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Today's News

World headlines news relating to children, youth and families


"No arrest, no record," changes made to Florida juvenile cases

The State Attorney's Office said Project No/No, "no arrest, no record," has helped 767 juveniles since it launched in April. The project states nothing will be placed on your record unless and until the juvenile is charged. Instead, the cases head to the Juvenile Justice Center, where they get an internal number. The cases only move on to the clerk's office to become official court cases, if charges are brought. Officials said that's how cases are done for adults. "We've changed the juvenile system to mirror the adult system. We've always done it backward here in juvenile," said Teri Mills-Uvalle, juvenile bureau chief. Some kids who don't end up with criminal charges are put into a diversion program, like Teen Court or Drug Court. The juveniles will still face consequences,but with the project they won't have a criminal record following them into adulthood.

Australia: Children as young as five being expelled from Victorian schools, ombudsman finds

Victoria's ombudsman has criticised the number of children being expelled from public schools, as a new report reveals students as young as five are being kicked out of the system. A report by ombudsman Deborah Glass found the number of children being expelled from state schools was likely much higher than Education Department data suggested. Official figures showed 278 children were expelled in 2016, but Ms Glass said it did not include those informally expelled, where a student was forced out of a school without going through a formal process. The investigation also revealed a disproportionate number of children being expelled had a disability, were in out-of-home care or identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The report recommended the Education Department introduce a policy that no student of compulsory school age be expelled from the government school system. It also suggested introducing a rule where a principal could not expel a student aged eight or less from any public school without special approval.

Ireland: Major failings in foster care standards found in mid-west

Thirty foster carers in the mid-west had no evidence of garda vetting, according to the latest Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) report. It found there were three areas of major non-compliance – safeguarding and child protection, supervision and support and reviews of foster carers. The latest HIQA report on foster carers in the Mid West found that out of eight standards inspected – three were majorly non-compliant. With regard to safeguarding and child protection, inspectors found that there were 30 carers and who had no evidence of garda vetting on file and 116 household members over the age of 16 who weren’t vetted. There were also issues with allegations of abuse or neglect not being managed correctly and in a timely fashion. It also found major problems with supervision and support – 30 general and 6 relative foster carers had no social worker assigned to them, while the majority had not received the recommended formal supervision. Finally it raised concerns that nearly a third of foster carers hadn’t had a review in over three years. The Child and Family Agency Tusla has submitted an action plan on how it plans to deal with these concerns which has been accepted by HIQA.

New Zealand: 1089 pupils needing urgent psychological help identified

110 Te Tai Tokerau Principals this week identified 1089 pupils in their schools who need clinical psychological help to recover from often horrific childhood experiences – and there’s little available. Pat Newman, President of Te Tai Tokerau Principals Association, says this is an appalling number of our young people who badly need services that are non-existent for them. “That’s about 6% of the pupils in those schools. Worse still, we have 33 schools with 16% or more of their students needing urgent clinical intervention. That is a huge problem that for too long has been swept under the carpet,” says Mr Newman. “These 1089 mainly primary aged children do not have mild to moderate needs. Some of them are suicidal and all are a serious danger to themselves and others. They have serious needs that unless corrected now, will end up causing harm to others and we are just consigning these children eventually to prison,” says Mr Newman. Mr Newman said Whangarei Hospital’s child mental health team was unable to keep up with the need and child mental health resources in the Far North were virtually non-existent.



UK: Analysis projects rise in 'homeless' families

There are 50,000 children living in 'homeless' households, with numbers projected to rise by a quarter over the next decade unless the government tackles the problem, analysis reveals. The analysis estimates there are 50,000 children living in temporary housing. A report by housing charity Crisis estimates there are 160,000 homeless households in the UK, 57,000 of which are ‘family' households (couples or lone parents) containing 50,000 children. The report, based on analysis conducted for the charity by Heriot-Watt University, said that nearly all forms of ‘core' homelessness – which includes rough sleeping, sofa surfing, squatting, people living in hostels as well as those forced to sleep in cars or tents – had increased over the past five years. "If current policies continue unchanged, the most acute forms of homelessness are likely to keep rising with overall numbers estimated to rise by more than a quarter in the coming decade and two and half times by 2041," the report states.

Foster kids, homeless youth

A first-of-its-kind study in Canada has painted a national picture of homeless youth and drawn a link to the foster care system that researchers say could be playing a more active role in keeping young people off the streets. The study found nearly three out of every five homeless youth were part of the child welfare system at some point in their lives, a rate almost 200 times greater than that of the general population. Of those with a history in the child welfare system, almost two of every five respondents eventually "aged out" of provincial or territorial care, losing access to the sort of support that could have kept them from becoming homeless, the study found. The result is that Canada is creating a group of young people who are at higher risk of becoming homeless because they lack resources when coming out of foster care, said Stephen Gaetz, the study's co-author and director of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. The study released Wednesday comes before dozens of cities will take part in the second, federally organized point-in-time count of the homeless population that will include a focus on young people.

Vulnerable children not in crisis are 'left in limbo'

Thousands of vulnerable children in England are being "left in limbo" because their needs are not severe enough, a charity has warned. Action for Children estimates 140,000 children referred to social services over issues like drugs, alcoholism, domestic violence and neglect are not getting the help they need. It says they often fall through the cracks as they are not at crisis point. Ministers say their social care reforms will improve support. Based on Freedom of Information requests from 141 local authorities in England, the report says: "These children have needs that are too great for schools, health or other universal services to meet on their own, but they are not eligible for support from statutory social care services. Our research suggests many are living in challenging family situations, affected by issues like domestic violence or substance misuse. Without the right help, there's potential for these situations to escalate to crisis point, placing children at risk of harm." Action for Children says some children "may be stuck in a 'revolving door' of children's services, repeatedly referred and assessed but not receiving help". The charity is calling on the government to strengthen current legislation for early help services and to provide adequate funding to local authorities, so they can offer help as soon as children need it.

Reducing restraint in juvenile detention

In the interim report of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, Mike Wilson was struck by the the emphasis on “striking the right balance between reforming the youth justice system and ensuring community safety". He says there are strategies for getting this balance right that are already available, one of which uses sensory objects to trigger physiological responses of relaxation and calm. It's called "sensory modulation" and its part of a broader approach that supports institutions to protect the safety of staff while promoting the goals of rehabilitation over the results of mere punishment.



Homeless youth are often passed up by the services of child protection

Near three homeless youth in five have had contact with the services of child protection in Canada, shows a study conducted by the agency at the Rond-point of the roaming and published on Wednesday. According to the survey, 57.8 per cent of homeless youth have been in contact with organizations such as the Director of youth protection (DYP). “This discovery should upset the population. It suggests that we are failing in our duty to protect and take care of the children and youth in Canada,” said Naomi Nichols, a professor who specializes in the youth and homelessness at McGill University, in a blog published on the website of the Roundabout. Aboriginal people are also over-represented among the young, both in relation to the provision of services from body of child protection among homeless youth. Same observation on the side of the young people from the community LGBTQ and youth “racialized”, noted the researchers. “Structurally and systematically, institutions for young people and the canadian government were unable to ensure that all young people living in Canada have access to justice […] and the things essential to survival: healthy food, clean water, adequate housing and safe and access to health care, including those necessary for the mental well-being,” said Ms. Nichols.

UK: Children's services overspend tops £600m

Councils are overspending on their children's social care budgets by more than £600m a year as they look to protect vulnerable groups amid cuts in central government funding, council leaders are warning. The LGA's Richard Watts said some children's services are being "pushed to breaking point" by increased demand and funding cuts. Analysis by the Local Government Association has found that growing demand for social care services, coupled with funding cutbacks, are forcing three quarters of councils to overspend on their children's services budgets, by a total of £605m in 2015/16. The LGA says extra money is having to be channeled into urgent support for children and families in crisis, which is leaving little to invest in early intervention. Funding for early help has been further hit by a £500m cut in the Early Intervention Grant to councils since 2013. The LGA predicting this will drop by a further £183m by 2020, representing a 40 per cent reduction over 10 years. "The fact that the majority of councils are recording high levels of children's services overspend in their local areas shows the sheer scale of the funding crisis we face in children's social care, both now and in the near future," said the LGA's children and young people board chair Richard Watts.

Minnesota: Hennepin County focuses on infants to break child protection cycle

Hennepin County officials, seeking to find ways to help its youngest citizens grow up in stable households, have hit upon something new: Infant Court. It’s part of the county’s three-year Infant Team pilot program, a $1 million project that provides families with intensive coaching to mend a fractured or even nonexistent bond between a baby or toddler and a caregiver. The program begins its third year in September. “You can’t afford not to do this,” said Hennepin County District Judge Nancy Brasel, who helped spearhead the program. “We’re spending money to prevent the baby from ending up in the system.” The program aims to break the cycle followed by many of the nearly 600 kids in the system who wind up returning to foster care over and over. The job of the Infant Court is to oversee cases by bringing together the courts, social workers and clinicians in a coordinated way. Last year, the county approved a $26 million multiyear plan to overhaul its system, boost staffing and launch programs like the Infant Team. The goal is to prevent abuse and save the county money in the long run. The shift comes as the state’s most populous county confronts a record high number of child protection reports, topping 20,000 in 2016.

Supporting young people transition out of care

New Zealand Minister for Children Anne Tolley says a new pilot which provides semi-independent accommodation and life skills for young people transitioning out of care will provide young people with more support. “Young people in care have told us that they need options for where they can live as they transition out of care,” says Mrs Tolley. “The Ministry is working in partnership with three providers in Auckland and Wellington to pilot a new supported living arrangement for young people. This pilot will help us to understand whether supported living as an effective option for providing transitional accommodation as well as support. It will also help us to build a greater understanding of what works and what doesn’t work. We want to help young people to develop the skills they need to lead successful lives. It’s important to ensure that when a young person leaves care, they are supported to reach their full potential. The pilot, which will run until June 2018, will help the Ministry to build a sustainable system which places young people front and centre. It will be evaluated and potentially expanded to more regions.”



N.S. premier says response to Cape Breton suicides should include parent involvement

Nova Scotia’s premier said the response to a spate of Cape Breton teen suicides should extend beyond the classroom as technology broadens the reach of bullying. Stephen McNeil said parents should educate themselves about how technology can put young people at risk in the wake of the suicides of three teens, at least two of whom had been bullied. The Nova Scotia government has accepted all of the recommendations outlined by a Dalhousie University mental health expert who was dispatched to Cape Breton in late June following the suicides. Dr. Stan Kutcher recommended a provincial policy be developed to address students’ responsible use of personal devices such as cellphones on school grounds. But he said he didn’t know how such a regime could be extended to when students are away from school – and a wider public discussion needs to take place on where responsibilities lie. McNeil cited Kutcher’s findings while addressing reporters after a cabinet meeting Thursday. McNeil said social media has allowed the impacts of bullying to continue outside school, and he encouraged parents to help deal with the problem at home.

Australia: Push to extend foster care support from the age of 18 to 21

Concerns for the long-term welfare of the 43,000 Australian children in out-of-home care have sparked a push to extend funded care to the age of 21, a topic on the agenda at a CREATE conference to be held in Sydney this week. Paul McDonald, national chairman of the Home Stretch campaign to extend care, said forcing young people to live independently before they are ready can cause long-term damage. "When a child turns 15, they get a tap on the shoulder and are told to start thinking about a leaving care plan," said Mr McDonald, also the chief executive of Anglicare Victoria. It's developmentally inappropriate and it undermines the care, the security and the certainty a young person needs as they enter adulthood." Deloitte Access Economics research commissioned by Anglicare Victoria found that for every dollar spent on extending support to age 21, the community would save between $1.40 and $2.69, depending on the state or territory. "Here, staring in front of our face, is a single, simple reform which could provide a solution to a lot of social problems and save the government tens of millions of dollars," Mr McDonald said. The economic benefit of extending the leaving age to 21 would be long-term as young people would be more likely to complete further education and find employment, Mr McDonald said. 

UK: Councils look to unite to deliver children's social care, survey finds

A growing number of councils plan to join forces to run children's social care services, a government survey of children's services leaders has found. The Department for Education (DfE) poll, that gathered the views of children's services directors and other senior managers in children's services, found 21 per cent of the 88 councils that took part already operated social care services jointly with other authorities. A further seven per cent were in the process of developing joint operations and 25 per cent said it was on their agenda for the future. Local authorities in the North of England were more likely to have joint social care operations than those in the South. In the North, only 36 per cent of councils lacked joint operations compared with 60 per cent of authorities in London and the South. The survey did not specify in what areas joint operations were being provided, however they were in addition to regional adoption agencies. 

Child arrest figures fall to new low

The number of arrests of children in England and Wales have fallen to a new low – with a drop of 13.9 per cent in the space of a year. Figures obtained by The Howard League for Penal Reform show that police made 87,525 arrests of children aged 17 and under in 2016, down 13.9 per cent on the 2015 figure of 101,678. The latest figure represents a drop of 64 per cent from the level in 2010, when 245,763 arrests were recorded. The statistics collected show that every police force in England and Wales made fewer child arrests in 2016 than in 2010. All but four forces brought down their number of arrests by more than half. There were 703 arrests of primary-age children (10- and 11-year-olds) in 2016, a reduction of 18 per cent from the previous year. The statistics have been published in a Howard League briefing, Child Arrests in England and Wales 2016, which links the reduction in the number of children entering the system with lower levels of child custody. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of children in custody in England and Wales fell by 58 per cent. Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "For the sixth year running, we have seen a significant reduction in child arrests across the country. This is a tremendous achievement, and we will continue to support police forces to develop their good practice and reduce the number to an absolute minimum."



USA: Juvenile justice reauthorization passes Senate, sets up Conference committee

It has been 15 years since Congress passed a reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), the 1974 law that set up basic national standards for the treatment of juvenile offenders. Tonight, the push to update JJDPA is as close to the president’s desk as it has ever been. After two years of failed attempts to “hotline” the bill through unanimous consent, the Senate, which is in session past its planned summer recess date, passed the JJDPA by voice vote tonight. “The federal juvenile justice program helps states achieve these fundamental goals, but the program hasn’t been updated in more than a decade,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-author of the bill and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “Today’s action by the Senate to pass this bill is a significant step toward ensuring that the program is functioning as intended.” The House has already passed a reauthorization bill, so the two must now be merged in a conference committee and passed by both chambers of Congress. If that happens, the bill will move to President Trump’s desk for signature or veto.

Scotland: Hundreds of children in care going missing in Dundee

Children as young as 10 featured in 1,406 city-wide reports of looked after minors on the run in the last five years. Charities have warned that children missing from care are at high risk of falling victim to sexual exploitation and physical abuse. The Scottish Government admitted the care system “must do better”. There were 288 reports of children in care going missing in 2016, according to data obtained from Dundee City Council. That figure has crept up since 2013, but is down on the 328 who were declared missing in 2011. The longest a child was absent for was three days, with the average about four hours. Alex Cole-Hamilton, for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, which obtained the figures, said the numbers are “incredibly concerning”. “Such young children are susceptible to all sorts of dangers such as physical abuse, grooming and sexual exploitation when they are out on the streets by themselves,” the MSP said. “We need to make sure local services have the resources that enable any child that is put under care is given the support and the tools they need.”

California: Casa Pacifica agency kicks off foster care reforms

The Casa Pacifica children's center has been licensed to provide a treatment program deemed critical to the state effort to reform foster care, an official said this week. CEO Steve Elson said the agency is the first in Southern California to receive a license to operate what's called a short-term residential therapeutic program. Under the new model, state officials hope to move kids quickly out of group care with the aid of intensive treatment and connections to resources, including family members who might allow them to stay in their homes. Critics say youths may stay for years in group homes, sometimes for no other reason than that there is no place else to send them. They generally have bounced out of one foster home after another, have been in the foster care system for years, and struggle with significant behavior problems. Officials at the Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families in Camarillo learned a week ago that they had received the license after what Elson called an arduous approval process including several inspections by state officials. He said the program is up and running, making Casa Pacifica one of the first agencies in the state to implement the reform. It's a national priority to lower the rate at which children are placed in group care. Ventura County and California both had a lower proportion of children in group care in statistics quoted last year than the U.S. average.

Cape Town: Future of Ottery Youth Care Centre hangs in the balance

Dozens of boys on the Cape flats face an uncertain future with a decision imminent on whether the Ottery Youth Care Centre can keep its doors open. The centre is home to around 60 boys who either fell afoul of the law or were pulled out of troubled or violent homes. After a long legal battle with government, which it ultimately lost, Ottery has continued to resist new laws which have transformed similar institutions. Ottery principal Moosa Mahadick says he and his staff are doing everything they can to keep giving the boys a second chance at life. “Our society deals with this category of kids as disposable children.” The boys tell chilling stories of being sucked into gangs. The Departments of Education and Social Development say they are assessing the situation but a decision must be made before October.



'This is what reconciliation looks like': Northern First Nations regain control of child welfare services

First Nations in northern Manitoba have regained control over child welfare services in their communities. After 2½ years of meetings, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak and the Manitoba government have signed an agreement that ends control of the northern authority by a government-appointed administrator. The province removed control from the First Nations of Northern Manitoba Child and Family Services Authority Board and appointed administrator Issie Frost in late 2014 after concerns about how the authority was tracking kids in care were raised. The agreement includes a commitment by all the child welfare agencies under supervision by the northern authority to use a common tracking system and work collaboratively to ensure its proper use. "Our meetings were very meaningful and very frank and very honest, and we built that trust. And this is what reconciliation looks like," said Sheila North Wilson, grand chief of MKO. The newly re-empowered board operates under the supervision of MKO and the provincial government. The board will include a representative of the provincial government for six months as part of the agreement.

Caregivers are too slow to reach for epiPens, study finds

A severe, rapid allergic reaction calls for a dose of epinephrine as soon as possible. The medicine counteracts potentially dangerous symptoms, such as a plunge in blood pressure and closing of the airways. In extreme cases, it can mean the difference between life and death. Yet, according to a new study, when children experience serious allergy attacks, known as anaphylaxis, parents, teachers, emergency responders and other caregivers often fail to administer epinephrine – even to children who had previously experienced anaphylaxis and been prescribed an epinephrine autoinjector. The research suggests a need for more education, showing caregivers “how to use the autoinjectors and walking them through what signs to look for,” said Melissa Robinson, an allergist and lead author of the study, published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in July.

UK: ‘Lifelong Links’ help for care leavers

Young people leaving local authority care in North Yorkshire are to get help tracking down family members, as part of a new trial. The county council is one of only seven local authorities selected to try out the new service. The scheme, called Lifelong Links, is designed to link young people up with estranged relatives, or family members they did not previously know, who can be a supportive part of their lives. Launched this summer, Lifelong Links will help the children and young people find their relatives, and other adults like former foster carers who could become part of their lives in the long-term once they leave care. The idea stems from the “family finding” model used in the USA, and North Yorkshire is the only council in the north of England to be trying it out. It is aimed at children under 16 who have been in care for less than three years, and where there are no plans for them live with their family or to be adopted when they leave care. Cllr Janet Sanderson said: “The Lifelong Links pilot could have implications nationally for future best practice. “It is part of a prestigious research project, restricted to a relatively small but important population of children and young people in care in North Yorkshire.” The council was asked try out the service because of its impressive track record in children’s social care services, she added.

Netherlands: Waiting times of up to a year for court imposed youth therapy

Young people who are ordered by the juvenile court to undergo therapy face waiting times of up to one year before their therapy can start, the Volkskrant reports based on its own research. In May a study done by MediQuest showed that the waiting times at 45 percent of mental health institutions in the Netherlands are too long, especially in youth care. Children and teens with anxiety disorders, depression or other mental health problems wait an average of six weeks for an intake interview, while the rules state that this should not be longer than four weeks. According to the newspaper, this is also true for young people who were ordered into therapy by the court, for example for drug use or to learn to cope with aggression. The Public Prosecutor acknowledges the problem. "After the summer, the youth rehabilitation, the Child Protection Council and the Public Prosecutor will talk to the municipalities about the offer of youth care and the needs of the criminal justice chain", a spokesperson said to the Volkskrant. "Many parties are working on it. If the judge imposes a therapy, it is clearly necessary and it must happen. The municipalities have to arrange that."


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