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Today's News

World headline news relating to children, youth and families


Ottawa: Federal government fails on First Nations child health delivery, says advocate

Cindy Blackstock says federal documents from a year ago highlight how the government explored different ways of applying Jordan's Principle – a policy named after a five-year-old boy who died in hospital in 2005 after a battle between the federal and Manitoba governments over his home-care costs. Blackstock says the government still has not adequately responded to legal orders put forward by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which that demanded immediate steps be taken to end a narrow definition of the principle. The Liberal government insists it is responding to the ruling, pointing to a July announcement of $382 million over three years for Jordan's Principle. Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus says First Nations children are still denied services, adding that the complainants in the case —Blackstock's organization and the Assembly of First Nations — would not have to continue to fight if the government was in fact adhering to the tribunal's findings.

USA: Young victims of the opioid epidemic

Opioid overdoses have claimed more than 300,000 lives in the last 15 years, including some 33,000 in 2015 alone. But those numbers do not tell the full horror of this epidemic, which has devastated the lives of countless children whose parents have succumbed to addiction to prescription painkillers and other opiates. In one terrible case last month, a Pennsylvania couple died of apparent overdoses, and their baby perished from starvation a few days later. More commonly, children are rescued or removed from the custody of their parents by local child welfare officials or relatives. After declining for several years, the number of children in foster care jumped 8 percent nationally, to 428,000, between fiscal years 2012 and 2015, the most recent data available. Experts say opioid abuse accounts for a lot of that increase.

UK: 'Research schools' for social mobility zones

Education Secretary Justine Greening has announced a wave of "research schools" to raise standards in disadvantaged parts of England. The BBC reports that schools will be based in 12 opportunity areas, six of which were announced yesterday.The six new opportunity areas will be Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich, and Stoke, identified as social mobility "cold spots". The areas will share £72m, to improve the quality of education and to provide young people with the advice and skills needed for good jobs.

UK: Birmingham children's trust to launch April 2018

A new independent trust to run children's services in Birmingham will officially launch in April 2018, with the organisation taking the form of a company owned by the council, rather than an employee-owned mutual, it has emerged. Documents published by Birmingham City Council today reveal the local authority favours establishing an independent company owned wholly by the council, in the form of a community interest company, rather than a staff-owned mutual, an option that is deemed to carry a number of "significant risks".
The wholly owned company is deemed to be a better model for controlling costs and generating profits - something mutuals are currently legally prohibited from doing, the documents reveal.

Youth unemployment: The big question and South Africa

South Africa may be the largest and most developed economy on the African continent, but the unemployment rate for younger people has been running as high as 50%, prompting a nationwide debate about schemes where companies get paid for taking on young workers. The extent of youth joblessness, and its associated poverty, is acknowledged to be a major contributor to South Africa's high crime rate. And in some urban centres it is fuelling drug-related gang culture.

China: Electroshock therapy for internet addicts? China vows to end it

At the Addiction Treatment Center in eastern China, more than 6,000 internet addicts – most of them teenagers – not only had their web access taken away, they were also treated with electroshock therapy. The center, in Shandong Province, made headlines in September after one of its patients killed her mother in retribution for abuse she had purportedly suffered at the camp during a forced detox regimen. Now China is trying to regulate camps like the one in Shandong, which have become a last resort for parents exasperated by their child’s habit of playing online games for hours on end.



Expenditures on children by families 2015 United States

New report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides estimates of expenditures on children from birth through age 17. This report presents the most recent estimates for married couple and single-parent families and uses the Consumer Expenditure Survey to calculate annual child-rearing expenses. Findings include that expenses vary considerably by household income level, region, and composition. Authors note that these results can support the development of child support and foster care guidelines, as well as public health and family-centered educational programs.

Safe Pathways inquiry: No excuse for Tasmanian Government's 'secrecy', Greens say

The Tasmanian Government is again being accused of secrecy surrounding an inquiry into embattled foster care provider Safe Pathways. The Government is investigating the private provider following allegations of neglect and financial discrepancies. Eleven Tasmanian children were moved from Safe Pathways' care in December. The Government expanded its review of the organisation after the ABC's Four Corners program alleged Safe Pathways was not providing adequate care to its children. Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said the Government had not been transparent about the findings of an initial review. "Tasmanians are still no wiser about how much public money went to this for-profit provider, and how much of that money went to meeting the needs of those vulnerable young people," she said. The Greens have submitted a Right to Information request for details about Safe Pathways' contract with the Government and Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma.

Call for school drug education

Drug abuse, rife in many South African high schools, is now creeping into primary schools as well, prompting the Medical Research Council’s (MRC’s) alcohol and drug research unit to recommend that the dangers of drug use should be included in primary school curricula.The latest report by the MRC’s South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (Sacendu) notes that children as young as seven are abusing dagga, with harder drugs being used by some children in higher primary school grades.

UK: Children unnecessarily removed from parents, report claims

The push to increase adoption in England is punishing low-income women, who are increasingly losing their children due to poverty, according to research by Legal Action for Women. A report to be presented at the House of Commons on Wednesday contains new research from the legal service and campaign group, which suggests the policy of increasing adoption has not reduced the number of children in care – as it was intended to – but has increased the number of those separated from their parents. Dr Andy Bilson, emeritus professor of social work at the University of Lancashire, has been analysing the data gathered between 31 March 2001 and 2016. He found the number of children from care living with adopted parents or special guardians, has increased from 87,090 to 143,440 – a rise of 65%.

Tackling child psychiatrist decline

With their numbers below 1,000, more child psychiatrists are vital to improve mental health services. NHS workforce figures show that at the end of July 2016, there were a total of 955 staff listed as working in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry – this is the lowest number since data collection began in September 2009. The figure represents a fall of 2.4 per cent on the March 2015 figure of 978 staff – the month in which the government pledged a "complete overhaul" for children and young people's mental health services to address poor access and support.



Documentary will reveal harsh realities for homeless youth

More than half of the 41,000 homeless in New Zealand are under 25 – and Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says that the causes of homelessness must be addressed urgently, or a cycle of poverty and crime will perpetuate, and rates of youth suicide – already the highest in the developed world – are at risk of increasing. The housing crisis in New Zealand is yielding homelessness that is rife and far-reaching. It’s affecting the elderly, parents with young children, independent youths who can no longer be supported by their families – including university students who are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. Politicians, students and top Kiwi experts are set to expose the harsh realities of youth homelessness in Aotearoa, with a documentary entitled On Our Doorstep: A Voice for Homeless Youth which will premiere free of charge on Wednesday 18 January at the Auckland University of Technology City Campus. A panel discussion will also be held on the night, with CPAG's housing spokesperson Alan Johnson, Angela Maynard from the Tenancy Protection Association and former Human Rights Commissioner, Professor Judy McGregor.

UK: Government blocks Labour bid to make sex education compulsory

Conservative MPs have blocked an attempt by Labour to introduce compulsory sex and relationships education (SRE) through an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill currently going through parliament. A total of 23 female Labour MPs, including MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy and shadow children's minister Emma Lewell-Buck, had tabled an amendment to the bill that would place a duty on local authorities to ensure all children in their areas received personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education. Labour's proposals would have stipulated that statutory PSHE lessons would have to include education on sex and relationships, same-sex relationships. sexual consent, sexual violence, and domestic violence. Education watchdog Ofsted would carry out targeted inspections of provision as part of safeguarding requirements, and pupils would be able to withdraw from the lessons if requested, as is currently the case with existing SRE provision. But Conservative MPs blocked the move, defeating Labour's amendment by 10 votes to five following an hour-long debate during a public bill committee meeting.

UK: Councils to get further £40m to meet SEN reforms deadline

Councils will receive a share of £40m in government funding as part of efforts to get all children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) transferred onto the new system by the April 2018 deadline. The figure for 2017/18, confirmed by children's minister Edward Timpson, represents a £4.2m increase on the £35.8m councils received in 2016/17. It will be supplemented by £19.1m to support work by charities to help families navigating the changes, making a total of £59.1m - a 26.1 per cent reduction on the £80m provided by government for 2016/17.

Australia: NT Police establish new taskforce amid growing community concern over youth crime

Following a spate of youth crime in the Northern Territory over the past week, a petition calling for young offenders to be sent to prison or boot camps has attracted more than 2,200 signatures and police have launched a youth offenders taskforce. People who signed the petition have complained about children lacking discipline, morals or respect, while others have referred to them as "delinquents", "little criminals" and "scum". Some wanted to see young offenders publicly humiliated, while others thought the Territory's justice system is "too soft". Many talked about feeling fearful in their own community. This week NT Police announced it would start reviewing the way it combats youth crime by introducing Taskforce Sonoma, which will begin compiling intelligence profiles on the Northern state's top 20 youth offenders within a week. It will hear from police working with youth crime departments in Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek. "We need to look at these young offenders who are roaming the streets and see what other help they may need," Deputy Police Commissioner Kate Vanderlaan said. Once they've gathered enough information, police will consider introducing large-scale strategic changes and inviting other youth justice organisations to participate.



UK: Heads warn MPs of 'extremely bleak' funding problems

Hundreds of head teachers in West Sussex have written to MPs warning that the government's funding shake-up has failed to tackle "extremely bleak" budget shortfalls. They have written to all their local MPs asking how they should cut spending – whether they should lay off teaching staff, reduce school hours or close counselling services. The government last month launched a new funding formula for England's schools to tackle "unfair" and "inconsistent" funding levels. But about 300 head teachers, representing almost every state school in the authority, have written to local MPs and to parents to say that the overhaul has not resolved budget shortages. "The proposals made under the new national funding formula do not provide a meaningful remedy," the head teachers have told MPs.

Child Protection Systems Royal Commission: South Australian residential care workers to undergo psych testing

All SA Government residential care workers will undergo psychological testing before being given the all-clear to work with vulnerable children, the Child Protection Department says. Workers employed last year by the department have already undergone the testing, which now includes a one-on-one interview with a psychologist. The department's chief executive Cathy Taylor said the assessments would now apply to all staff who had not already gone through the process. The testing was one of a number of recommendations made by Child Protection Systems Royal Commissioner Margaret Nyland. The two-year royal commission was prompted by the abuse of vulnerable children in state care by former Families SA carer and paedophile Shannon McCoole. Ms Taylor said testing would begin this month and about 350 employees would undergo the assessment between now and April.

Rights made accessible for all children in Wales

A new resource, launched by children’s commissioner for Wales, Sally Holland, at a Caerphilly county borough school in December, aims to enable all children in Wales to learn about and understand their rights. The innovative new resource communicates children’s rights under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) using symbols and simplified text. It was launched by Holland via live video link at Trinity Fields School and Resource Centre. Pupils from the Ystrad Mynach school’s council worked with communication specialist Jenny Evans, and Kath Mattingly, of the children’s commissioners office, to develop the new resource, which has been designed for use by educators, support workers and other professionals working with children and young people. The new resource also aims to enhance children and young people’s understanding of their rights and how they can relate to their everyday lives.

US: Nutritional quality of kids' menus at chain restaurants not improving despite industry pledges

U.S. chain restaurants participating in a National Restaurant Association initiative to improve the nutritional quality of their children's menus have made no significant changes compared with restaurants not participating in the program, according to a new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Among both groups, the researchers found no meaningful improvements in the amount of calories, saturated fat, or sodium in kids' menu offerings during the first three years following the launch of the Kids LiveWell initiative in 2011. They also found that sugary drinks still made up 80% of children's beverage options, despite individual restaurant pledges to reduce their prevalence.
The study has been published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.



Ontario: The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth releases its 2015-2016 Annual Report

The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children released its 2015-2016 Annual Report on 4 January, which details a wide range of issues and concerns brought forward by young people that highlight the gap between the promises made by the province's service and resource delivery system, and the lived realities of many children, youth and their families in Ontario. "The Annual Report is the product of our partnership with young people in our mandate who, day-in and day-out, demonstrate incredible resilience and strength in overcoming barriers in their lives," said Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. "The Annual Report provides an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of young people's roles as our working partners in leading the change they want to see in their lives."
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Canadian conference on promoting healthy relationships for youth

Breaking down the silos in addressing mental health and violence: February 15 – 17, 2017, London Ontario Convention Centre. A conference for policy makers, youth advocates, educators, mental health, youth justice and social service professionals involved in the prevention of relationship violence and promotion of youth well-being in families, schools and communities. Purpose: This conference will bring together researchers, policy makers and practitioners working with children and adolescents to prevent and address relationship violence and mental health challenges. These fields of practice have evolved through different disciplines and services systems and often exist in separate silos. The purpose of this conference is to break down the silos through a recognition that there are overlapping issues with common health promotion, prevention, early identification and intervention strategies. The essential breakthrough in this field is happening in school-based programs and integrated curriculum that fosters partnerships with parents, students and community professionals.

UK: Government fund for 'exciting' adoption initiatives opens

The Department for Education has launched a fresh push to improve the adoption system, inviting bids for grant funding to "spark new innovations". The Practice and Improvement Fund (PIF) is inviting bids for grant funding of up to £500,000 from voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs). The DfE said the funding has been designed to complement the transition to a new, regionalised adoption system, with the first wave of regional adoption agencies, covering 132 local authorities, due to launch by mid-2017. "We want to build on this spirit of collaboration and support the sector to work together to capture the very best of current practice expertise and spark new innovations that could benefit the whole system," a government guidance document states. This is the second invite for bids from the PIF. It first opened to bids in April 2016, resulting in funding for 25 projects covering improvements to matching and recruitment, placement stability as well as family support. "Through round two of PIF we want to support organisations to develop and deliver scalable, sustainable projects which will improve services on a regional and/or national level," the document states. "We want to see organisations joining up and using shared expertise to tackle system issues by spreading excellent practice and trialling exciting new approaches which will ensure that the future system works better for children and families who need it."

UK: Greening unveils £50m grant scheme to create more childcare places

A grant scheme worth £50m has been set up by government to create 9,000 more childcare places ahead of the expansion of free provision later this year. Education Secretary Justine Greening said around 200 nurseries and pre-schools will receive a share of the funding to invest in new buildings, convert old ones and upgrade facilities in order to help deliver the government's 30 hours free childcare offer. The government first invited expressions of interest in additional capital funding last April, but gave no detail on how much would be available. More than £2m of the funding will be invested in the first six "opportunity areas", announced by Greening last October, of Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough and West Somerset.

New Zealand: Government told to tax the top to help struggling youth

Judge Andrew Becroft says inequality is one of the biggest challenges the country faces and it should be ashamed, embarrassed and worried about some of the statistics. He said there were 85,000 to 90,000 under 18-year-olds doing it tough, while New Zealand's over 65-year-olds were some of the most advantaged in the world. Judge Becroft said people in higher income brackets should be volunteering to pay more tax if it meant more help for those most in need. He said the government shouldn't assume that small tax increases would be a disaster. "It may not actually be political suicide. If it could show that a small tax increase at the top level was going to be used to help the most disadvantaged in an effective I think many New Zealanders would sign up for it on the spot and say 'Go for it'." He said there was no miracle cure in dealing with the issue of child poverty, and a broad approach was needed. "The government will need to take the lead but we can't just to allow the government, or assume or tell the government they've got to solve it for New Zealand. It will involve businesses, it will involve the NGO sector, it will involve the whole community.



UK: Overrepresentation of Traveller children in youth custody

Labour MP Kate Green has called for an inquiry into the overrepresentation of Gypsy, Traveller and Roma (GTR) children in the youth justice system after it emerged that one in 10 children in secure training centres and seven per cent of boys in young offender institutions are from the ethnic grouping. A report by the Traveller Movement, based on analysis of data featuring in the Prison Inspectorate's Children in Custody report also identified alarming trends and disturbing experiences of GTR children in youth custodial institutions.
The report found that GTR children reported greater levels of abuse and victimisation from members of staff, with almost one in three (29 per cent) reporting that they had experienced physical abuse from staff.

London: Use empty tube and rail buildings for childcare, Sadiq Khan urged

Empty buildings above underground and railway stations should be freed up by London Mayor Sadiq Khan for additional nursery provision, a campaign group has said. A report presented to Khan by child poverty campaigners 4in10 details how many families in London are currently unable to access free and affordable places. It calls for Greater London Authority (GLA) and Transport for London (TfL) land and empty buildings to be made available for extra nursery provision, as part of a raft of recommendations to improve childcare in the capital. In addition to being asked to explore the possibility of using empty properties for childcare purposes, the campaign group wants a guarantee in place that any new schools built on GLA or TfL land to include nursery provision.

Parks Canada to waive entrance fees in 2017 to celebrate Canada's 150th

Lovers of Canada's national parks are celebrating the country's 150th birthday a little earlier than most after purchasing park passes and realizing they don't expire until 2018. It's part of an initiative brought in by the Liberal government that will make park access free for all users in 2017 and for youth and new Canadians starting in 2018. Catherine McKenna, the minister of the environment and climate change, who's responsible for overseeing Canada's parks, had the plan laid out in her ministerial mandate letter. "Make admission for all visitors to National Parks free in 2017, the 150th anniversary of Confederation," reads the letter. "Beginning in 2018, ensure that admission for children under 18 is free, and provide any adult who has become a Canadian citizen in the previous 12 months one year's free admission."

South Africa: Mud hut schools must go - Education NGO

While improvements in matric results are to be commended, mud hut schools must go, the non-profit organisation Higher Education Transformation Network said on Thursday.
"We acknowledge and commend the significant investments by government in improving school infrastructure through the introduction of technology and the drive for the eradication of mud school," said HETN spokesperson Ramafala Ramatshosa. However, he suggested more still needed to be done when it came to foundation phase education for the rural poor and other disadvantaged communities. "[For these groups], mud schools, overcrowding and [a] lack of learning resources for poor children remain the order of the day."

Liberia: President Sirleaf launches U.S.$10 million Youth Opportunities Project

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will today, January 9, launch a US$10m Youth Opportunities Project at the Paynesville Town Hall to improve access to income generation opportunities for targeted youth. This financing will also provide support for strengthening the government's capacity to implement its Social Cash Transfer program, according to a press release yesterday.


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