Rehabilitation Grants Reduce Recidivism and Build Lives
Each year, juvenile courts in the United States handle roughly 1.6 million cases involving criminal allegations. And each year, an estimated 144,000 youth are placed in juvenile correctional facilities.
Many youth who spend time in the juvenile justice system struggle with low literacy levels, histories of home violence, substance abuse and mental health challenges. Most return to communities with high rates of crime and poor-performing schools. More than half of these youth have not completed the eighth grade, and two in three do not return to school upon their release.
We know that juveniles who are released from confinement are far more likely to succeed if they have access to supportive services that can help them go back to school and pursue a career. Some of these young people grew up without a father and found themselves lured into a gang to feel a sense of belonging. But once they leave juvenile detention, there's a window of opportunity when many youth may be looking for a lifestyle that doesn't involve dealing or stealing.
We have a compelling societal interest to give them a healthy alternative. If we don't, most will go right back through the revolving door of our prison systems, and that means new victims can be created.
When that happens, we all lose.
This month, the Department of Labor announced grants of nearly $50 million to 25 organizations under two different grant programs that serve juveniles under our Re-Integration of Ex-Offenders initiative.
We know -- historically -- that young people face challenges finding that first job opportunity. For those with juvenile records, the challenges of entering the workforce can be especially great. So our grantees are focused on educational interventions to help these youth get their diploma or GED, continue their education, and pursue a fulfilling career.
These projects are opportunities to rebuild trust, so the community views these young people as assets rather than liabilities. By helping their neighbors in high-poverty communities, these young people also help themselves.
With the right supportive services, we can reduce recidivism and help these youth build healthy, productive futures. It's never too late to help turn a life around. And we hope this funding will give youth a true second chance to make a contribution to their communities and our economy.
Hilda Solis (US Secretary of Labor)
25 June 2012
Avalon Resident Becomes a Voice for Children Living in Foster Care
Avalon resident DebAnne Macaluso was recently sworn in as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer in Somers Point, N.J. As a CASA volunteer Macaluso will advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children and ensure that these children receive the best possible care while they are living away from their families.
Macaluso cites her own father, a World War II prisoner of war, for fostering a spirit of community service and why she chose to be a voice for less fortunate children. “He was a great observer of the human condition. His openness, compassion and his commitment to the fair treatment of others were a tremendous influence on me, Macaluso said of her father.
“Family history aside, I believe it is important to try to make a contribution and hopefully a difference in all areas within my personal sphere; even if only small or seemingly insignificant actions can be taken. I have always had a passion for social work even though at times I have been aghast at the absurdities of some situations. Retired now and a grandmother, I would still like the opportunity to use my educational training as well as my life experiences to help a child navigate a world that has not been kind or fair.
“Participating in the CASA training, meeting and getting to know the excellent and caring staff and volunteers have reinforced my own commitment to this organization. I encourage anyone with an open heart and mind to engage their own unique talents and at the very least learn about the CASA organization.”
Macaluso joins over 160 CASA Volunteers from Cape May and Atlantic Counties who ensure that children living in foster care get the resources they need. Currently, CASA Volunteers advocate for 320 of the over 700 children living in foster care in our two-county region.
21 June 2012
Ohio offers visits to families of detained youth
The state is using a federal grant to provide free bus rides to families of young people detained in state juvenile detention centers as a way of helping with the rehabilitation process and make it easier for the youths to re-enter the community.
The Department of Youth Services began the program with visits over Mother’s Day and planned to continue them with bus trips Saturday, the day before Father’s Day.
Families must call their child’s social worker to get on the visitation list and then reserve a seat on the bus through their child’s parole officer.
Tonya Thompson of Columbus, with no driver’s license and no money for a bus ticket, said she was heartbroken when she learned where her 15-year-old son would serve his time on a robbery charge: at Indian River Juvenile Correctional Facility in Massillon in northeast Ohio, about a two-hour drive.
She’d been able to visit him twice weekly when he was jailed in Columbus but until she went on last month’s bus trip her visits were limited to letters and occasional calls.
“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have got to see him,” she said.
The 44-year-old hairdresser called the visit heartwarming and said she hoped to make it again.
Buses were scheduled to leave Saturday from Dayton and Cincinnati for families visiting Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility, and from Akron and Cleveland for families visiting Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility.
One in every two of the about 580 young people under state supervision don’t receive a visit from a family member during the average stay of about a year.
The state plans to use its $18,640 grant from the U.S. Justice Department to continue monthly visits through year’s end.
Young people behind bars “need to have a support system during their stay and in order to successfully renter the community,” said Ohio Youth Prisons director Harvey Reed.
Wisconsin had a similar program of monthly visits for about 20 years, and more recently upped those to weekly visits. Buses alternate taking families from the Milwaukee and Green Bay areas to Lincoln Hills School in Irma, Wis., about a four-hour bus trip. The state’s youth prisons division covers the cost of the trip through its regular budget.
Families may not have a car or can’t afford the gas for the trip, said John Ourada, the school’s deputy superintendent. Wisconsin’s Division of Juvenile Corrections also invites family members to centers around the state for video chats with their child.
Recent studies of adult prisoners in Florida and Minnesota found strong connections between getting visits and not returning to prison.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections study of 16,420 offenders released from 2003 to 2007 also found that visits from siblings, in-laws, fathers and clergy had the most impact, as did visits closer to when an offender is scheduled for release.
16 June 2012
Half of dads claim to split child
care equally with their wives
— but 75 per cent of moms say the workload falls on them alone
Half of fathers believe they split child care duties evenly with their wives, a new study has showed.
A survey conducted by Parenting.com in conjunction with the Today show also found that a third of fathers believe they are the 'go-to' parent for children to run to.
But mothers disagree. In fact, 75per cent of them believe they complete the majority of child care duties themselves.
One father told researchers: 'I'd rate myself as a good, but imperfect parent. My spouse would probably see me as an okay parent and stress the imperfection more.'
Researchers surveyed more than 4,000 parents online including 1,500 fathers and 2,700 mothers.
Furthermore, 95per cent of mothers believe they are in fact the go-to parents that their children run to if they need anything.
One mother said: 'He does help when it comes to bath time which is not my favorite thing to do, and helps with the trash and cleaning the toilets. But again, I don't think that a lot of dads realise how much moms do.
'It took me having surgery and him having to take care of everything to fully grasp what all I do during the concern of 24 hours,' she added.
Among the fathers who agree that mothers are the go-to parent, almost one third said it hurts their feelings to 'play second fiddle'.
Two thirds of the fathers surveyed claimed that what they want most from their partner is simple verbal acknowledgment; 'a "good job" now and then'.
On the other hand, 60per cent of mothers would rather their partner do something special for them or even give them time away from the kids, rather than verbal acknowledgement.
Dr Charles Sophy, an LA-based child and adult psychiatrist, said: 'Mothers are more confident in that role; the pat on the back isn't what they're looking for.
'Dads need the reassurance. So you say, "Great job changing that diaper" and I know moms are like, "Are you kidding me, what do want, applause?" But if you want him to change four more diapers, you better applaud at some level.'
13 June 23012
Seeing both sides of the story as families struggle
You could not help but be moved by the four children at the heart of this documentary. Family relationships had broken down, they had all spent periods in care and one had been forced to spend the night wandering around a 24-hour supermarket when she had nowhere to go after her father threw her out.
What was clever about this BBC3 documentary was that the parents – traditionally blamed for such situations – were featured without apportioning blame.
The filmmakers did what the trained mediators are attempting to do – see things from both sides.
Tyler, 14, from Wales was a typical moody teenager who could fly off the handle with his mum, Gloria, which led to her losing her temper too.
He suffered from ADHD; she'd had a nervous breakdown. The whole family had disintegrated. Gloria had seven children. The youngest three had three different fathers – all of whom are not around – and spent some time with their mum in women's refuges. Tyler's brother and sister were not at home because of Tyler's temper.
Yet when he was behaving well, he was an intelligent, caring lad.
Intervention helped mother and son see the other's viewpoint.
Sisters Viviana and Stephanie wanted the rows at home to end – shouting and sulking were the standard ways to communicate. Their single parent mum held down two jobs but social services are thinking of taking the girls into care as things deteriorate further.
Charlotte, 16, has been using her dad's bank card, stole his property and had a party while he was away.
Simon, a single parent dad, seemed to have a better relationship with his eight-year-old daughter – the same age Charlotte was when her parents split up and she originally went to live with her mum.
Although things improved between them, Charlotte opted to live away from home.
Sad stories... but the tip of the iceberg as nine out of ten youngsters on the streets have fallen out with families.
12 June 2012
CSEA Hits Lack of Security in Youth Facilities
In the wake of a brutal gang assault by residents on a worker at the Brookwood Secure Center in Columbia County, CSEA is amping up its call for better safety measures to protect staff at youth detention centers run by the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS).
"This is further evidence that the state's current policy for dealing with juvenile offenders not only isn't working, it's putting staff at risk" said CSEA President Danny Donohue. "The state is sending people into a war zone every day, unprotected, and the casualties are mounting."
The attack last Friday left a direct care Youth Division Aide (YDA) with a broken arm, a possible broken eye socket and stitches to his face after being jumped from behind by four residents who beat him with a garbage can, a telephone and plastic chairs. The residents were arraigned on charges of second-degree assault and sent to the Columbia County Jail. They threatened further violence against staff would be forthcoming.
Violent attacks on staff by youths in their care have increased at an alarming rate under current OCFS policies
.Earlier this year, the union filed a complaint with the state Department of Labor 's Public Employee Safety and Health (PESH) Bureau after discovering that 19 staff at the Taberg Residential Center in Oneida County, including the facility director, were out of work due to severe injuries suffered in attacks by residents there. Their injuries included two broken collarbones, a concussion, a broken ankle and a dislocated shoulder. The resulting investigation led to improvements at that facility, including the temporary assignment of additional management staff and increased worker training. However Taberg and Brookwood are symptomatic of a larger problem.
According to a report issued by the state Department of Civil Service on state employee Workers' Compensation claims, YDAs have the second highest on-the-job injury rate of all state job titles.
The state is moving to shift juvenile offenders from upstate facilities into nonexistent New York City-based programs. Existing providers are ill-equipped to deal with this population. State officials have yet to provide details as to how they intend to provide appropriate security, supervision, resources and support.
Civil Service Employees Association
6 June 2012
6 Skill Sets Every Child Needs to Guard Against Addiction
Addicts aren’t the only ones who are haunted by the shame of addiction. Parents are often plagued with worry: “If only I had been a better parent, maybe none of this would’ve happened.”
Addiction is not parents’ fault (about half the risk is
genetic), but you can influence the course of your child’s life by helping
them develop the skills that protect against addiction.
#1 Coping Skills
One of the most important goals in treating addiction is equipping addicts with effective coping skills. The skills they learned in childhood might have been tempered by difficult life events, or perhaps they never developed appropriate coping mechanisms at all.
In either case, a need to self-medicate anger, disappointment and other difficult emotions is one of the most common reasons people turn to drugs and alcohol.
By learning how to cope with the full range of emotions
– both the ones that feel good and the ones that feel miserable – children
become resilient. Coping skills can be as basic as proper self-care (diet,
sleep and exercise) or healthy distraction (talking to a friend or taking a
walk), or they can be as complex as learning to differentiate between the
things we can control and those we cannot.
#2 Social Skills
Human beings crave connection with other human beings. Studies show that social skills are essential for children to make friends, do well in school, and cope with life’s ups and downs. Those who aren’t able to lean on others for support are at greater risk of anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
Talking to children about other people’s feelings,
beliefs and desires helps build empathy, a fundamental tool for social
interaction. This dialogue can begin as early as age two or three by
describing the way characters in books or television shows might be feeling
in a given situation and how they might deal with those feelings. Skills
such as appropriate eye contact, sharing, taking turns, active listening and
assertive communication can also be taught directly and through role
#3 Life Skills
It’s surprising how many people arrive in drug rehab with minimal life skills. They haven’t balanced a checkbook, prepared a basic meal or washed their own laundry, and it shows in their confidence and ability to function each day. While young children wouldn’t be expected to have mastered these skill sets, the groundwork can be put in place early on.
School doesn’t always equip children with the real-world
skills they will need to navigate adolescence and adulthood. Parents play a
critical role in teaching their children healthy study habits, money
management, cleaning their room, staying organized and creating a daily
#4 Emotional Regulation Skills
Poor impulse control and a need for immediate gratification are strongly correlated with addiction. Although these qualities are normal at certain developmental stages, most children begin to use self-regulation skills without outside intervention. Those who have an extreme or persistent lack of self-control are at higher risk of bullying, academic difficulties, substance abuse and other problem behaviors.
Studies show that self-regulation skills in kindergarten predict literacy, vocabulary and early mathematics skills and are important for social development. Taking a time out, labeling and validating a child’s feelings (both pleasant and unpleasant), and offering positive feedback for appropriate behavior are all useful strategies that aid in responding to emotions appropriately.
Harsh discipline, yelling and spanking, on the other
hand, do not teach self-regulation. It is also important for parents to
consistently set limits and enforce consequences so that children understand
#5 Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking encourages children to think for
themselves rather than giving in to peer pressure. Schools are effective at
teaching children what to think but not necessarily how to think. Starting
as early as kindergarten, parents can help their children develop these
skills by asking open-ended questions and working through a variety of
possible solutions. After a decision is made, it can be helpful to reflect
on it and ask your child what they might do differently next time.
#6 Distress Tolerance Skills
Many of the most dreaded behaviors that arise in children, including drug use, are the result of mismanaged stress. While distress tolerance skills alone will not prevent addiction, they do empower children to sit with their emotions without trying to escape or numb them.
One of the greatest disservices modern parents do to their children is getting in the way of the child’s innate learning process. “Helicopter parenting” – the increasingly common practice of hovering over children so they don’t get hurt or have to face problems – has contributed to a society that values immediate gratification over resilience. By intervening in arguments between a child and their friends or doing a tough homework assignment for their child, for example, parents deprive their child of valuable lessons and the skills to cope with stress, as well as the confidence boost that goes along with each small success.
Instead, let your kid be a kid. Life is full of moderate
stressors that encourage the development of new skills and provide a sense
of mastery. You can supplement this process by introducing your child to
novel experiences like making a new friend or trying a new game and allowing
them to work through problems on their own.
All of these skill sets can be gained through a
combination of experiences at school, explicit teaching and, most
importantly, parental role modeling. If you accept accountability for your
own feelings, provide plenty of praise and support without overprotecting,
and avoid using drugs or alcohol yourself, you can put your child in the
best possible position to avoid addiction and other serious problems later
Dr. David Sack
7 June 2012
Local CFS honours foster parents, staff who made a difference
Child and Family Services of Central Manitoba Inc. celebrated the commitment of long-term foster parents as well as staff who helped make a difference during its annual general meeting.
About 84 people attended the event at Good Shepherd Parish Monday to hear about some of the highlights of the past year.
As part of the event, Betty Dyck and Willi Ritchardson were some of the foster parents recognized for their dedication in helping children in their care to overcome challenges and gain new life skills along the way.
They were able to develop and implement a program to help teens learn coping skills to make healthier choices.
"I have always had a passion for teenagers, and it's teenagers that I have always specialized in," said Dyck, from Morden. She has spent 30-some years as a foster parent. "I find the ages between 16 and 18 that's when we start losing them. So, if we can start getting a transitional living program started, where we teach them a lot of the basic life skills. That way, they will be more prepared for when they do go out."
5 June 2012
More kids now live with relatives other than their parents, study says
The number of children living with relatives other than their parents, both informally and through state welfare systems, grew nationwide by double digits over the past decade, a new study has found.
Most of those children are living with relatives in informal relationships. Part of the increase is because child-welfare agencies increasingly recognize that kids whose parents can't care for them do better with family members rather than strangers in foster care.
But Colorado is behind the curve in finding family members to care for abused and neglected kids, the Annie E. Casey Foundation report found.
Nearly 2.7 million children live with relatives other than their parents, an increase of almost 18 percent over the past decade — a period in which the overall child population grew by only 6 percent, according to "Stepping Up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families."
Of those 2.7 million, 104,000 have been formally placed with family members by a state system. That's one-quarter of all those in the child- welfare system.
The trend reflects mounting evidence that kids whose own parents neglect or abuse them experience less emotional trauma and have fewer behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders when they are cared for by relatives than when they are placed with foster parents.
"It's growing for a lot of different reasons," said Kim Bundy-Fazioli, an associate professor of social work at Colorado State University and a co-chair of the Larimer County Alliance for Grandfamilies.
"I think foster care as it is isn't truly working," said Bundy-Fazioli, who was a social worker in New York state. "Kids are moved from home to home to home. Keeping children with relative caregivers has a more positive effect on kids."
The Casey report found that a dozen states have placed more than a third of kids who've been removed from their parents' custody with relatives — in Hawaii the number is 46 percent. But Colorado placed just 13 percent of kids in the child-welfare system with relatives. Only seven states, mostly in the South, had lower rates.
But a pair of new laws may make it easier for counties in Colorado to put kids together with aunts, uncles and grandparents.
Colorado already allows grandparents to become legal guardians without having to meet all the requirements set for typical foster parents, said Sharen Ford, manager of permanency services for the state Department of Human Services.
This year the legislature expanded that provision to include aunts, uncles and other relatives. Another new law allows someone who isn't a blood relative but who has been a significant presence in a child's life — a godparent or teacher, for example — to get financial help if that person becomes the child's guardian, Ford said.
While kinship care has a lot of benefits for kids, it can be trying for the caregivers, particularly older grandparents.
The caregivers are more likely to be poor, single and less educated than their peers who aren't raising family members' children, the report found. And while many are eligible for government help, including Medicaid and housing assistance, only a minority actually get help from any of those programs, the report found.
In addition to financial hardship, grandparents and other family members who take in kids face emotional and physical strain that comes with caring for children who've been traumatized, the report said.
Drug and alcohol abuse is a common reason a state or county decides parents should lose custody of their kids. And that situation often creates guilt among the grandparents who have to step in when their own child is addled by addiction, Bundy-Fazioli said.
"What I've seen is that grandparents almost have to go through a process of grieving that the adult child isn't able to raise their own child. It causes incredible grief."
Nevertheless, Ford said the state is committed to trying to place abused and neglected kids with family, whenever possible.
"Colorado historically has had strong engagement with kin," Ford said. "The pendulum swung back the other way and the counties got away from that, but now the pendulum has swung back the other way."
2 June 2012
Canadian poverty has 'child's face:' UNICEF report finds Canada lags others
Canadians should be doing much more for children growing up in poverty, according to a new UNICEF report that finds Canada lags many other advanced countries.
The report by the United Nations child advocacy agency ranks Canada 18th out of 35 industrialized countries when child-poverty rates are compared with overall poverty rates.
In addition, Canada is in the bottom third — at 13.3 per cent — when it comes to the percentage of kids in poverty — a slight improvement over the past five years.
"The face of poverty in Canada is a child's face, UNICEF Canada's executive director David Morley said Tuesday. "This is unacceptable."
The report takes its poverty line to be half the median individual income for the relevant country.
It also uses a "deprivation index," which looks at the percentage of children in advanced countries who lack items such as three meals a day, an Internet connection, some new clothes or proper fitting shoes.
Overall, the report ranks Iceland best, with just five per cent of its children growing up deprived. Romania is at the bottom of the list.
Other countries that do better than Canada include Scandinavian countries, Japan and Australia.
Kim Snow, an associate professor in child and youth care at Ryerson University, called it "quite sad" to see the results.
Snow said the problem is particularly acute for aboriginal children.
"Our child poverty is no better evident than on our reserves," Snow said.
"We're really robbing the next generation due to the social impacts of living in poverty."
The report suggests that child poverty in the industrialized world has much to do with government policies.
While Canada does better than the United States when it comes to using taxes and transfers to help kids, it falls behind countries in Scandinavia and even Ireland.
"It is clearly time for Canada to make children a priority when planning budgets and spending our nation's resources, even in tough economic times," Morley said.
Among ways governments could help improve the situation, UNICEF suggests, is to increase child benefits and tax credits.
Canada invests $40.4 billion in elderly benefits — about triple the amount invested in children — with the result that the rate of low income among the elderly is half that for children, the report says.
It also urges Canada to establish a national strategy aimed at reducing poverty — particularly for children.
"There have been calls for this for years but we need to address it and take it seriously," Snow said.
"We don't seem to actually embrace a strategy on a national level to set targets and systematically reduce them."
Canada has no official definition of poverty, UNICEF notes, making it difficult to come to grips with the situation or help remedy the problem.
It has also been more than 20 years since the federal government announced plans to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000.
"Yet Canada's child poverty rate is higher today than when that target was first announced," the report states.
"In part this is because the commitment was not backed by a compelling political and public consensus or by any firm agreement on how child poverty should be defined and monitored."
In the House of Commons, New Democrat Jean Crowder urged the Harper government to do more to help impoverished children.
"Will the government live up to its responsibilities under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and act now to end child and family poverty?" Crowder asked.
In response, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said the percentage of children in poverty is now half of what it was under the Liberal government.
"We've done a lot of things that the NDP voted against, such as enhancing the national child benefit and the child tax benefit," Finley said.
29 May 2012