the help they need,” Ms Adams says. “The current system for dealing with family violence is too fragmented so in addition to the work we’re doing to improve it, including the Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill and the Integrated Safety Response pilots, we’ve developed a framework which sets out common understanding of family violence, a clear protocol for assessing risk, and a consistent approach for supporting victims and perpetrators.

Police seeing 'younger and younger' sex abuse victims

The Head of the Australian Federal Police has told an international conference in Ireland that the age profile of victims of child abuse is getting younger. From infant to toddler years and older, Commander Lesa Gale said the realities of the situation are very disturbing and "no region is untouched or immune". At her assessment centre in Australia the material she said it is receiving is getting more violent, with those responsible creating an almost competitive online environment. The International Justice Mission, an organisation that works to protect communities around the world from violence , said 54% of victims were under 12 years old. Most shocking of all, a two-month old baby was rescued by the mission just a few weeks ago. Commander Gale also went on to say that violence against children online between images and videos had become more severe in the last three years.

'Prepare for Leaving Care – A Child Protection System that Works for Professionals and Young People’

Young people in alternative care need adequate support when they reach adulthood and get ready to start independent lives. Care professionals play a key role in empowering young people for their futures. A two-year project ‘Prepare for Leaving Care – A Child Protection System that Works for Professionals and Young People’ aims to help build the capacities of care professionals so they can better integrate a child rights approach into their work. The project aims to ensure that the rights of young people in alternative care are respected and that they are prepared for an independent life. Led by SOS Children's Villages International and supported by associate partnership of Eurochild, the project builds on the experience of 'Training of Care Professionals', and specifically addresses the rights and needs of young people on their way to adulthood and independence. The project is carried out in cooperation with SOS Children’s Villages’ national associations in Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania and Spain, as well as experts from CELCIS and Eurochild. The participation of young people with first-hand experience in alternative care is central to the success of this project. Young experts, aged 16-27, from all five participating countries are providing input throughout all activities, drawing on their personal experience and the challenges they have encountered when they got ready to leave care. The two-year project is co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme of the European Union (2017-2018).

UK: Record increase in children receiving specialist SEN support

There has been a record increase in the number of children receiving additional support for special educational needs (SEN), with the figure rising by more than 30,000 in a single year. Figures published by the Department for Education show that at the end of January a total of 287,290 children had a statement of special educational needs or an education, health and care (EHC) plan in place, an increase of 30,975 or 12.08 per cent on the figure for January 2016 of 256,315.



New York could be first state to take closer look at adoption subsidies

When adoptions from foster care fall apart, youth often end up back in foster care, with a biological relative, or on the streets. But in most cases, the government still provides financial assistance to the adoptive parents. There is little appetite for close scrutiny of households once they have agreed to take in a foster youth, because adoptive homes are not considered to be different from the homes of biological families. But many adoptive parents do sign contracts to receive support subsidies, and a bill has been introduced in the New York Senate that would empower the state to more closely regulate those payments. Senate Bill 6518, introduced by Tony Avella (D), would have the county social services agencies verify that adoptive families remained intact and investigate allegations that parents had cut off support to adopted children. The bill has been fueled by advocates in New York City, including the Broken Adoptions Project of Children’s Law Center. As more becomes known about the rate at which foster youth adoptions succeed and fail, we might see interest in such legislation elsewhere in the United States.

UK: School budget cuts 'put children at risk'

Children's safety and wellbeing is being put at risk as a result of planned cuts to school office staff, it has been claimed. A survey of more than 1,400 school administrators, business managers and finance workers by trade union Unison found they regularly carry out safeguarding duties such as organising new employee security checks and reporting welfare issues to children. The union said that if cutbacks to these roles are made, as a result of government-enforced efficiency savings of £3bn by 2020, teachers will be left to mange these tasks on top of their teaching responsibilities. Of the 1,417 school staff who responded to Unison's online survey, 78 per cent said they liaised directly with local authorities and charities to carry out safety checks. A similar proportion, 71 per cent, said they ensure people vising schools are safe to do so, while 41 per cent said they investigated if new staff had previous criminal convictions. Meanwhile, 62 per cent of office staff reported calling parents about welfare issues, such as when children were unexpectedly absent. And 62 per cent said they update school medical records, while 55 per cent said they administer first aid and medication to students.

UK: National Youth Agency demands national youth work strategy

The next government must create a national strategy for youth work that recognises its value to young people's personal and social development, the National Youth Agency (NYA) has said. The organisation said whichever political party wins at the polls next week must "invest in youth work and make it more accessible to young people". The call, set out in the organisation's election manifesto, follows steep cuts to youth service budgets in recent years, with latest local authority section 251 returns showing council spending on youth services fell from £815m in 2012/13 to £500m in 2015/16. In reference to government investment in the National Citizen Service programme - which is being funded with £1.2bn of public money up to 2020 – the manifesto states that although "social action is great" there is a need for "a range of services catering to young people across a broader age range than 16- to 17-year-olds". NYA's manifesto also calls on the government to use youth workers to support young people on apprenticeships.

Ontario: Feds spent $707Gs on legal fees after child welfare decision

The federal justice minister’s office says it spent $707,000 in legal fees following a landmark human rights tribunal decision on First Nations child welfare. Charlie Angus, an NDP MP and leadership candidate who obtained the information through a parliamentary request, questions why the legal tab was necessary. “I am appalled that this government would spend so much money on fees to lawyers to fight justice for children,” he said in an interview. “When is this disconnect with this government going to end?” In January 2016, the tribunal found the federal government underfunded the delivery of child services on reserve and has prodded the government on its progress since then. Last week, it chastised the government, saying it has not fully implemented Jordan’s Principle – a policy designed to keep children from being caught in spending disputes between governments. It went as far as to suggest the federal government’s failure to fully implement Jordan’s Principle may have contributed to the suicides of two teenagers in Wapekeka First Nation in northwestern Ontario earlier this year. Joel Lightbound, parliamentary secretary to Health Minister Jane Philpott, said Friday the government is reviewing the most recent findings by the human rights tribunal. 



UNICEF: Data gaps on children in residential care leave the most vulnerable unaccounted for

At least 2.7 million children live in residential care worldwide, according to a new estimate by UNICEF. Yet the figures, published today in Child Abuse & Neglect, are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg, with wide gaps in data collection and accurate records found in the majority of countries. “In residential care, such as institutions or orphanages, children who are already vulnerable due to family separation are at increased risk of violence, abuse and long-term damage to their cognitive, social and emotional development,” said Cornelius Williams, Associate Director of Child Protection at UNICEF. “The priority is to keep children out of residential care and with their families, especially in the early years.” UNICEF’s new estimate is based on data from 140 countries. The study emphasizes that many countries still lack a functional system for producing accurate figures on the number of children in alternative care. “It is critical that governments keep more accurate and comprehensive listings of all existing residential care facilities, as well as regularly undertake thorough counts of children living in these facilities in order to help strengthen official records,” said Claudia Cappa, Statistics Specialist at UNICEF and co-author of the study. “That way we will be able to measure the breadth of the problem and work with governments to respond effectively.”

Election debate: Youth work cuts 'make UK more vulnerable to terrorism'

The UK is less safe in the face of terrorism as a result of cuts to youth services in recent years, it has been claimed during a televised debate ahead of next week's general election. On the BBC Election Debate 2017, during a discussion about security in the wake of last month's terror attack in Manchester that left 22 people dead, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said the UK is "less safe" as a result of there being fewer youth workers engaging young people. "In terms of the cuts to public services - that's had an impact [on safety]," Wood said. "One small example [is] youth work. When you had a well-funded youth service there were youth workers available to challenge the ideology of young people. "I'm saying austerity has cut youth workers and there are fewer people around to challenge the root cause – the ideology that spurs these people on." Funding for youth services has dropped by around £700m since 2010. Government data shows that local authorities spent £1.2bn on youth services in 2010/11 but by 2015/16, this had fallen to £500m.

Australia: Tougher laws on child sex tourism

Today the Coalition Government announced it will introduce tough new laws which will prevent registered child sex offenders from travelling overseas. New legislation will make Australia a world leader in protecting vulnerable children from child sex tourism by prohibiting registered child sex offenders from leaving Australia or holding Australian passports. There is an estimated 20,000 registered child sex offenders in Australia; those who have served their sentences but are subject to supervision and reporting obligations due to their ongoing risk to our community. With almost 800 registered child sex offenders travelling overseas in 2016, and more than one third doing so without permission, it was clear the existing passport legislation was not working. The new legislation will impose higher standards than existing rules, putting a stop to child sex offenders travelling to vulnerable countries where they are out of sight and reach of Australian law.

New Zealand: Latest research echoes view on teen domestic violence

Family Violence Clearing house has published today a research paper “Preventing adolescent relationship abuse and promoting healthy relationships” which looks at adolescence domestic violence in Aotearoa. The paper found a number of issues, many of which Women’s Refuge has long advocated for; most importantly the need to increase efforts around intervention and prevention. “We have always said that we need to build a fence at the top of the cliff, and providing quality advice and support to young people on how to have healthy relationship is a key part of doing this,” says Women’s Refuge Chief Executive Dr Ang Jury. “If we’re ever going to create real sustainable change, we need to start working with our young people before abuse begins. Breaking down stereotypes on gender norms and roles is fundamental and is even more relevant today as people socialise and communicate more online, and less face to face; young people are relying more on what they think is the right way to behave based on a void of information and a punitive approach, rather than people and society explaining to them ‘this is what a healthy relationship looks and feels like.”


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