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World headlines news relating to children, youth and families

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California bets on big data to predict child abuse

California, home to the largest foster care population in the country, has publicly declared its intention to pursue the use of so-called “predictive analytics” to foresee and presumably prevent child abuse. California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Deputy Director Greg Rose, who oversees the state’s foster care system, says that the state’s new predictive risk modeling project is designed to give social workers better information about past child welfare cases when they first field a call about child abuse and neglect.
The proof-of-concept project comes at a time when the lure of using complex algorithms and data models to anticipate which children are at greatest risk of being abused is strong. Leaders associated with the initiative are hoping that an emphasis on transparency will assuage the fears of critics who say that predictive analytics is a scary proposition straight out of a dystopian science-fiction tale. The use of predictive risk modeling, they say, could lead to heightened scrutiny of poor families of color, with more children removed from at-risk families based on a mysterious mathematical formula. Despite these well-known concerns, California is forging ahead in development of a tool of its own.

Ireland: 'Ambitious, capable' young must consider apprenticeships

Parents need to encourage their children to consider apprenticeships if Ireland is to build up a successful German-style training system for school-leavers, Minister for Education Richard Bruton has said. The number of people taking on apprenticeships plummeted during the recession, falling from about 29,000 to just over 5,700 in 2013. At the same time, record numbers of school-leavers are applying to study in higher education. The Government has launched a new plan to make apprenticeships and traineeships an “attractive and respected” option for at least one in five school-leavers . The plan includes broadening the number of apprenticeships beyond traditional areas – such as construction and engineering – and into ones such as medical devices and financial services. It also includes speeding up the process for launching new apprenticeships, as well as detailed annual targets. “Our ambition is that 20 per cent of young people would have the option of going into an apprenticeship at the end of this plan,” Mr Bruton said.

UK: Child arrests fall but violence in custody rises

The number of under-18s being arrested is continuing to fall, but levels of violence and self-harm in youth custody are on the rise, government figures show. Annual youth justice statistics collated by the Youth Justice Board (YJB) show that in the year ending March 2016, there were 88,600 arrests of young people aged between 10 and 17 compared with 94,855 in 2014/15 - a drop of 6.6 per cent. The number of first-time entrants to the youth justice system is also down, with a total of 18,263 cautioned or convicted for the first time in 2015/16, compared with 20,705 the previous year – a fall of 11.8 per cent on the 2014/15 figure of 20,705. It is the ninth consecutive year the figure has fallen – in 2007 the number of first-time entrants stood at 110,801. However, despite the falls in arrests and first-time entrants, the annual statistics indicate that youth custody is becoming a more dangerous place.

New Zealand: $435k for more youth mentoring opportunities

More than 650 young people throughout the North Island will benefit from collaborative investments in new mentoring opportunities totalling around $435,000, Youth Minister Nikki Kaye announced. “Three separate initiatives will provide these new mentoring opportunities, delivered by youth and community focused organisations Zeal, the Moko Foundation and the Graeme Dingle Foundation,” says Ms Kaye. The investments are being made under the Partnership Fund which sees the Government co-invest with business, philanthropic, iwi and other partners to grow youth development opportunities. “Spending time with a trusted adviser and confidant, who can share experiences and pass on knowledge, can be hugely beneficial for young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. These mentoring opportunities will provide invaluable opportunities for participants to learn new skills, grow in confidence and pursue positive futures.” 



UK: Bonfire of children’s rights

A Bill described as “a bonfire of child protection rights”, which would let councils opt out of key legal duties to children, was debated on Tuesday.The Children and Social Work Bill would let local councils apply to set aside children’s rights and checks on care to try out innovative ways of working.The government argues it is a bold approach to removing red tape. But campaigners say allowing councils to opt out of these long-standing duties is risky and unnecessary. The legal duties affected by the Bill relate to nearly all the social care services children receive from local authorities laid down in numerous acts of Parliament.These include statutory rights on child protection, family support, children’s homes and fostering, support to care leavers and services for disabled children.About 50 organisations publicly oppose the proposed exemptions – including the British Association of Social Workers, The Care Leavers’ Association, Women’s Aid, Liberty and the National Association of People Abused in Childhood.They have banded together to form a group called Together for Children to oppose the Bill, which was debated by a House of Lords committee on Tuesday. The organisation said: “Children’s social care laws have evolved over many decades, often in response to failures in care and protection but also because of new knowledge and understanding.” If the Bill becomes law, local authorities would be able to apply to the Secretary of State to be exempted from one or more legal duties for a period of three years, initially, so it can try out new ways of working. This could then be extended for a further three years. The government argues this would allow children’s services departments to pilot new ways of working and potentially achieve better outcomes. It also insists no-one would be put at risk.

Australia: 'Sweeping' changes for Victorian youth justice

The last of 15 prison escapees are behind bars as the Victorian government scrambles to reassure the public "sweeping changes" are in motion to fix the state's crippled youth justice system. The final two inmates were arrested in Colac, two hours west of Melbourne, on Thursday afternoon, after a police pursuit and short foot chase. The state's Youth Minister, Jenny Mikakos, spent much of a 20-minute press conference promising an overhaul of the system, echoing the government's response following a number of riots at both the Malmsbury and Parkville youth prisons over the past two years. Amid opposition calls for her resignation she said significant changes would be made. "We are seeing far more violent offenders coming into our youth justice system than has been the case in the past and obviously the system needs to change and move accordingly," she said "Victoria is going to get a fit-for-purpose, high-security youth justice system and there will be more beds in that system than we have at the moment." The state's public order taskforce was meeting on Thursday afternoon with "nothing off the table".

New Zealand: Minister welcomes VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai

Minister for Children Anne Tolley has welcomed New Zealand’s first independent connection and advocacy service for children and young people in care, which will be called VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai. The service, which was a recommendation of the expert panel which advised the Minister on the overhaul of care and protection, will begin operating as a new NGO in April 2017. It will help children and young people across the country who are in care to connect with each other, and will ensure that the views of young people are included in the development of policies and services in the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki. VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai has been developed in partnership between young people with experience of being in care, the government, the philanthropic sector and NGOs. Legislation was passed in Parliament at the end of last year to enable its establishment. Initial government funding of $1.2 million has helped set-up the new service, with a further $6.9 million to be contributed by the government through to June 2019, to help build its capability. “I am delighted that, for the first time, young people in care in New Zealand are to have an independent advocacy service to represent them,” says Mrs Tolley.

UK: Adoption support cap to remain until 2018

Limits to the amount of money families with adopted children can claim for therapeutic support will remain in place until at least 2018 it has been announced. As a result of demand for the Adoption Support Fund, which was made available nationally in May 2015, being twice as high as expected, in October last year the DfE announced it was limiting the amount of support families can receive to £5,000. The so-called "fair access limit" was due to remain in place until March 2017, but the government has said it now plans to keep it in place for a further year – until March 2018.



Alberta,Canada: New Ministry of Child Welfare created by Premier Notley

Premier of Canada's Alberta province, Rachael Notley, in a recent move, created a new Ministry of Child Welfare, separating the department from the Ministry of Human Resources, according to media reports.The new ministry will be led by Danielle Larivee as Minister of Children's Services, reported Calgary Metro. Danielle Larivee is a former Minister of Municipal affairs, who had steered the government away from trouble in the aftermath of Fort Mcmurray Wildfire in the spring of 2016. Announcing the change, Premier Notley said, "All children deserve a safe healthy home, and when a child's home is not safe, we have a responsibility to step in and do whatever it takes to make sure kids are protected". Human Resources has been renamed as Community and Social Services under the stewardship of Irfan Habib, media reported. The Premier had announced a panel in December last year to review the province's child welfare system following the death of a four-year old child, who died because of malnourishment and physical and sexual abuse while under the care of extended family members. She further stated that Danielle Larivee would commence her activities immediately in accordance with the recommendations of panel that was going to recommend ways to improve reviews into child welfare deaths, to strengthen child intervention and to address issues that would lead to children becoming ward of the province.

New Zealand: Use of police cells to hold young people "unacceptable"

Principal Youth Court Judge John Walker says the number of teenage offenders forced to spend the night in police cells is unacceptable, as they're no place for young people to spend the night. Figures acquired by RNZ show young offenders spent at least 24 hours in police cells on 151 occasions from June 2015 to 2016 – an increase of nearly 200 percent on the previous year. Teenagers between 14 and 16-years-old can be remanded in police custody if Child, Youth and Family can't provide a bed for them at a youth justice residence, however it is meant to be a "last resort option". Judge Walker said the figures were unacceptable. "Three, four, five days of a young person in police cells does happen... It's unacceptable. One night is bad enough, more than one night is unacceptable." Nelson lawyer John Sandston said the practice had no place in a first-world country. He said he had dealt with a case where a teenager was in the Nelson police station for about four days in December. In a statement, Child Youth and Family acknowledged youths spending nights in police cells was not an ideal situation. "We are aware of the judges' concerns about placing young people in cells... every effort is made to avoid this situation. One issue which is impacting bed availability is the heavy use of youth justice residences for young people who are remanded in custody. We are working with police, the courts and the community to find suitable alternatives to remands in custody."

UK: Barnardo's appointed to run £8m national child sexual abuse centre

Children's charity Barnardo's has been appointed to run the National Centre for Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse being established by government as part of its efforts to tackle child sexual exploitation and abuse. The centre, which is backed by £8m in Home Office funding until 2020, aims to gather and share high-quality evidence of successful schemes in preventing child sexual exploitation and abuse. It will officially launch today (25 January) at an event in Westminster, with further regional launch events planned in Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Wales throughout February. The launch comes more than 18 months after plans to launch the centre were first announced in March 2015 as part of the government's child sexual exploitation action plan.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Children’s reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen have teamed up to create an ambitious (and much needed) national event. On January 27th, they will be presenting yet another Multicultural Children’s Book Day as a way of celebrating diversity in children’s books. Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries. Multicultural Children’s Book Day will include book reviews from noted bloggers all over the world, giveaways and book-related activities for young readers of all ages.

UK: Teenagers who access mental health services see significant improvements, study shows

Young people with mental health problems who have contact with mental health services are significantly less likely to suffer from clinical depression later in their adolescence than those with equivalent difficulties who do not receive treatment, according to new research from the University of Cambridge. This comes as Prime Minister Theresa May announced measures to improve mental health support at every stage of a person's life, with an emphasis on early intervention for children and young people. The study, published in Lancet Psychiatry, found that 14-year-old adolescents who had contact with mental health services had a greater decrease in depressive symptoms than those with similar difficulties but without contact. By the age of 17, the odds of reporting clinical depression were more than seven times higher in individuals without contact than in service users who had been similarly depressed at baseline.



Youth homeless prevention program faces prospect of losing its funding

As Mission Australia reports a rise in young people seeking out their services, the future of a successful program helping to prevent young people from ending up sleeping rough hangs in the balance. The early prevention service Reconnect is Australia's only national, Federal Government-funded program to prevent at-risk young people becoming homeless and it faces the prospect of losing its funding. Mission Australia estimates there are about 44,000 children and young people homeless in Australia, accounting for more than 40 per cent of all homeless Australians. There are 102 Reconnect services across regional and urban Australia, and they help thousands of teenagers and young people each year, focusing on family reconciliation where possible, and connecting young people with a services they might need. Marion Bennett, from Mission Australia, said anecdotally, more and more young people were seeking out their services, including children as young as eight. "Sometimes by themselves, and that's really distressing, sometimes as part of a family. Ms Bennett said they were asking the Government for some "stability, continuity and early advice". "If they are going to continue doing it then let us know now," she said. "The young people who are being assisted by Reconnect services now may well be exiting before June. It becomes a question for us whether we take new clients in as we start approaching that June date when the funding looks more and more uncertain." 

UK: Surrey confirms plans to raise council tax by 15%

Surrey council has confirmed it plans to raise council tax by 15% because of mounting pressures on its social care budget and children’s services, a move which will lead to a county-wide referendum of residents. The leader of Surrey council, in the county where the chancellor, Philip Hammond, and the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, are MPs, said the government had cut the local authority’s annual grant by £170m since 2010, leaving “a huge gap in our budget”. Confirming plans for the double-digit rise, the Conservative council’s leader, David Hodge, said: “Demand for adults’ social care, learning disabilities and children’s services is increasing every year. So I regret, despite us finding £450m worth of savings from our annual budget, we have no choice but to propose this increase in council tax.”

UK: Labour MP calls for inquiry into 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.

Mount Airy: Foster care extended to older youths

A new foster care program implemented statewide Jan. 1 aims to provide support to a group of young people otherwise at risk of falling through the cracks. Dubbed “Foster Care 18 to 21,” young adults who might otherwise age out of foster care at age 18 now have access to foster care specially tailored for their age group. “We’re excited about the opportunity to serve any young adult who wants to continue partnering with us for success,” said Nikki Hull, program manger for Surry County Department of Social Services. “This program will help young adults to develop the skills they need to live independently and do so successfully,” said Brandy Wilkins, who is a county social worker. Foster Care 18 to 21 will provide each participating youth with a social worker to provide support and guidance as well as monthly maintenance payments. “These payments could be used to pay for room and board with a licensed foster parent, child placement agency or foster care facility,” Wilkins said. “They could be paid directly to the young adult or a rental agency/landlord. They can also be used for any type of living expenses such as room and board, rent, transportation costs, educational supplies.” Only those in foster care on their 18th birthday who are between the ages of 18 to 21 are eligible for the program.



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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