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RI Child Trauma Model Featured at National Conference

The “Rhode Island Model” for infusing a trauma-focused approach to child safety was showcased this weekend at a national conference sponsored by the Child Welfare League of America.

“I consider Family Service of RI, the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families, and the Providence Police to be leaders when it comes to infusing the trauma-informed approach into the work of child welfare,” said Julie Collins of the Child Welfare League of America. “They have been doing this much longer than most agencies and we are excited they agreed to share their wisdom and experience.”

Family Service's Susan Erstling: “When a child and family enter into a state’s child welfare system it is usually the result of abuse, neglect, crime, violence or something related,” said Susan Erstling, Ph.D., head of Family Service of Rhode Island’s trauma and loss center and one of the presenters at the conference, which took place just outside Washington, D.C. “The idea is to move quickly to respond to the stress to lessen potential lasting effects.”

Those effects, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, of which Family Service of RI is a member, include problems at school, substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors, relationship problems and more. “The after-effects can last years after the actual traumatic event,” Dr. Erstling said. “We’re working to prevent this from happening.”

The “Rhode Island Model” includes:

In addition to Dr. Erstling, Rhode Island presenters included Sarah Kelly-Palmer, Family Service of RI’s senior clinical administrator for trauma, intake, emergency services and foster care; Vincent McAteer, chief of child protective services for the Department of Children, Youth and Families; and Detective Sergeant Carl Weston, of the Providence Police Department’s youth services division.

The presentation was part of the “Advancing a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System” pre-conference institute held Sunday, February 26, which also included Commissioner Bryan Samuels of the federal Administration on Children, Youth and Families.

GoLocalProv Features Team
28 February 2012



'Human fence' formed in park over safety concerns

More than 150 children and adults formed a "human fence" around a playground in a recently refurbished east London park over safety concerns.

Parents said the lack of fencing around the play area in Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, meant children could run onto a road or fall into a lake.

About 400 people have signed a petition asking the council to add a fence.

Tower Hamlets Council said children benefited from the wider environment rather than playing in confined spaces.

The park, which received more than £12m from the council, the Big Lottery and Heritage Lottery funds, has a Chinese pagoda, a new island in a lake, a cafe, and will also get a new wheelpark for skateboarders and BMX riders.

'Act responsibly'

Campaigner Mary Yiangou, mother of a seven-year-old boy, said the playground "looks amazing", but she was worried about children's safety.

"One side runs parallel with the main road and the other opens on to an internal road which is used by dog walkers, cyclists and is seconds away from an enormous lake, so you have got this double whammy going on," she said.

"You've got young children going in the direction of the road or the lake.

"They have built this beautiful playground, full of lovely undulating landscape with bushes and shrubs and trees blocking your line of sight, so you can't actually see across it. So now you have to follow your children around."

Councillor Joshua Peck, leader of the Labour group on Tower Hamlets Council, and Hackney councillor Katie Hanson joined the campaigners.

Victoria Park received a £12m lottery grant and funding for refurbishment Mr Peck said: "The council needs to listen to the hundreds of parents who are telling it to finish the job and put the fence back around the playgrounds... safety really needs to come first'."

Ms Hanson said: "The new play equipment is wonderful, but with a main road on one side, a lake on the other and many dog owners using the park, a fence is necessary to keep the children safe."

The council said it carried out "extensive consultations" with young people.

"National guidelines recognise that children benefit far more by having play integrated into the wider environment rather than confining it to small enclosures," it said.

"Over a hundred children and young people from local schools and youth clubs took part and told us that they liked our plans and proposals."

The council has said it will continue to monitor the situation and "make any changes necessary".

The refurbishment work in the park will end in April and campaigners said they want the council to put up a fence before workers leave.

News story
25 February2 012



More child soldiers in Somalia fighting

Children as young as 10 years old increasingly face horrific abuse in war-torn Somalia as the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab has targeted them to replenish its diminishing ranks of fighters, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Tuesday.

While the recruitment of child soldiers by the Somali insurgent group is not new, the report said the scale of child abductions over the past two years is like nothing documented in the past.

Shocking patterns have also emerged of children serving as human shields on the battlefields, according to Human Rights Watch.

"We're beginning to see more and more instances where children are essentially being used as cannon fodder," Tirana Hassan of Human Rights Watch told CNN.

Al-Shabaab fighters abduct young girls and boys from their homes or schools, in some cases taking entire classes, the report said.

Children can be sent out to recruit other children, according to the organization. One survivor told Human Rights Watch he was asked by a group of kids to play football at a nearby field. When he arrived, he and others were gathered up and sent to training camps, the survivor told Human Rights Watch.

The camps are places where children live in fear, said Hassan, an emergencies researcher for the international human rights group.

"They see injured and dead fighters, many of them children, coming back from the battlefield," Hassan added.

Recruits are taught to use weapons and to throw hand grenades and are subjected to a myriad of abuses including rape, assault and forced marriages, according to Hassan.

Dozens of recruits, mostly ages 14 to 17, are driven by truckloads to the front line, where they are told to jump out only to be mowed down by gunfire while Al-Shabaab fighters launch rockets from behind, according to Hassan.

A 15-year-old boy recruited by Al-Shabaab from his school in Mogadishu in 2010 told Human Rights Watch that "out of all my classmates -- about 100 boys -- only two of us escaped, the rest were killed."

"The children were cleaned off. The children all died and the bigger soldiers ran away," the youth told Human Rights Watch.

Somalia's transitional government also was criticized by Human Rights Watch for not ending its own use of child soldiers.

"Al-Shabaab's horrific abuses do not excuse Somalia's Transitional Federal Government," said Zama Coursen-Neff, the group's deputy children's rights director. "The TFG should live up to its commitments to stop recruiting and using children as soldiers, and punish those who do."

Gen. Abdulkadir Ali Diimi, the head of Somalia's National Army, said he was unable to comment on the report.

The 104-page report, released two days ahead of a Somalia conference hosted by the British government, grimly details countless violations against children based on more than 160 interviews conducted over the last two years with Somali youngsters who escaped from Al-Shabaab forces, as well as parents and teachers who fled to Kenya.

"For children of Somalia, nowhere is safe," Coursen-Neff said.

On Thursday, senior representatives from more than 40 governments will converge on London in a diplomatic push to find political solutions to restore stability in Somalia.

Kathryn Tancos
21 February 2012


Teens and young adults confused about sex, Clarkson prof says in new book

The United States is behind much of the world in terms of sexual education, and it is sending many young people mixed messages, according to a Clarkson University professor.

The average young person is fairly sexually active, yet still is caught in anti-sexual teachings that say he or she shouldn’t be, Gary F. Kelly says in “America’s Sexual Transformation: How the Sexual Revolution’s Legacy Is Shaping Our Society, Our Youth, and Our Future,” which was published in November.

“I can’t decide the moral questions, but it leaves the population in a confused and unrealistic state,” said Mr. Kelly, former headmaster of the Clarkson School.

The prevalence of sex in the media and on the Internet is making the confusion worse, he said.

“The media and the Internet are constantly bombarding us with information about sexuality and jokes and pornography, and yet the underlying sense in this country is that to be sexually active prior to being married is wrong,” Mr. Kelly said.

Often, children will learn more about sex from the Internet and other media than they do from their parents, Mr. Kelly said. A 2010 Planned Parenthood poll found that 57 percent of parents said they feel only somewhat comfortable or are uncomfortable talking to their children about sex and sexual health.

“Gradually, we will have no choice but to face the truth,” Mr. Kelly said. “The U.S. in particular has always had difficulty accepting sexual truths.”

Also, many people today are postponing marriage until they are in their late 20s and early 30s, leaving young adults searching for ways to measure their social status.

It used to be that marriage, supporting oneself and having children were indicators that one had reached adulthood, Mr. Kelly said.

Today, “a large percentage of people in their 20s find it very difficult to call themselves adults because they don’t have many of the clear signposts indicating they have achieved that status,” Mr. Kelly said. “One of the ways in which young people are finding a way to feel more mature is through their sexual lives.”

Mr. Kelly, who taught Clarkson’s human sexuality course for 20 years and is the author of the college textbook “Sexuality Today,” also documents how “red-state” and “blue-state” mentalities have shaped the sexual behaviors of young people.

In red states, the politically conservative states in the Midwest and South, a common belief among young people is that sexual relationships are to be saved until marriage. Yet studies show those states have the highest rates of divorce and teen pregnancy.

In comparison, the more liberal-thinking blue states are more open about sexual education, and young people are much more likely to use contraception when they do have sex.

Mr. Kelly said this red-blue disparity shows the need for the country as a whole to honestly face the issue and become more open about sex if it hopes to properly educate young people.

“We have to develop an entirely new approach to sex education that is realistic and that accepts young people for who they are,” Mr. Kelly said.

Matthew Bultman
21 February 012


Make a difference for foster children

All kids should be as lucky as me and find parents as wonderful as mine were

I am an adopted son. I am a very lucky adopted son. And as an adopted son I want all adoptees like me to have the same wonderful adoptive parents I was lucky enough to have.

My biological mother was an unmarried young woman from Ohio who had an affair with a married man. It was 1945 — my biological father was in the Army and was shipped off to France to fight in the war while my mother went to California to give birth to me.

My mother made the painful decision to put me up for adoption. Thankfully, I was adopted by none other than the actor Ronald Reagan and his then-wife Jane Wyman. No youngster ever had more loving parents, despite their divorce.

Unlike me, however, many never find a loving permanent home. They grow up in a group home, or are shuffled from foster home to foster home. Tragically the majority of children who “age out” of foster care are not equipped to live as productive adults. Statistics show that they are less likely to graduate from high school. They are less likely to be employed and, even when they are employed, are more likely to have jobs that do not pay a living wage.

Moreover, they are more likely to experience violence, homelessness and mental illness. And they are more likely to fall victim to substance abuse and to be incarcerated. Females are more likely to have unwanted pregnancies. Our nation’s foster children deserve better. They deserve the chance to be properly prepared for adulthood.

Jimmy Wayne — country music singer, child advocate and my friend — brought to my attention two bills now before the Tennessee Legislature — HB 2337 in the House and SB 2199 in the Senate, which will allow youth in Tennessee to stay in foster care until the age of 21. As a national advocate for children, I strongly support this legislation and encourage all members of the Tennessee General Assembly to vote in support of it.

Children are often the real victims of divorce when parents, once apparently devoted to each other, suddenly become enemy camps with fathers on one side and mothers on the other. Tragically the children are sometimes forced to take sides in the marital combat, estranging themselves from one of their parents, perhaps forever.

In such an atmosphere, what should have been a loving home can be transformed into a field of strife. Children deserve better. Even foster children in good situations need more time to get their lives on track.

Join me in supporting an effort that will help make a difference.

Michael Reagan
18 February 2012



Problems of self-destructive behaviour among adolescents and youth discussed

Prospects for development of social and psychological service as part of interaction between state bodies to prevent self-destructive behaviour (suicides) among adolescents and youth" scientific and practical conference was held in Astana on 10 February 2012.

Specialists from education, health, law-enforcement agencies, psychologists, directors of child rights protection committees, Kazakh, Russian and European scholars in psychology, parents, NGOs as well UNICEF in Kazakhstan took part in the conference.

"UNICEF urges establishing specialized multi-disciplinary teams including social workers, psychologists, lawyers, police officers, psychologists, and teachers to provide effective assistance for students and their families. The multidisciplinary nature of the teams would enable elaborating a detailed action plan for each family and child and thus addressing their needs correspondingly, "said Deputy UNICEF Representative in Kazakhstan Radoslaw Rzehak addressing the conference.

According to the press service of the UNICEF in Kazakhstan, the aim of the event is to determine content and methods of social and psychological support in the education process, enhance psychological culture and psychological competency of specialists, and engage state and civil structures in the comprehensive solution of issues to prevent self-destructive behaviour (suicides) among adolescents and youth.

The conference discussed prospects for the development of psychological service in schools, the organization and development of interagency service to counter and prevent suicidal threats, issues of comprehensive socialization of the child in the family as well as reviewed the experience of the Astana-based Institute of Family Education. The conference participants reviewed the rules of work of psychological services in secondary education institutions in Kazakhstan.

As part of the conference master classes by Kazakh and foreign psychologists were organized, including the one by international consultant of UNICEF Professor of Molise University (Italy) Marco Sarchiapone.

The conference resulted in adopting recommendations aimed at improving the system of social and psychological service in the country and preventing self-destructive behaviour among adolescents and youth.

News feature
15 February 2012



Innovative care home under construction

Young mothers who regain custody of their children from Social Services with the help of Saskatoon's Egadz outreach programs will have a new place to live in Stonebridge this fall.

Mah's Place — named for EGADZ supporters Wally and Colleen Mah — is a five-bedroom house under construction on Dulmage Crescent, next door to another EGADZ home for infants and toddlers whose mothers are enrolled in a program called Baby Steps.

As with the 13 other homes already operated by EGADZ, Mah's Place and Baby Steps will look like any other house in the neighbourhood.

Baby Steps will hold up to 10 residents, including two round-the-clock staff, while Mah's Place will be designed for two mothers and a maximum of three kids.

Mah's Place will be an extension of Baby Steps, launched by EGADZ in April 2010 for new mothers whose children are taken into government care because of addictions, domestic violence and other problems.

Rather than crowded foster homes, the infants live at Baby Steps with full-time caregivers.

Their mothers are encouraged to bond with them by visiting as often as possible. The caregivers act as parenting and life skills coaches during visits.

The mothers live in other structured support homes and attend school or work as they continue with programs to overcome their personal problems. Their progress is closely monitored.

"I haven't seen this anywhere else, where the moms are able to come and see their children seven days a week. As long as the kids aren't sleeping they can come anytime, there's no restrictions," EGADZ housing and outreach director Don Meikle explained.

Parents of children in foster care generally have to book a meeting to see their kids once a week — but if something comes up, the meeting will be cancelled and they won't see their kids for two weeks, he said.

"This way, they can see their kids all the time, because that's part of how we measure the bar, is how much time are you spending with your child. When you're spending time with your child, then we can help you learn to be a proper and good parent. We've never heard of it or seen it happen anywhere else in North America.

"For lots of these moms, they've never really been taught how to be a good parent because nobody parented them well. So it's quite a process."

For Sara, a 25-year-old mom who faced permanently losing her three kids to the foster care system when she enrolled in the program less than two years ago, Baby Steps has been life-altering.

"They gave me structure and stability, and from that came a whole bunch of other things that I needed," she said in an interview. "I was able to deal with my addictions, I was able to deal with things from my childhood that I had never been able to deal with."

She's now sober and making plans to start university this fall, working toward the kind of life she used to think was out of reach.

"I see beyond what I used to see . . . I could never picture a life being sober, and I could never picture me finishing my Grade 12 or going to university. Those were things that just didn't seem possible for me before this," she said.

"They help me in all different aspects of my life — they help me with my school, they help me when I'm stressed out. . . . My kids are happy, and they're no longer getting bounced around in foster care from home to home."

When construction of Mah's Place is completed later this year, Sara and her kids will be the first family to move in.

Knowing EGADZ staff will be right next door at Baby Steps to offer guidance and practical support is reassuring, she said.

"I know that they're not just going to send me out without helping me, because I was worried about day care, I was worried about transportation. . . . They're not just going to send me out and put me in a position where I'm going to fail. They want me to be able to go out there and make it. They want me to complete this program knowing that my kids won't end up in foster care ever again and I'll be OK when I leave here."

The two homes will be built with funding from a variety of private donors and all three levels of government.

"We're looking to help the mothers get their children back, but also to afford them an opportunity for education and employment so they can care for their children outside of care," Meikle said. "It's a whole lifestyle change. It's a whole transformation right from the day they come in until the day they leave."

He said EGADZ is also exploring the idea of thirdstage housing where moms could live with their kids after leaving Mah's Place, while they make the transition to full independence.

"If you think about it, they are so vulnerable. And it's really nice that this has been the first time in a long time that we've been able to convince government that we can either pay now, or we can pay lots later - so allow us the ability and the opportunity to educate these kids and make them employable, and let them start paying us back," he said.

"If we can get these moms to where they're caring for their kids, never mind the money savings of them getting their kids back, but think of the savings that come from no one having to support them. And the mothers are going to be taxpayers of this province too."

Lori Coolican
14 February 2012



Foster kids cut loose far earlier than our own

With so many adult children well into their 20s, even their 30s, still dependent on mom and dad, they’ve been dubbed the “boomerang generation.” They’re back home. Some never left.

A Harris Poll, commissioned last year by the National Endowment for Financial Education and Forbes Magazine, found 59 percent of American parents still pony up for adult children up to 39 years old. The survey excluded children still in school or the percentage would have been higher still.

Fifty percent of the parents surveyed said they provide housing, 48 percent help with living expenses, 35 percent buy insurance, 28 percent pay medical bills and 29 percent dole out spending money.

The parents do this for the obvious reason. The boomerangs, despite all the advantages of family and education, have found themselves foundering in an economy that has been particularly gruesome for the young. Unemployed and underemployed boomerangs have become one of the recurring themes of this long, slow recovery. We’ve extended the age of dependency.

But not for foster children.

The budget bill passed in the Florida House of Representatives Thursday actually lowers the age when the state’s foster children, even those still in school, are cut loose. Support for former foster care students would end at 21, instead of 23.

The Road to Independence Act, passed back in a more enlightened 2002, recognized that children aging out of Florida’s often overwhelmed, sometimes negligent foster care system were hardly ready to face the world alone.

These kids, removed from their families by the state, often at a very young age, are tossed out of the foster system on their 18th birthday. Khamisi M. Grace, director of the Casa Valentina, a Miami program that helps former foster children prepare for independent living, spoke Friday of how the foster system leaves these kids with few of the skills they’ll need to manage on their own. Most have never opened a bank account, faced a job interview, rented an apartment, managed a credit card, even cooked a meal.

She described children who had been neglected and abused and scarred before the state intervened; then shuttled from foster home to foster home, from school to school, falling ever behind. Sixty-two percent of them age out of foster care at 18 without a high school diploma or a GED, often years behind grade level. Some can barely read, Grace said.
The Road To Independence Act tried to fix that. After their 18th birthday, the kids can apply for a monthly stipend of about $1,000 a month for rent and living expenses. (If they stay out of trouble, off drugs and attend school. Last year, only 563 of the 3,999 former foster kids under the auspices of the Road to Independence program received money.) Grace said the stipend, set at the equivalent of a minimum wage job, often sustains former foster care students still trying to finish high school. “How can we expect these foster children to overcome these problems so quickly and go out and find a job?” Grace asked.

“I don’t like these disparaging comments that these children are victims," Rep. Dennis Baxley protested during the committee debate, as if he was defending their honor by taking away their stipend. “They are not a victim,” declared the Ocala Republican, continuing his peculiar argument. “They are Americans.’’

They may be Americans. But their situation doesn’t much resemble those American adult children who’ve boomeranged back into parental dependency.

“We’re not just going to keep handing out money,’’ Baxley insisted. Lowering the eligibility will save the state $11,680,309. Though Sen. Nan Rich, who fought the new age cap, has pointed out that most of the state’s expense would be offset by federal funds allocated for exactly these costs.

Rich said Friday that the Senate budget bill did not alter the cap for Road-To-Independence kids, keeping the eligibility age at 23. The differences between the House and Senate versions will be worked out this week in a budget conference. “I’m hoping we hold our position,” she said. “This should not be a partisan issue. Taking care of these young people, who have been in the foster system most of their lives, is our responsibility.”

Grace agreed that the state has a moral responsibility here, but she added that it makes also makes fiscal sense to prepare these kids to make it on their own. “They just don’t disappear,” she said. “With no skills, very little education, no family support or direction, what do you think is going to happen to them?”

We know what will happen. About 25 percent of the kids graduating from Florida’s foster care system will be incarcerated and 20 percent will be homeless by the age of 25. Either proposition will ring up considerable costs to taxpayers.

Well over half the parents in America are doing for their adult children what Florida ought to be doing for former wards of the state, at least until age 23.

Rep. Baxley argued, “We can’t just keep extending childhood ’til they’re 40.” Any 40-year-old could explain to Baxley, regretfully, that 40 is a long ways removed from 23.

Of course, Baxley was only referring to the help Florida extends to children of the state. Boomerang kids? Don’t worry. They’ll still get their extension.

Fred Grimm
12 February 2012


Stimulants do not increase risk of cardiovascular events in youth with ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects 5-9% of youth and is frequently treated with stimulant medications, such as methylphenidate and amphetamine products. A recent safety communication from the US Food and Drug Administration advised that all patients undergoing ADHD treatment be monitored for changes in heart rate or blood pressure.

Amidst growing concern over the risks of stimulant use in youth, a study by Dr. Mark Olfson of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, and his colleagues, published in the February 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, assessed the risk of adverse cardiovascular events in children and adolescents without known heart conditions treated with stimulants for ADHD. It is one of the largest studies to date focusing primarily on youth while controlling for pre-existing cardiovascular risk factors.

As reported in the study, Olfson and colleagues examined claims records from a large privately insured population for associations between cardiovascular events in youth with ADHD and stimulant treatment. In total 171,126 privately insured youth aged 6-21 years without known pre-existing heart-related risk factors were followed throughout the study.

The study included patients who have previously received stimulant treatment, patients currently receiving stimulant treatment, and patients who began or ceased stimulant treatments during the study period. Olfson and colleagues assessed the various groups for incidents of severe cardiovascular events such as acute myocardial infarction, less severe cardiovascular events such as cardiac dysrhythmias, and cardiovascular symptoms such as tachycardia and palpitations. Analysis showed that cardiovascular events and symptoms were rare in this cohort and not associated with stimulant use.

This finding helps to allay concerns of adverse events in otherwise healthy young people receiving treatment for ADHD. Olfson and colleagues said of the results, "It is reassuring that in these young people, short-term stimulant treatment did not substantially increase the risk of cardiovascular events or symptoms."

Source: Elsevier
9 February 2012



Watching out for our children’s future

BINGE drinking, vandalism, graffiti and hooning in motor vehicles have been identified as problem areas for the region’s young people which should be addressed as part of the Bathurst region’s new community safety plan.
During the community consultation process, it became clear there were safety concerns for specific generational groups, in particular children, youths and seniors. A persistent theme was the perceived vulnerability or increased safety risk of Bathurst’s children and youth (12 to 25 year olds).

Concern for the future of Bathurst’s children and youth was expressed by residents of all ages throughout the entire process. According to the plan, youth boredom was a key theme.

“The limited alcohol-free related entertainment options, especially on Friday and weekend evenings, was a consistent theme throughout the consultation process,” the plan states.

“Youth boredom was perceived to be linked to antisocial behaviour including vandalism, graffiti and erratic car driving (hooning).

“A perceived increase in the levels of violence, often inflicted by young people against each other, was also identified as detrimental to the personal safety of Bathurst’s young people.”

The plan notes that community stakeholders identified drugs and alcohol as contributing factors in incidents of violence in the area.

“Under-age drinking and binge drinking were also constant themes during stakeholder and community consultation,” the plan states.

“Community consultation revealed a high level of concern regarding under-age drinking at private parties and in public recreational areas. There was also concern regarding the related problem of drink driving, particularly in light of several car crashes in the area involving young male drivers in recent years.

“There was broad recognition amongst stakeholders that a culture of binge drinking among young people extended far beyond Bathurst’s boundaries.

“Nevertheless Bathurst residents were keen to tackle this problem at a local level, stating that the issue must be engaged in the home in addition to educational institutions, community organisations and the various levels of government.”

News feature
6 February 2012



State budget cuts could mean more kids on the street

It might be tougher to find foster parents for children who need help. Agencies that work with children worry about cuts likely coming from the state.

There are thousands of children in foster care across the state. 400 in Yakima alone.

Haydee Barbosa is looking to be a foster parent and says the cost of raising a child can scare some parents away from doing it.

I think that could be a factor," Barbosa said. "Not a lot of parents want to go ahead and do it."

Money from the state is an issue. Licensed foster families receive anywhere from 400 to 575 dollars a month for basic care. Children with behavioral or medical problems can get 600 to 1,300 a month.

The state is being sued by foster families that say it isn't enough.

Lawmakers are expected cut millions from foster care in the next budget. Rates will remain the same but other reimbursements will go away.

The local Opportunities Industrialization Center got its license a year ago and started helping children find homes.

Staff at OIC say they receive 2-3 referrals a day to place children in foster care homes. With fewer than five families licensed on their list it's impossible to place all children in a home.

More referrals are coming from outside of our area which is placing a strain on the system as well.

Gaynell Phillips with OIC said it's been a struggle to get parents to help. "If I had 50 families right now, I would be very happy," Phillips said.

Phillips said fewer services would likely mean more children slipping through the system and couch surfing from house to house or even wind up on the street. For now, she waits to see what the state will do.

The Department of Social Health and Services will launch a program later this month to help connect foster children with relatives.

Michael Spears
3 February 2012



Time for action: Manchester among worst areas in UK for child poverty

"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children," said Nelson Mandela in 1995.

Look at the state of the children and you will know about the state of the nation. Children are the future. As trivial as it may sound, this remains a universal truth. A young generation affected by poverty is a future generation of lost lives and opportunities that can never be regained. Being society’s most powerless and helpless group, images of starving, dying children leave deep imprints in our memories that often haunt us for life.

You may well remember, as you must have seen it at least once in your life, one of the most striking and controversial photographs depicting child poverty and starvation. The picture, taken during theSudanfamine in 1993, shows a starving child and a vulture waiting patiently for the child’s last breath.

Kevin Carter’s photo won him the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 1994. Three months later Carter took his life. In September 1994, Time magazine published his suicide note. It read: “I am depressed...without phone... money for rent... money for child support... money for debts... money!!!

“I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners.”

The reason for choosing to describe 21st century with an example taken from the previous one is simply that things seem not to have changed much – at least when it comes to child poverty.

The latest figures reveal that, on average, one in four children worldwide live in absolute poverty. In some places these figures are even higher, with 60 per cent of children living below the poverty line. Striking images of staving children in the sub-Saharan region and of malnutrition in India are still a common theme in the media.

The sheer distance between third-world countries and developed nations such as this one can make it easy to ignore these harsh realities. But can we really distance ourselves from the truth of this problem?

Child poverty in third world and developing countries manifests itself differently. Take India as an example, home to the second biggest population in the world. Child poverty there can be directly experienced. It is visible on the streets; you can see it in the eyes of begging children. You can smell it, feel it, touch it. It is with you every step of the way.

In developed countries, like the UK, child poverty is wiped from the streets and hidden in figures, reports and statistics. Or so I thought, until I saw a begging child on the streets ofManchesteron a Saturday night. The look of the child was reminiscent of the begging children on the streets of Delhi and put a face behind the shocking statistics I am going to present next.

It may appear to some that I am exaggerating by comparing the state of our youths, the youth of a developed country, with children in the third world. I would rather be blamed for overreacting then not reacting at all.

On the other hand, this emotional introduction aims to prepare the reader for what follows next. Given the wealth of the nation, the statistics of child poverty and deprivation in theUKandManchesterare deeply worrying.

TheUKhas one of the worst rates of child poverty in the industrialised world. Between 1979 and 1998, the proportion of children living in poverty grew from one in 10 to one in three. Although the number of children in poverty was reduced by 900,000 between 1998 and 2010, the figures remain shocking.

Today, nearly four million children in the UK – one in three – live in poverty. The Institute for Fiscal Studies warned this number will rise by another 400,000 by 2015 unless the government takes an active approach to tackling the issue.

At a regional level, the rate of ‘severe poverty’ is highest among children living in London, at about 18%, followed by the West Midlands, 16%, and the North West, 15%, according to a report from the charity Save the Children.

Families in severe poverty live on less than £134 a week for a single parent with one child and less than £240 per week for a couple with two children. The children of these families miss out on school trips, hobbies, social and educational development.

In a breakdown of local authorities, Save the Children found that Manchester has more children living in 'severe poverty' than anywhere else in the UK.

According to the latest 2012 report by UK-based charity End Child Poverty, 49% of children in the city centre – nearly one in two – live in poverty, topped only by Bethnal Green and Bow.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty – organised by End Child Poverty and uniting more than 150 organisations including children’s charities, child welfare organisations and social justice groups – openly criticised the coalition government for its lack of action to address the problem.

Alison Garnham, Executive Director of the Campaign, said: “Child poverty costs us billions picking up the pieces of damaged lives and unrealised potential, so it’s a false economy if we don’t prioritise looking after children today.

“Targeting cuts on families will prove both an economic and a social disaster, with businesses losing billions of pounds of demand and families struggling to keep their kids clothed, fed and warm.”

The Child Poverty Act 2010 aims at preparing a strategy for eradicating child poverty in the UK by 2020, with reviews of the achievements every three years.

Children are the future. Let us make sure the future is bright.

Mihaela Ivantcheva
1 February 2012



Uncertainty for Immigrant Children in Foster Care

In a story at America's Wire, Marjorie Valbrun depicts the inexorable, agonizing fate of more than 5,000 children of immigrants who are languishing in state foster care because their parents were living in the United States illegally and were detained or deported by federal immigration authorities.

... These children can spend years in foster homes, and some are put up for adoption after termination of their parents’ custody rights. With neither state nor federal officials addressing the problem, thousands more are poised to enter the child welfare system every year.

“They can be dropped into the foster care system for an indefinite period of time,” says Wendy D. Cervantes, vice president for immigration and child rights policy at First Focus, a bipartisan advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. “This causes severe long-term consequences to a child’s development. It has a negative impact on the country as a whole and a direct impact on taxpayers. The fact that these children have parents means they shouldn’t be in the system in the first place.”

A recent report by the Applied Research Center (ARC), a national racial-justice think thank, found that when immigration enforcement methods intersect with the child welfare system, consequences for immigrant families can be devastating and long-lasting.

Jailed or deported parents are prevented from reuniting with their children, and parents held in immigration detention centers are penalized for being unable to attend hearings in family court. They are also penalized for not meeting court-ordered requirements for regaining custody of their children. The requirements are impossible to meet from jail ...

Read Marjorie Valbrun's entire story at America's Wire.

Marjorie Valbrun
30 January 2012








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