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World headlines news relating to children, youth and families

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Child protection workers' psychological testing delayed by SA court action

A plan for psychological testing of current child protection workers is being held up in South Australia's industrial courts, as a union questions how the testing will be done and what will happen to any staff who fail it. The new checks are part of the SA Government's response to the Nyland royal commission findings that child protection systems were overwhelmed and in disarray. There are plans for a psychometric test and one-on-one interview with a psychologist for all existing workers, a change already implemented for the hiring of new staff. "It is clear, particularly highlighted through the Nyland report, that the new psychometric testing is an appropriate method of determining whether someone is suitable for working in residential care," South Australian Child Protection Minister Susan Close said. "We have every intention of providing that screening for our current staff, to ensure that all of our staff are up to scratch." The Public Service Association (PSA) said it wanted more details about the testing procedures and what any adverse finding would mean for a worker. The PSA went to the Industrial Relations Commission, which ordered the Government to abstain from testing existing staff for a fortnight, a ruling now extended for a further two weeks.

L.A. County to implement state plan to prevent unintended pregnancies among foster youth

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion calling on county agencies to implement the state’s plan for preventing unintended pregnancies amongst foster youth. The state plan, “California’s Plan for the Prevention of Unintended Pregnancies for Youth and Non-Minor Dependents,” aims to address the fact that by age 21 over 1 in 3 girls in foster care will have given birth, according to a report by the Children’s Data Network. Co-authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, the motion calls on the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the Probation Department and county health agencies to explore best practices and develop strategies for reducing early and unplanned pregnancies. The motion also calls for the creation of a communications plan for DCFS and the Probation Department to ensure employees know the plan’s requirements and their role in ensuring access to reproductive health services.

UK: Council awarded £9.6 million to share expertise with other children’s services

The Department for Education has awarded Leeds city council £9.6m to develop a centre of excellence for local authority children’s services. The funding, which will be spread over three years, comes from the department’s innovation fund and will also pay for restorative early support teams and a restorative adolescent service in Leeds. The council is rated ‘good’ by Ofsted and became one of the government’s ‘Partner In Practice’ authorities last year. The Partner In Practice programme is designed to help high-achieving local authorities share their knowledge more widely. The centre of excellence will build on work in Leeds to help other councils improve services. It will run initiatives and events across England and focus on leadership, restorative practice, and how ‘front door’ services for handling referrals can be improved. Steve Walker, director of children’s services in Leeds, said: “This funding will help us to strengthen our resources and the support available in local areas to ensure that families get the support they need at the earliest possible time.”

Australia: Money on offer in bid to encourage working families into foster care

The Queensland Government is hoping financial incentives will help to bring working families into the foster care system as it seeks to find more homes for the rising number of children in urgent need of placement. Minister for Child Safety Shannon Fentiman has pledged $15 million over four years to help cover childcare and kindergarten costs for foster families in the hope of luring more carers into the system. For the first time, foster carers would be eligible to receive up to $2,000 per year for each child aged one to five. Foster Care Queensland executive director Bryan Smith welcomed the announcement, saying the incentives provided a sensible motivation. There are currently about 5,000 foster carers in Queensland, but Mr Smith said the demand for more had never been greater.



Campaign to raise funds for more child advocates launched

The prevalence of violence in families in New Zealand is significant, with over 40,000 women and children referred to Women’s Refuge last year; just under half of those were for children. Today Women’s Refuge launches a campaign to ensure that kids in Aotearoa can lead lives free from violence. Kids In the Middle is a nationwide campaign to raise funds to go towards establishing more child advocates across the country. Disturbingly, recent Refuge statistics indicate that the demand for refuge services for children will increase over the next 4-5 years; they will need more child advocates to help reduce the trauma of children’s experiences, and break the negative cycle. While Women’s Refuge has government contracts with Ministry of Justice and Child Youth and Family to provide children’s programmes, the organisation is largely unfunded for the one on one specialised work they do with children.

UK: Social workers advised to visit homes for six months in suspected abuse cases

 A draft document published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) states that a number of studies have shown the intervention to be effective, suggesting it should not require much additional investment. The guidance, which is designed to help more professionals recognise and respond to forms of abuse and neglect, sets out the kind of work that home visits should involve, including developing the relationship between the child and parents, helping parents develop problem-solving skills and supporting parents who have substance misuse or mental health problems. It also outlines a range of indicators that professionals should consider as potential signs of abuse including excessive "clinginess", recurrent nightmares, low self-esteem and frequent rage at minor provocations. It says staff should be aware of these "soft signs" and make judgments based on what they know about how each child usually behaves and whether it differs from what would normally be expected for their age.

Australia: Better support and services for permanent carers

The Andrews Labor Government is investing in a new, state-wide permanent carer helpline to provide timely support services when they need it most. The not-for-profit association Permanent Care and Adoptive Families will manage the helpline, with qualified professionals to deliver phone advice and assistance. Permanent carers provide stable and nurturing homes for vulnerable children and young people. The Government will provide $600,000 for the helpline as part of its targeted $7.2 million package to support permanent carers including better support programs for permanent carers and to give children in permanent care a sense of stability and certainty about their future. In addition to the helpline, additional flexible funding packages are available for new and existing permanent carers.

Young refugees urge ministers not to end unaccompanied minors scheme

A group of young asylum seekers and refugees who arrived in Britain as children have urged the government not to close the Dubs scheme to help unaccompanied minors fleeing persecution. In an open letter published before Theresa May faces her first prime minister’s questions since it emerged that the government is to drop the scheme, the group accuses ministers of putting “the lives of young refugees like us at risk”. The letter sent by 17 refugees aged between 16 and 22 adds to mounting calls to keep open a scheme intended to help up to 3,000 children after the government decided to limit the number of beneficiaries to just 350. The young refugees from countries including Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan describes themselves as “the lucky ones” after arriving safely in the UK. They are all now being supported by British Red Cross projects in London, Kent and Glasgow. 



Canada: Parents warned after reports of sexually suggestive chats sent to kids on Roblox

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection is warning parents following reports of sexually suggestive messages being sent through the popular Roblox children's gaming environment. Roblox is a user-generated gaming environment where children are encouraged to create adventures using their avatar, play games and connect with friends in a multiplayer environment that claims to more than 44 million active users. The centre said Tuesday it has received reports about requests to meet in person and sexually suggestive chat messages being sent to children under the age of 12 within Roblox. Children can easily be exposed to inappropriate conversations or redirected to inappropriate content on other sites through the chat feature, it said. The centre suggests that before allowing children to start playing a particular game, parents should explore it themselves first and possibly turn off the chat component. Parents should teach children to check with them before using new apps or games or sharing any information online, and not to respond or click on messages or links from someone they don't know, the centre said.

UK: Tories propose political pay cuts to save youth services 

Senior politicians should take a pay cut in order to free up money to preserve youth services, Conservatives at a council in England have proposed. Labour-controlled Brighton Council is due to consider controversial plans to cut the local authority's youth services budget by £645,000. But as part a series of amendments aimed at reducing the level of the cuts, the Conservative group is calling for a reduction in councillors' allowances. The Conservative group says the proposed amendments, which also include removing a low-emission discount on residents' parking permits for diesel vehicles and axing the council's neighbourhoods, inclusion, communities and equality committee, would reduce the cuts by £190,000. Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald said: "What we are proposing relates to special allowances [for politicians] and there are one or two where we think there is a bit of repetition in there." The group's finance spokesman and deputy leader Andrew Wealls added that the amendments are needed as the council's proposed changes to youth services "will add to the council's costs further down the line".

UK: Ofsted to cut visits to good and outstanding children's homes

In its response to a consultation on a raft of children's home regulatory changes, the government has said it will seek parliamentary approval to cut the number of visits to homes receiving one of the two top grades from two to one a year. Currently all children's homes are visited at least twice a year by inspectors. Just three said they either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the plans. Concerns including the fact that the standard of homes can "deteriorate quickly".

Australia: Teens 'brutalised at Victoria's Barwon adult prison'

Teenage detainees at Victoria's maximum-security Barwon prison near Geelong have been pinned down, punched and kicked by adult prison guards, human rights lawyers claim. Police and Victoria's Commissioner for Children and Young People are investigating the allegations of brutality, which follow a riot involving 16 boys at the jail's youth justice wing on Monday night that left a prison officer injured. The lawyers claim anti-riot guards led handcuffed boys to their cells and ordered them to lie on the floor or kneel against the wall, where they were punched in the face and kicked in the ribs, back and head. 



UK: Ofsted praises SEN funding approach in Leeds

The way young people with special educational needs are funded in Leeds is among a number of areas of practice to be praised following an inspection of provision.
Inspectors from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission said Leeds Council and local health services are successfully working together to help children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) achieve personal development goals. They pointed out examples of good practice, particularly in providing funding for children with SEND. They praised services' approach of providing SEND funding whether or not a child had received a formal EHC plan or statement of special educational needs.

Scotland: Care system review

The chief executive of Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland, Fiona Duncan, has been appointed to chair a root and branch review of the children's care system in Scotland. The review, ordered by the Scottish Government, will look at the underpinning legislation, practices, culture and ethos of the care system. It will be driven and shaped by the evidence of care experienced young people and propose changes to the care system that will improve both the quality of life and outcomes of young people in care.

UK: Government launches drive for youth work and early years volunteers

An initiative designed to attract thousands of volunteers to youth work and early years initiatives has been launched by government. The Office for Civil Society (OCS) and charity Nesta are offering half of the money to projects that help young people manage their money, and families deemed to be "just about managing". The Savers Support Fund will provide four to six grants of between £150,000 and £250,000 to enable organisations to expand and grow the support they currently offer, or replicate or franchise their models.

Unhealthy food choices pushed to youngsters on websites

Many food websites are using sophisticated marketing to target and engage children and adolescents to market unhealthy food choices. A new study, published today in the NZ Medical Journal, analysed the extent and nature of unhealthy food marketing to New Zealand children and adolescents via the internet. The research from the University of Auckland found that one in three of the 70 food company websites analysed used marketing techniques intended to engage young people. Marketing techniques seen in the study included education linked advertising (87 percent), viral marketing (64 percent), cookies (54 percent), free downloadable items (43 percent), promotional characters (39 percent), designated children’s sections (19 percent) and advert linked gaming (13 percent). “These marketing techniques used on food brand websites are very sophisticated and intended to engage children as much as possible with the brands,” says researcher Dr Stefanie Vandevijvere, a food policy expert from the University of Auckland. Most techniques appeared more frequently on websites specifically targeting children and adolescents, than on other websites targeting the general public. 



UK: Inadequate sex education creating 'health time bomb'

Inadequate sex and relationships education (SRE) in schools is creating “a ticking sexual health time bomb”, councils are warning, amid concern over high numbers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among young people. The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, has joined the growing clamour urging the government to make sex education compulsory in all secondary schools. Currently it is mandatory in local authority-maintained schools, but not in academies and free schools which make up 65% of secondaries. Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said it was a major health protection issue. “The lack of compulsory sex and relationship education in academies and free schools is storing up problems for later on in life, creating a ticking sexual health time bomb, as we are seeing in those who have recently left school."

England: DfE figures reveal massive variation in children's social work caseloads

Average social work caseloads vary by as many as 43 cases in different parts of England, new statistics published for the first time today show. Annual workforce statistics produced by the Department for Education have for the first time included detail on average children's social work caseloads in each of the 152 local authorities. While the average for England has been calculated at 16.1 cases per social worker, there is a wide variation across local authority areas. The difference between the council with the lowest average caseloads – Lambeth at 7.6 – and the council with the highest caseloads – the Isle of Wight at 51.3 – comes to 43.7 cases. The average caseloads have been calculated by dividing the number of cases held by children and family social workers (including agency workers) as of 30 September 2016, by the total number of social workers. The DfE has said it is keen to use the statistics it collects in order to spot when standards in child protection are slipping. The DfE data reveals that there are 18 councils where more than a third of the workforce is made up of agency staff.

New Zealand: Youth development opportunities growing

The number of youth development opportunities in New Zealand is growing by around 10,000 annually as a result of a new approach, which includes the Government co-investing in new opportunities with philanthropic, business, iwi and other partners, says Youth Minister Nikki Kaye. “In July last year, the Government committed $1 million to seed a Partnership Fund, with the aim of attracting investments from other partners to help grow youth development opportunities,” says Ms Kaye. “Already, over $900,000 from the Fund has been invested, alongside around $2 million cash and in-kind support from partners towards more than 6000 new opportunities. There are many businesses and organisations out there which recognise the value of investing in helping young people acquire the skills and confidence they need to contribute positively to society as adults. It makes sense for the Government and these organisations to work together, to maximise resources and increase the number and quality of opportunities available.”

Closing the Gap: Ninth report card on Indigenous disadvantage set to be a mixed bag

Australia: The Federal Government's report card on Indigenous disadvantage is today expected to show patchy progress, as Indigenous leaders demand a new relationship with the Government. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will this afternoon deliver the ninth Closing the Gap update to Parliament. It will show insufficient progress in some areas while highlighting improvement in others. It will outline positive signs in health, including reduced rates of smoking and infant mortality. The report is also expected to reveal advances in reading and numeracy. The Closing the Gap report tracks progress against seven targets and also includes employment, early childhood education and school attendance.



Scottish schools 'lacking' mental health provision

A lack of mental health provision for young people in Scotland is leaving them in distress and at serious risk, according to key children's charities. The Scottish Children's Services Coalition, said urgent action was needed to improve support. Scotland is the only UK country with no national strategy for school-based counselling services. The Scottish government said some health boards had a "long way to go" on mental health provision. Research suggests that half of mental health problems start before the age of 15. The Scottish Youth Parliament, Penumbra, Place2Be and Children in Scotland are also supporting the call for support to be improved in all schools and in the community. Local government body Cosla said budget cuts had led to a shortage of mental health workers and educational psychologists.

UK: Social work accreditation exams earmarked for November start

Children's social workers will be able to start taking exams to achieve accredited status from November this year, it has emerged. The "first phase of rollout" for the new accreditation system, during which frontline child and family practitioners and practice supervisors in 31 volunteer areas will be accredited, is due to begin this year.A notice published by the Department for Education to organisations interested in bidding to deliver the system reveals that social workers are likely to be able to start sitting the tests in as little as nine months' time.

New Zealand: $50k to support LGBTI young people

InsideOUT Koaro and RainbowYOUTH will receive funding totalling $50,000 to expand the great work they’re doing to support LGBTI young people, Youth Minister Nikki Kaye announced today. “InsideOUT Koaro will receive $30,000 over three years to help it deliver leadership workshops, while RainbowYOUTH will receive $20,000 this year to strengthen the support services it provides,” says Ms Kaye. “The InsideOUT Koaro funding will help grow 120 young leaders, who can in turn support and mentor other LGBTI young people. A national organisation working to make New Zealand a safer place for all young people of diverse genders and sexualities, InsideOUT Koaro was founded by outstanding young Wellingtonian Tabby Beasley. Tabby is passionate about advocating for the LGBTI community, and was the first New Zealander to receive the Queen’s Young Leader Award, presented by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2015. The RainbowYOUTH funding will enable the organisation to deliver more services nationwide, including strengthening local LGBTI groups through the provision of training, mentoring and educational resources. "

UK: Legal Update – Family courts and contact where there has been domestic violence

Frances Trevena, head of policy and programmes at Coram's Children's Legal Centre, examines calls by charities for reforms to the way family courts deal with contact cases involving domestic violence. In recent weeks, the government and the judiciary have responded to calls by domestic violence charities to reform child arrangements orders in the family court where there has been domestic violence between the parents. This call began with the Women's Aid report, Nineteen Child Homicides and the Child First campaign to address the inadequacies in the family court when dealing with vulnerable witnesses.

Philippine bid to jail nine-year-olds is 'a great child violation', Unicef says

A law proposing children as young as nine be jailed for crimes is “wrong from every angle”, the head of the United Nations children’s agency in the Philippines has warned. “If they grow up, spending their teenage years in a prison, they most probably will be damaged for life,” Unicef’s country representative, Lotta Sylwander, said in a telephone interview from Manila. The current age of criminal responsibility in the Philippines is 15. President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies have been pushing to lower it, coupled with another draft bill that would restore the death penalty. Politicians opposing the bills say their passing could lead to a situation in which a nine-year-old may be sentenced to death.



Women and children ‘endure rape, beatings and abuse’ inside Dunkirk’s refugee camp

Children and women are being raped by traffickers inside a refugee camp in northern France, according to detailed testimony gathered ahead of fresh legal action against the UK government’s approach to the welfare of unaccompanied minors. Corroborating accounts from volunteers, medics, refugees and other officials reveal that sexual abuse is common within the large camp at Dunkirk and that children and women are forced to have sex by traffickers in return for blankets or food or the offer of passage to the UK. Legal proceedings will be issued by London-based Bindmans against the Home Office, which is accused of acting unfairly and irrationally by electing to settle only minors from the vast Calais camp that closed last October, ignoring the child refugees gathered in Dunkirk, 40 miles away along the coast.

New Zealand: Māori Party supports call for inquiry into State child abuse

The Māori Party is backing a campaign launched by the Human Rights Commission for an independent inquiry into the historic abuse of children in State care. More than 100,000 children were in State care during the 1950s to the 1990s and the commission, along with iwi leaders and child advocates, is calling for an inquiry to determine how many were abused and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. “I’ve heard the stories from people themselves, who as children were taken from homes that were actually more loving than the ones the State put them in. They are New Zealand’s lost generations,” said Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox. “We absolutely support the commission’s call for those who haven’t been able to share their stories, to do so. This Government needs to listen to them and learn from them so that abuse never happens again. E Kore Anō.” Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the country’s lost generations was more serious than what most people thought. “We’re potentially talking about thousands of children being taken from their families simply for having a disability, being Māori or minor transgressions like skipping school, only to be abused physically, sexually and emotionally by the strangers and institutions that the State placed them with,” said Mr Flavell.

UK: Head teachers warn of mental health support shortage for pupils

More than half of school leaders across England and Wales struggle to find mental health services for pupils who need help, research has found.  A survey of more than 1,100 primary and secondary leaders conducted by charity Place2Be and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) found that 56 per cent said there was a lack of suitable local provision for children experiencing problems. More than one in five (22 per cent) said they had been unsuccessful in finding any services at all when they tried. The most common cause of being unable to find support cited by respondents was a lack of capacity in services.

Italy: Breaking up the family as a way to break up the mob

Fighting the mafia at the very toe of Italy, Roberto Di Bella has seen a lot: children as young as 11 or 12 serving as lookouts during murders, attending drug deals and mob strategy sessions, or learning how to handle a Kalashnikov assault rifle. But it was the day he charged the younger brother of a minor he had jailed years before that he decided to take a drastic step: separating children from their mob families and moving them to a different part of Italy to break a generational cycle of criminality. “I am not taking them away for nothing,” said Mr. Di Bella, a 53-year-old magistrate, president of the Reggio Calabria minors’ court. “Sons follow their fathers,” he said. “But the state can’t allow that children are educated to be criminals.” 

Pakistani youth are resilient to cyber bullying: Telenor survey

Telenor Group’s Multi-market Asia online survey reveals that while online bullying and risks are still concerns, Asia’s parents feel that youth are increasingly resilient and responsible. The findings were released by the global telecom giant on the ‘Safer Internet Day 2017’ as part of its efforts to make internet safer for youth as it aims for large-scale digital inclusion. The survey approached parents and adults across Asia to get their opinion on digital bullying affecting youth and how they deal with it. It was conducted over Facebook with 320 respondents, primarily from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and other Asian countries. While cyberbullying exists across all countries, the respondents said that they are discussing cyberbullying with kids and feel that resilience is being built, which may help them tackle digital abuse or better empathise with victims. The survey targeted Facebook users from 18-64 with stated interests in parenting, family issues, child welfare and online security.



Canada: Number of B.C. kids-in-care deaths, critical injuries jump dramatically

One hundred and twenty children in care or receiving services from the B.C. government died last year, and more than 740 received “critical injuries,” according to a new tally by the children’s advocate. And while the number of children in care in the province has declined over the last decade, the number of reported deaths and critical injuries has risen at a dramatic pace: Deaths jumped from 72 in 2008 to 120 last year, while critical injuries skyrocketed from 120 to 741. The way these incidents are reported has changed recently in response to criticisms about the child-welfare system, making it impossible to prove that these vulnerable children actually experienced more serious injuries. The numbers of deaths were also reported differently over time — in the past, deaths from “natural causes” such as an accident or an illness were not counted. Now all deaths are reported. But Bernard Richard, B.C.’s acting children’s advocate, says the totals still represent emotional or physical trauma being suffered by too many youth. The Ministry of Children and Family Development, in an e-mail statement, said the cases are up because the criteria for reporting a critical injury or death started to change in 2011, as did the computer system used to track them in 2014. “This does not necessarily mean that the number or severity of incidents has increased, just that the criteria of what is reported has been expanded,” the e-mail said.

UK second only to Japan for young people's poor mental wellbeing

Young people in the UK have the poorest mental wellbeing in the world – with the exception of Japan – and list money, getting on in life and the rise of terrorism among their greatest concerns, according to an international survey of 20,000 youngsters. The study ranks the UK 19th out of 20 countries in its survey of wellbeing, with young people in the UK aged 15-21 lagging behind comparable cohorts in France and Germany, as well as those in countries such as Israel, Turkey, Russia and China. Indonesia, India and Nigeria scored highest on the wellbeing scale, with scores of 56.2, 54.4 and 53.9 respectively (the highest possible score being 70), whereas Japan scored the lowest at 41.3, followed by the UK (47.3), New Zealand (47.6) and Australia (47.9).

UK: Government rejects youth committee strategy to tackle racism in schools

The government has opted not to act on a series of recommendations to address racism and religious discrimination in schools suggested by the youth select committee. In total the youth select committee made 16 recommendations in its report, which was published in November, in a bid to address issues they had identified. Among these was a call to make personal, social and health and education compulsory, and for teaching of it to include the issues of racism and religious discrimination.

New Zealand social policies off track: child lobby

Families with young children are among New Zealand's homeless, highlighting the need to tackle housing affordability, the Child Poverty Action Group says. With families with young children among the homeless in New Zealand, a child poverty lobby has backed the Salvation Army's call to improve national housing policy. The Salvation Army released its 10th annual State of the Nation report on Wednesday, saying the lack of safe, affordable housing and entrenched child poverty, which has been unchanged for the past five years, remain key issues. The organisation's social policy director, Colonel Ian Hutson, says Auckland recorded a 12-year high in new housing consents last year. "But during the same time, across the country, the housing shortage got worse and housing became more unaffordable for people." Backing the comments, the Child Poverty Action Group says the lack of affordable housing has created unprecedented levels of homelessness. Families with young children and youths aged between 19 and 24 years were among the homeless and those struggling to find good jobs, it said.

Australia: NT youth diversion programs to receive millions more in funding in wake of Don Dale scandal

The Northern Territory Government will today announce it will spend millions of dollars more on youth diversion programs. The announcement follows the abuse scandal at the Don Dale and Alice Springs youth detention centres and community anger over juvenile crime. A series of programs have been cut over the last decade, and less than 1 per cent of the NT's law and order budget is spent on prevention. The NT Government is still having difficulty selling the message that such programs work, to a public increasingly angry about a spate of break-ins, car thefts and damage to schools. The few programs that have survived do not have a 100 per cent success rate but some of the young participants have said it had a profound influence on their lives.



The world is more than 450 years off target from meeting child poverty promise

The world is 452 years away from delivering on the promise of ending extreme child poverty, new figures commissioned by Save the Children show. World leaders pledged to bring an end to extreme poverty by 2030 in the Sustainable Development Goals agreed at the UN in New York, in 2015. But at the current rate of progress, the last child projected to leave extreme poverty will not do so until 2482 – 18 generations later than the agreed global target. This child will in live in sub-Saharan Africa, a region which, by 2030, is expected to account for almost 90% of the 167 million children globally living on less than $1.90 a day, the threshold for measuring extreme poverty. The stark findings come ahead of this week’s annual gathering of world leaders in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum, where the theme is ‘Responsive and Responsible Leadership’. The need for an intensified focus on the Sustainable Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty, is expected to be an important part of the discussions ahead of a year of political and economic uncertainty.

US: Charging youth as adults has public health impact, report says

Advocates in California say that for too long the hazardous health consequences of incarcerating juveniles in the state’s justice system have been obscured by overly punitive rhetoric around public safety. A report released last week by Oakland-based nonprofit Human Impact Partners uses an emerging research tool to make visible the health impacts of juvenile incarceration, especially for youth under the age of 18 who are sent to adult court and adult correctional facilities. The authors describe a court process that offers few opportunities for youth to deal with childhood trauma that often leads to involvement with the justice system. When it comes to transfers of youth to the adult system, racial disparities are widespread. As a result, they say, high rates of incarceration have done little to improve public safety and have damaging long-term consequences when it comes to youth development.

UK: Rise in calls to Childline for mental health issues prompts call for action

Figures show 50,819 youngsters contacted the helpline for a serious mental health problem in 2015/16 – up 8% over four years. Charities are calling for improved mental health provision in schools as new figures reveal more than 50,000 children and young people contacted Childline last year seeking help for serious mental health problems. The helpline has seen a 36% rise over four years in youngsters needing help for depression and other disorders, while there was also a rise in the number of youngsters feeling suicidal.

Out of 75% of girls starting school, only 8% finish in the African continent

Ahead of this week’s African Union (AU) pre-summit it has been revealed that out of 75% of girls starting school, only 8% finish in the African continent. Save the Children South Africa’s CEO, Gugu Ndebele will be tackling the issue of access to education in times of emergencies when she facilitates a high-level dialogue at the AU Centre this week.
“While progress has been made across the continent, our achievements are simply not good enough. Children are being robbed of their fundamental right to education and girl children are particularly marginalised,” said Ndebele.  

63% of young South African children live in poverty – study

About 63% of young South African children live in poverty, which can affect their physical, cognitive and emotional development, a new study has found. The study, a joint publication between Ilifa Labantwana, the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency, was published in the South African Early Childhood Review. The publication provides data, analysis and commentary on over 40 statistical indicators measuring the progress of Early Childhood Development (ECD) service delivery across multiple government departments, including health, social development and education. ECD focuses mostly on children, from birth to six years of age.



New Zealand: Children's commissioner urges halt to education bill

Judge Becroft told Parliament's Education and Science Select Committee to stop work on the Education Amendment Bill until children have been asked what they want. If passed unchanged, the bill would give the government the power to set high-level objectives for education and national priorities that schools must follow. It would create online schools known as COOLs, and make it easier for schools to require five-year-olds to start school at set times during the year. The select committee was hearing public submissions on the bill, but Judge Becroft said there had been no real consultation with children about its content. "The progress of this bill in our view should be stopped until there has been meaningful, appropriate and proper consultation with children," he said. "It is frankly, from my perspective, astonishing that this bill has been prepared and reached this far without any demonstrable occurrence or example of consultation with children." Judge Becroft said New Zealand had signed a UN convention that said children had the right to express their views, especially on matters that affected them. "It would be hard to think of a matter that affected them more than education."'s-commissioner-urges-halt-to-education-bill

UK: Children with complex disabilities 'lost' in fragmented care system

Dame Christine Lenehan review of inpatient care for children and young adults with severe learning disabilities finds policies and services lack co-ordination and calls for health and social care to develop integrated provision. There are more than 2,000 children and young adults with severe learning disabilities who are living in round-the-clock residential settings. These children and young people are largely hidden from view, due in part to the challenges of meeting their complex needs. However, a Department of Health-commissioned review on the standards of care provided to this group reveals a system that is institutionalised in its nature, extremely costly to provide and failing to deliver significant improvements.

UK: Legal Update: Family courts and contact where there has been domestic violence

Frances Trevena, head of policy and programmes at Coram's Children's Legal Centre, examines calls by charities for reforms to the way family courts deal with contact cases involving domestic violence. In recent weeks, the government and the judiciary have responded to calls by domestic violence charities to reform child arrangements orders in the family court where there has been domestic violence between the parents. This call began with the Women's Aid report, Nineteen Child Homicides and the Child First campaign to address the inadequacies in the family court when dealing with vulnerable witnesses.

US: FosterPort, transition-aged youth web portal

In an effort provide a one-stop-shop to understand what older youth in foster care face, a Washington D.C.-based consultancy firm teamed up with a charitable foundation to create a new web portal. Launched in January of 2017, FosterPort, curated by Child Focus Partners and funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, provides links and basic information on seminal research, experts, advocacy groups and service providers in 20 “impact issues” key to transition-aged foster youth. “We want people to seek it out as number one resource on older kids in foster care,” said Tiffany Allen, a senior associate with Child Focus Partners who is also heading up FosterPort. The site has information on 48 experts, 91 publications and scores more posts on key websites and advocacy organizations.

Australia: Youth prison with 'highest security Victoria has seen' to be built by 2021

Victoria will build a new high-security youth justice facility by 2021 at a cost of more than $1m per bed, the premier, Daniel Andrews, announced on Monday. The centre at Werribee South, described as “the highest-security youth justice facility that Victoria has ever seen”, will have capacity for up to 224 detainees and will include a 12-bed mental health unit and an eight-bed intensive supervision unit. The announcement follows months of chaos in the state’s Parkville and Malmsbury youth detention facilities, with detainee rioting culminating in the escape of 15 young people last month. In November, detainees caused such extensive damage to the Parkville centre that repair and fortifying work is still being carried out. A unit of the Barwon adult prison was regazetted as a youth detention facility to compensate for beds lost during the rioting. On Monday morning, Andrews said construction work on the new centre would start next year, creating up to 3,000 jobs. Once it was opened, Parkville would be permanently closed, he said. “The Comrie report, which provides a very damning commentary on the state of Parkville, talks about the fact that if a facility is not secure, then no rehabilitation, no effective programs, can be run in that facility,” Andrews said. “So it is critically important that we build a new youth justice facility.”



UK: Huge increase in child-on-child sex offences

The number of reported cases of children committing sexual offences against other children have increased by 78 per cent since 2013, research by Barnardo's has found.
Reported cases of child-on-child sex offences have increased by 78 per cent since 2013. Statistics provided to the charity by police forces in England and Wales show that the number of alleged offences rose from 5,215 in 2013 to 9,290 in 2016. In total, there were 32,452 reports to police of alleged sexual offences by children on other children over the four year period - an average of more than 22 every day. The true number could be higher because seven of the 43 forces in England and Wales either did not respond or provided only a partial response. Last year Barnardo's warned that child on child sexual abuse threatened to become the next major child protection issue. It has called for a national inquiry to examine the issue and wants government to develop a national strategy to tackle it.

UK: Foster carers face 'incredibly complex task', MPs told

The status of fostering must be raised to give foster carers the recognition they deserve, MPs have heard. The increasingly complex needs of children in care mean fosterers face a tough task, carers and groups told the Commons education select committee. Foster care families often felt unsupported and under-rated in the service they offered to some of society's most vulnerable children. The committee was taking evidence at its first hearing on fostering. Harriet Ward, professor of child and family research at Loughborough University, told MPs: "It's become much more evident that a very high proportion of children in the care system have experienced abuse and neglect and they have very complex needs, very often, as a result of that." Foster carers had an "incredibly complex task" in supporting these children, she said. "It's more difficult, I suspect, it's more complex than it was 10 years ago because of the population of children coming into the care system now. "I think the status issue really needs to be acknowledged and addressed."

US: Tamer version of youth football looks to address safety concerns

 In a bid to stem declining participation in youth tackle football leagues, USA Football said it plans to introduce a much tamer version of the game for young players. In a pilot program in a small number of leagues across the country, the organization will institute several rule changes that will be implemented nationally if they are deemed effective, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The changes include: cutting the number of players on the field for each team from 11 to between six and nine; creating smaller fields; eliminating kickoffs and punts; and banning the three-point stance for those playing on the line (players would crouch instead), USA Football told the Times. The intent of the changes is to fashion youth tackle football to be more like flag football, with much less contact and hitting.

No guarantee troubled Tasmanian child care system changes will get current budget funding

Tasmania's Premier is giving no guarantees that a suite of recommendations from the state's children's commissioner will be funded in this year's state budget. Commissioner Mark Morrissey yesterday released his report into Tasmania's troubled Out of Home Care (OOHC) system, noting the state was a "less than ideal" parent for some. Seven recommendations were made to improve the system for children who need care out of the family, including an independent welfare inspector, a tribunal to speed up care decisions, and a set of State Government standards for home care. There is now confusion as to when the recommendations will be funded, with Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma saying on Tuesday all seven recommendations would be acted on "immediately", while Premier Will Hodgman has now said they would be considered in the "context of future budgets". The Premier was asked if he could give an unconditional guarantee that all seven would be funded in this year's state budget. "We need to consider how we implement each of the recommendations through a proper budgetary process," he said.

Australia: Dylan Voller, former Don Dale youth detainee, granted early release from prison

Dylan Voller, the teenager who was pictured hooded and strapped to a restraint chair, sparking the royal commission into youth detention, has been granted early release from prison by the Northern Territory Supreme Court. He will be released to the BushMob youth offender rehabilitation program in Alice Springs for four months on the grounds he had been treated badly in prison. Justice Peter Barr said he accepted the evidence put by Voller's barrister, David Dalton. "The experienced team leader who prepared the pre-sentence report said if Mr Voller participated in BushMob he will gain life skills to reintegrate into the community. That coincides with my opinion," Justice Barr said. The court will decide in June if the rest of his sentence for recklessly endangering a police officer will be suspended.



Ontario: Helping local children's centres stay safe and accessible

Ontario is helping community agencies across the province provide better care for children, youth and their families by supporting critical repairs and renovations that will keep facilities well-maintained, safe and accessible. Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau made the announcement this morning at the Thames Valley Children's Centre in London, which provides specialized rehabilitation services to more than 8,000 children and youth every year. This support will help the centre upgrade its building ventilation and cooling system to maintain safety and comfort for children and youth receiving services. Ontario is providing support for 70 children's treatment centres, children's aid societies and youth centres across the province through its Partner Facility Renewal program. The support will allow these agencies to complete 140 facility upgrade and repair projects, helping them continue to deliver quality care for children, youth and families. 

Ontario: How the Call to Action is transforming child welfare

After its initial launch a year ago, Call to Action-related projects are now up and running, and the transformation of child welfare in Ontario is well underway. The Call to Action was designed to guide province-wide collaborative work aimed at creating the best child welfare system and achieving the best outcomes for all children, youth and families in Ontario. It is a pledge to be accountable and transparent, and to use provincial information and best practices to improve services to communities. “Much of the Call to Action work addresses issues identified in coroner’s inquests, the auditor general’s review, reports from children’s advocates and review panels, and the media,” explained Wendy Miller, OACAS Lead for the Call to Action. “Children, youth, and families expect a transparent and responsive child welfare system that provides consistent, culturally relevant, and high-quality services, regardless of where they live.” “I don’t think anyone questions that we’re all committed to helping vulnerable children and families. But what we’ve heard is we must start doing things differently,” said Wendy. “This year, expect child welfare in Ontario to change significantly.” The Call to Action projects are being led by staff from agencies across the province and facilitated through the OACAS. In some instances, these projects will result in significant changes in the way agencies function, report their progress, and hold themselves accountable.

USA: Boy Scouts will allow transgender children into programs

The Boy Scouts of America made the announcement Monday. The organization said it made the decision to begin basing enrolment in its boys-only programs on the gender a child or parent lists on the application to become a scout. The Boy Scouts had previously held a policy that relied on the gender listed on a child's birth certificate for those programs. "For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual's birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs," the statement said. "However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state." The Boy Scouts said the enrolment decision goes into effect immediately. "Our organization's local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child," the statement said.

UK: YJB chair calls for children's criminal records to be erased at 18 

Youth Justice Board chair Lord McNally has added his voice to calls for children's criminal records to be erased at 18. Lord McNally said it is "common sense" that children's criminal records should be wiped clean at 18. Speaking in the House of Lords during the second reading of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Bill, the Lib Dem peer said that there was a strong case for "expunging" criminal records when offenders reached their 18th birthday. However, he added that this should not apply to murder, serial sexual offences and crimes of violence. He said: "This is not woolly liberalism, but sound common sense, as is the continuation of anonymity for young offenders who come before the courts. "All the evidence shows that resettlement into a job is the best way to avoid reoffending. I pay tribute to companies such as Timpson, National Grid and many others in the private sector who are willing to take on ex-offenders. The existence of a criminal conviction can undo years of successful rehabilitation work." The move has already been recommended as part of Charlie Taylor's government commissioned review into youth justice, which is currently being considered by ministers.

UN children agency seeks $3.3 billion in support in 2017

UNICEF is appealing for $3.3 billion this year to help millions of children worldwide facing conflict, malnutrition and other humanitarian emergencies. The U.N. children's agency says more than 40 percent of the appeal would provide funds for children either displaced within Syria or who have fled abroad to escape the country's nearly six-year war. UNICEF said its annual appeal announced Tuesday follows an initial request for $2.8 billion last year, which eventually grew to $3.2 billion amid escalating conflicts in Yemen, South Sudan and Iraq. The single largest donor in 2016 was the United States, which contributed $407 million, followed by Germany at $250 million. UNICEF emergencies director Manuel Fontaine said: "We certainly hope that the United States will keep with its tradition of helping us."


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