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World headlines news relating to children, youth and families

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29 JUNE

Canada: Youth homelessness on the rise in Kamloops

Despite much effort to end youth homelessness in Kamloops, the problem is only getting worse. That’s what the results of the city’s second youth homelessness count show with 136 youth ages 13-24 reporting homelessness at some point in the last year. Ninety-two youth were homeless during the count, which took place May 8 to 10. Of those, 35 were considered “hidden” homeless for sleeping on couches or in motels, while the other 57 were considered absolutely homeless for sleeping outdoors, in cars, hospital, jail, or shelters. That is more than the 129 youth who identified as homeless during the city’s last youth homelessness count that took place over a week in October 2016. Of those, just 56 youth identified experiencing homelessness at the time. The results come just a week after the release of the adult homelessness count in the city, showing a near doubling of the homeless population since 2016.

Scotland: Twenty children in care go missing daily

Around 20 vulnerable children growing up in Scottish care homes go missing every day, according to newly-released figures. More than 7,500 cases of missing looked-after and accommodated young people were reported to police in the 2017-18 period, a 5 per cent rise on the previous year. The report, made available through Freedom of Information (FOI) request, revealed as many as 85 per cent of investigations were cases involving children at a young persons’ residential unit. More than 6,400 cases of youngsters absconding from residential units were investigated by officers, many involving youths who had run away on previous occasions. Lothians MSP Kezia Dugdale obtained the information through a series of FOI requests and described the figures as “staggering”. She added: “Looked-after children are our children – the state is their parents – and we all have a responsibility to give them the same opportunities as every other youngster. “If your child was missing, you’d move heaven and Earth to find them and then ask why and what could be done differently. These are our children and they should expect that same response. “Residential units must be a place where children are nurtured and loved, as they are often brought up there after years of emotional or physical abuse.” She continued: “I urge the Scottish Government and Police Scotland to investigate why these numbers are so high and examine what more can be done to support care-experienced young people.” 

USA: Census undercounting biggest danger to children, Casey’s Kids Count Report warns

Undercounting children under age 5 for the 2020 Census could have dire consequences for their public services, health and education, this year’s Kids Count Data Book warns. In 2010, the Census missed one million children under age 5 — the worst undercounting since 1950. Such undercounting, which has happened since 1980, has only gotten worse, said Florencia Gutierrez, senior research associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “If they’re not counted, the government doesn’t know they exist,” Gutierrez said. “Their needs are invisible.” The Kids Count Data Book is an annual report by the foundation, which promotes research and programs focused on improving the lives of children facing additional obstacles for education, health and jobs. The report compiles child welfare statistics in four domains: economic well being, education, health, and family and community. If parents don’t fill out the Census or leave out young children, their needs are not represented. They miss out on getting important resources that could improve opportunities for their families, their communities and their kids. Some factions of the population have historically been hard to reach. Those include households where its members are constantly moving, where people have less education and are worried about what the government will do with the Census data. Some families don’t realize they have to fill out information for their children. If missed in the count, it is immigrant children, children of color and children from immigrant families who have the most to lose if programs vital to them face funding cuts. With these children’s well-being at stake, the report is asking that government at all levels make the problem of undercounting a priority and put money into outreach and education efforts that will target those groups that have been historically missed.  

South Africa: Millions poured into anti-drugs fight

The Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD) has launched its Substance Abuse Awareness Week, which also includes the marking of International Day Against Drug Abuse & Illicit Trafficking on Tuesday 26 June. DSD has allocated R104 million to continue its work in tackling this scourge, and since 2014 a total of 35 502 clients have accessed the department’s substance abuse treatment services. Albert Fritz, Western Cape MEC for Social Development, said: “Our campaign this year seeks to raise awareness about the dangers and effects of substance abuse, which includes both drug and alcohol abuse. DSD continues to be at the forefront of the fight against substance abuse, focusing on rendering early intervention, Inpatient treatment, Community based treatment, and aftercare services.” He says DSD has grown its network of funded services from a mere seven in 2009 to funding 43 organisations at 51 sites across the province. “We have specifically targeted treating young people in order to address the rising tide of youth alcohol and drug usage,” Fritz says. “The department has expanded the adolescent Matrix Outpatient Programme to schools in addition to our Child & Youth Care Centres. DSD also runs an inpatient treatment programme at Lindelani Youth Care Centre.” The department will drive a door-to-door awareness campaign over this week, to raise awareness about our services, said Fritz. He says its services are here to help the public, and not to judge. 

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27 JUNE

Netherlands: Sexually abused kids too often end up in locked institutions 

Children who were sexually abused too often end up in the locked sections of youth care institutions, according to National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence Against Children Herman Bolhaar in a new report. Over one in 10 girls who are receiving help after sexual abuse, are in a locked institution, he said, NOS reports. Locked youth care, so-called Youth Care Plus, is the heaviest form of assistance, meant for children and young people for whom lighter measures do not work. These young people are then placed in an institution which they cannot leave. The majority of the girls in these locked departments were victims of sexual abuse, according to Bolhaar. "I find it very distressing that for a extraordinarily large number of children the problems after sexual violence increase so much that their freedom is limited by being admitted to a locked institution", Bolhaar said. In 2016 there were 700 children and young people in closed institutions after sexual abuse. Bolhaar calls it striking that mainly girls are placed in locked institutions, while boys often get a lighter form of help. The National Rapporteur wanted to map out what aid young victims receive, but found this largely impossible because organizations do not have to register exactly why a child is receiving treatment or assistance. Doing so is important, according to Bolhaar. "If we do not know what help abused children receive, we also can't know whether we offer them the right help." Earlier this month it was revealed that the number of children in locked youth care institutions in the Netherlands increased by 8 percent to a record number of 2,710 last year.

USA: Migrant kids could end up in already strained foster system

Foster care advocates say the government won't likely be able to reunite thousands of children separated from parents who crossed the border illegally, and some will end up in an American foster care system that is stacked against Latinos and other minorities. With few Spanish-speaking caseworkers, it's a challenge tracking down family members of the children who live south of the U.S.-Mexico border, and other relatives living in the states might be afraid to step forward to claim them because of fears of being detained or deported themselves. Many complications have arisen for these separated families since the Trump administration adopted its "zero-tolerance" policy on entering the country illegally. As many as 2,300 children were separated from their migrant parents from the time the administration adopted the zero-tolerance policy until June 9, the Health and Human Services Department has said. Long-term treatment of them is a concern, advocates said. Those children who do get placed with families face the likelihood of losing their language and culture, which advocates say could have a detrimental effect on how they develop. Officials have said they are working to reunite families as soon as possible but have provided no clear answers on how that will happen. The children are now in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement, and can be "held in a temporary shelter or hosted by an appropriate family."

UK: Mental health services for the young is NHS's 'silent catastrophe'

Failings in treatment of children and young people with mental health problems is a “silent catastrophe” within the NHS and is due to chronic underfunding and serious structural issues, a report by the Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP) claims. The report, which exposes a “serious and worsening crisis” for the health service through a survey of those working in child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs), says trusts are being hollowed out and specialist services are disappearing owing to underfunding and the transformation and redesign of services in recent years. The results are rising levels of suicide, self-referral to A&E departments and pressure on in-patient units, it says. The number of children and adolescents failing to receive the right treatment or “fully slipping through the cracks” is on the rise, the report says. But Camhs funding is only part of the problem, with specialist services moving “towards something of much less quality and rigour”, it adds. The survey of 416 frontline NHS child and adolescent child psychotherapists found the worst affected patients were those with the most severe and long-standing needs. Senior clinical roles and disciplines are being dismantled, leading to pressure on lower-banded staff, the report says. Treatment is focused on symptoms rather than the whole child or young person in context, it continues. Competitive tendering has led to “unrealistic and under-funded service models” and left services fragmented and staff isolated, it says. The failings have led to high staff turnover, poor morale and poor working conditions. Dr Marc Bush, the head of policy at the charity YoungMinds, said: “Every day we get calls to our helpline from parents whose children have been waiting months for an appointment with Camhs, or who have been turned down because the thresholds for treatment are so high. The system is overstretched and disjointed, with a devastating impact on thousands of families across the country.”

New Zealand: Oranga Tamariki top of the south pilot scheme could pave way for national initiative

A new pilot scheme geared towards helping children make positive life choices could be rolled out across New Zealand. The Ministry for Children, Oranga Tamariki have established a specialised Youth Team in the top of the South Island to work with young people who are considered to be 'at risk'. A one-on-one youth worker support service helps young people who are not under Oranga Tamariki's care in the hope early intervention will be more helpful. Three youth workers, operating across Oranga Tamariki's Blenheim, Nelson and Greymouth sites, have successfully been encouraging those under their guidance to make "better decisions." Regional Manager Kaye Macdonald and Upper South Youth Team Leader Georgia Candler came-up with the pioneering idea. Macdonald said the initiative was a result of the new ministry offering support and encouragement to "do things differently." She said the concept centred around the idea of working with schools and young people aged between 10 and 14-years-old to help them meet their goals and take their lives in new and positive directions. "The younger they are, then they really have goals that they want to achieve. We identified the need and approached the department chief executive. While there are youth teams operating across the country, the focus is different, more about high needs. "We are approaching this from the other side of things. The national office has been really supportive and I'm sure they will look seriously at taking this further," she said. The programme, which got under way in February, is set to run until January next year. 

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25 JUNE

Australia: Foster care payments to be extended until age 21 by new Liberal Government

Carers of young people in foster and kinship care will receive government support payments until they turn 21, from the start of next year. Currently, financial support to foster and kinships carers end when children turn 18. State Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson said the age extension would improve outcomes for young people. “Evidence shows that children that are supported in the family home past the age of 18 have better outcomes in education, employment, social skills and less mental health issues,” Ms Sanderson said. “This commitment also means the state’s selfless foster carers do not have to shoulder the cost burden themselves, which means they could assist other young foster children in the future.” Children who turn 18 after July 1 this year will be eligible to receive annual payments of $19,198 once the scheme starts next year. Payments to children in emergency and residential care will still cease when they turn 18. Anglicare SA chief executive Peter Sandeman said the initiative would allow foster carers to “finish the job”. “Expecting kids in care to leave at 18 is just unreasonable so this restores some of the balance,” he said. “It will give those young people a fighting chance to have better lives and contribute to our communities.” 

Ireland: Report finds almost 80 foster care households had not been reviewed in three years 

An investigation into foster care services in Waterford and Wexford has found that 79 households had not had a review for more than three years. The HIQA report also found that the system operated by Tusla of recording and tracking complaints, allegations and concerns is not robust. This investigation found that not all allegations and concerns were correctly classified or identified. It also highlights that systems to ensure timely applications for Garda vetting were not efficient and there were a number of young adults in foster care households who had not been Garda vetted. The inspection found some good practice in relation to the assessment of foster carers – but there was a delay in completing them. Foster carers were well supported by social workers but the frequency of visits was not in line with Tusla's policy. Another issue of concern is the review of foster carers with the inspection showing a number did not have up to date reviews while 79 foster care households had not had a review for more than three years. An action plan has now been put in place to address the non compliances identified.

Scotland: Charity says more must be done for pupils in care schools

New statistics showed a 42% attainment gap between care and non-care experienced young people. The boss of a leading care charity has urged for more to be done to tackle employment and educational barriers faced by care leavers. Jim Gillespie, Chief Executive of Kibble Group, made the call after new statistics showed a 42% attainment gap between care and non-care experienced young people. Figures released this week show that education outcomes for looked after children have improved, however there are still big differences compared to all school leavers. The percentage of looked after children achieving at least SCQF level 5 has increased to 44%. The equivalent figure for all school leavers is 86%. Chief Executive of Kibble Group Jim Gillespie said: “The gap between children in care and all school leavers has narrowed from 62% in 2010 to 42% in 2017. But at this rate of progress, it will take another 15 years before we have a level playing field. It is a truism to say that young people are only young once and we will not get the chance to repeat their time in care and education. We must do better for them now. “The Scottish Government and our local authority partners have already invested heavily in trying to create opportunities for young people leaving care. However from these latest figures it is clear that there is still much to do. We must continue to facilitate supported employment opportunities and guaranteed Higher Education places for care leavers. “Kibble Group has already seen the success of using a hybrid of training, education and employment with our own social enterprise Kibbleworks. This model has meant cared for young people who are furthest from the job market have been able to achieve practical skills and academic qualifications. By continuing to support social enterprises like Kibbleworks, we can overcome the historic attainment gap faced by looked after young people.”

UK: Initiatives to tackle loneliness among young people will be central to a forthcoming strategy on the issue

Plans to launch a loneliness strategy, which is being led by youth minister Tracey Crouch who is the ministerial lead for loneliness, were first announced in January amid concerns that increasing numbers of people are experiencing loneliness. The government has now launched a four-week consultation, asking for organisations with expertise and experience in tackling loneliness to help us by providing views on how the strategy should be developed. It said it is interested in approaches that reduce the risk of loneliness, prevent loneliness, or intervene early before loneliness becomes entrenched. "We believe that the strategy should include both some policies that reduce the risk of loneliness across all groups in society, and some that focus on reducing the risk at specific trigger points for key groups highlighted by existing analysis: young people (aged 16 to 24); people in poor health; carers; unemployed people; and bereaved people," the consultation states. 

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22 JUNE

USA: Toolkit to help child welfare agencies serve LGBTQ families

As a growing number of states pass laws permitting discrimination against LGBTQ people interested in foster care and adoption, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation has released a toolkit to help the child welfare field better serve LGBTQ families. The toolkit is part of HRC’s All Children-All Families program and provides webinars, assessment tools and best practices for professionals and caregivers working with people in the LGBTQ and child welfare communities. Numerous national advocates are supporting the HRC’s pro-equality efforts, including the National Center on Adoption and Permanency, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, Voice for Adoption, the Adoption Exchange Association, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Child Welfare Strategy Group and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DTFA). “Now, more than ever, the groundbreaking All Children-All Families program must be woven into the work of every child welfare agency to ensure that LGBTQ children and families are treated with understanding, personal respect and professional competency,” said DTFA President Rita L. Soronen, in a press release. “With the program’s new tools added to its innovative and ongoing technical assistance, training and support, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation simply encourages each of us in child welfare to build up, rather than tear down, the significance of human diversity.” The assessment tools help nonprofit and government agencies evaluate their own policies around LGBTQ inclusiveness. Best practices include how-to guides on everything from identifying LGBTQ-friendly foster and adoptive homes to talking to youth in group homes about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or SOGIE. Resources are also available specifically for working with youth involved in the juvenile justice system as well as those who are transgender and gender non-conforming.

Ireland: Statement by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone

The recommendations from a Statutory Investigation by HIQA into the management by Tusla of allegations of child sexual abuse against adults are to be implemented in full, according to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone. Minister Zappone says she is determined that the HIQA findings will be used as an opportunity to improve services to protect vulnerable children. The Minister ordered the investigation in March last year after becoming concerned about the handling of false allegations against Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Minister Zappone has outlined a number of immediate actions to be taken: "I welcome what Tusla has achieved and this is acknowledged by HIQA. I am however concerned about the slow pace of progress in some areas. We need to ‘up the tempo’ of reform now. We need to build on what Tusla has started doing. I believe that implementing the HIQA report in full is key to ensuring the ongoing safety of our most vulnerable children." To move forward, the Minister has directed Tusla to produce an Action Plan as recommended by HIQA as a matter of urgency. This will set out the steps to implement HIQA’s recommendations, with a clear timeline and named individual responsible for each. The Minister will meet with the Board of Tusla in the coming days to discuss the implications of the HIQA report in more detail and to agree other steps forward.

UK: Ofsted chief inspector backs ban on phones in schools

The chief inspector of Ofsted is backing head teachers who ban mobile phones to prevent bad behaviour. In a speech, Amanda Spielman is expected to blame technology for making "low-level disruption" more common and endorse tough behaviour policies. "The place of mobile phones in the classroom seems to me dubious at best," she will say. Her speech comes after Culture Secretary Matt Hancock also called on head teachers to ban phones. Ms Spielman is due to tell the audience at the Festival of Education at Wellington College that it was "entirely appropriate" for schools to use sanctions such as writing lines, detention or "community service" punishments such as picking up litter. She will say: "I fundamentally disagree with those who say that taking a tough stance on behaviour is unfair to children. "Quite the opposite, there is nothing kind about letting a few pupils spoil school for everyone else." Her speech says that the educational benefits of mobile phones are unproven, but they do distract pupils in class and make teachers' jobs harder. "There's no doubt that technology has made the challenge of low-level disruption even worse, which is why I also support recent calls to back heads who have decided that the way to improve behaviour is to ban mobile phones in their schools," Ms Spielman will say. "I'm not the target audience, but nevertheless I am yet to be convinced of the educational benefits of all-day access to Snapchat and the like."  

South Africa: Youth of Walter Sisulu Child and Youth Care Centre neglected

Staff at the Walter Sisulu Child and Youth Care Centre have told the DA how their pleas to the Department of Social Development to improve conditions at the Centre have fallen on deaf ears. During an oversight inspection to the Centre, which looks after children in need of care – as well as youth who are in conflict with the law, it was evident that no infrastructure maintenance has taken place. Light fittings with exposed wires hanging out of the ceiling, toilets and showers that are blocked, a damaged perimeter fence and leaking pipes are the order of the day at the Centre. Home to up to 200 children and toddlers at any given point, the Centre is in dire need of an upgrade to better facilitate the much needed care that it provides. The part of the Centre which is home to children in need of care, as well as the admin block, is due to be demolished as it is built on dolomitic land that is exposed to underground water seepage. This will have a detrimental effect on those already staying on the premises, as the youth in conflict with the law must be separated from those who are in need of care. Despite management sending monthly reports to the Gauteng Department of Social Development, the situation remains unchanged. 

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20 JUNE

New Zealand: Children's Ministry shifts away from putting kids in care

Children's Minister Tracey Martin is signalling a shift away from putting children into care, and towards intensive intervention in a child's home. In the annual update on Oranga Tamariki to Parliament's Social Services Committee, Ms Martin said her vision was fewer children in state care. "It's going to be controversial, but I believe it's true to say that we have more children in care than we need because we don't have enough intensive intervention services," she said. Ms Martin said it's about about giving families and children better support. "Intensive intervention can keep children in their homes, if we step in and walk alongside the families in a very intensive way. "And we've got some great models actually I think with iwi that are working around this at the moment," she said. There are currently 6000 children in state care, 60 percent of whom are Maori. Nearly 100,000 children sit "between early and intensive intervention" meaning many will need some sort of help from Oranga Tamariki. Children's Ministry chief executive Grainne Moss told the committee it was incredibly focused on working with iwi on this. "All of the international research and local research indicates that if children are with loving whanau then that's where they get better outcomes." Oranga Tamariki is just a one-year-old ministry, after it was split off from the Ministry of Social Development under the previous government and Minister Anne Tolley.

Canada: Latest physical activity report card for Canadian kids

Recreation Newfoundland and Labrador is raising concerns that Canadian children and youth do not get enough physical activity. It comes after the release, June 19, of the 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, which gave Canadian kids a score of D+ for overall physical activity. Recreational NL said the grade is especially alarming considering that this year’s report card also highlights important connections between physical activity and brain health in children and youth. Only 35 per cent of 5- to 17-year-olds and 62 per cent of 3- to 4-year-olds are getting the recommended physical activity levels for their age group, the report card found, and it may be making them less attentive and moody as a result. Recreation NL said the findings in the ParticipACTION’s report card are in line with and support its Find Your Fit campaign, a province wide physical activity campaign designed to get individuals motivated and moving towards healthy, active living. “Now more than ever, we need to encourage children and youth to substitute screen time with more physical activity in order to meet the daily minimum of physical activity recommended by the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines,” Jerry Knee, Recreation NL’s physical activity representative, said in a release. “Physical activity plays an important role in helping children and youth learn better, solve problems more creatively, and develop healthier brains. Physical activity has also been shown to be associated with better memory. In addition, increased physical activity can help support mental health and wellness among children and youth.” 

UK: Campaigners push for 'wellbeing GCSE' to boost mental health in schools

Pupils should be taught about meditation and a range of psychological therapies as part of a new "wellbeing GCSE" designed to improve children's mental health, academics have said.
Under proposals drawn up by Art of Brilliance, a community interest company that delivers positive psychology training, coaching and consultancy for schools and businesses, the new GCSE will have a strong academic underpinning and modules will include positive psychology – also known as the science of happiness, resilience and relationships. The aim behind all the modules will be for young people to "aspire to be their best selves and learn strategies and life skills to maintain their own mental wellbeing". Dr Andy Cope, who has a Loughborough University PhD in positive psychology and has helped develop the proposals, said introduction of a new GCSE is necessary because schools are "unable to cope" with pupils' declining mental health. "The system is creaking," he said. "Indeed, in terms of harming the mental wellbeing of young people, the system is often failing. In terms of wellbeing, schools are no longer fit for purpose. He added: "If we want schools to produce well-qualified young people who also happen to be confident, upbeat, positive, resilient, creative, altruistic and passionate, they need to be taught how. In short, young people need a programme of study that equips them for the fast-paced world as it is, not the relatively pedestrian world as it used to be."

Scotland: Care services 'generally working well' to protect children from sexual abuse

The Care Inspectorate has today published a report on a focused scrutiny programme which looked at how well care services are preventing and responding effectively to child sexual exploitation. Inspectors found that, overall, care staff were generally well informed about the risks of exploitation and understood their roles and responsibilities in promoting young people’s wellbeing, but identified a number of areas for improvement. The findings come from over 330 inspections of residential care, boarding school accommodation, residential special schools, secure care, fostering agencies, and adoption services. Karen Reid, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate said: “Fortunately, most young people in Scotland are supported to have a strong sense of self and identify, and grow up free from harm, neglect or abuse. However, a small number of children do not experience that level of support and some are exposed to child sexual exploitation. Care services and their staff can play a key role in preventing abuse. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that Scotland is the best place for children to grow up, so there is no room for complacency. “The Care Inspectorate works with other bodies to make sure that education, social services and police are working well together to protect children from harm, and we inspect every care service for children and young people in Scotland regularly. This report presents the findings from our scrutiny of care services for children and young people carried out between 2015 and 2017.

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18 JUNE

UK: Childen in Care Council celebrate passport to health 

Healthcare leaders have launched a health passport especially for children in or leaving care. The Health Passport is a new initiative brought about by the Children in Care Council and Open Door, who visited Thurrock Clinical Commissioning Group’s Board in 2017. They expressed a desire to know more about how local healthcare works and how they could feed in to plans. During discussions the young people said it was difficult to navigate all the health care services they used, and the information they needed to be able to stay on top of their own healthcare was not always easy to find. It would be especially useful to help them take control of their healthcare when leaving care and going on to be independent.In response to this Thurrock Clinical Commissioning Group offered to create a health passport to enable young people to take charge of their health and wellbeing on leaving care. This has been co-designed with young people as representatives of the Children in Care Council, the Designated Looked After Children’s Nurse and the CCG. Mandy Ansell, Accountable Officer, NHS Thurrock CCG said: “We were delighted to support the young people in designing something that they will find useful in helping them as they grow up and eventually leave care. It’s a pocket sized guide that can be shared with GPs, Nurses, Dentists, and any healthcare provider. It contains details of vaccinations, medications, allergies and even first aid tips. We hope this co-designed resource will ease the transition to being an independent adult.” 

Ireland: Ombudsman calls for increased mental health funding for children

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, has called for increased funding for children’s mental health services after his 2017 report showed rising complaint levels. The report, published yesterday, stated that the office received 1,755 complaints last year- 57 of which regarded children’s mental health. Mr Muldoon said the increased number of complaints highlighted “a continued failure by public bodies to put the best interests of children at the centre of their decisions.” His office was “disappointed” by the lack of progress for children with mental health issues trying to access emergency services, he said. “We need better mental health support in the emergency sector...there is inadequate psychiatric cover across the country,” the Ombudsman said. The comments came after the office examined a complaint last year about a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) centre that had admitted up to 60 children presenting with suicidal behaviour to hospital for several days while they waited for a consultation. “I would urge the HSE to address problems with consultant psychiatrists out-of-hour contracts to ensure children have access to the services they need, when they need them,” the Ombudsman said in the report. 

USA: New York City launches Youth Homelessness Task force 

There are more than 7,000 homeless New Yorkers 24 years old and younger, though the city’s yearly count admits this is an imperfect estimate. It’s difficult to get an accurate number on youth homelessness, to find and then to reach out to these New Yorkers with resources. To better inform the city’s next steps when it comes to helping this community, New York City is launching its first Youth Homelessness Task Force. “Building on existing initiatives, this work group will put forth new ideas to prevent youth homelessness, while ensuring that those who are in our care have the ability to leave with the appropriate resources to live healthy and productive lives,” said Dr. Herminia Palacio, deputy mayor for Health and Human Services, in a statement. The task force is made up of 15 city agencies, 26 nonprofits and 10 youth leaders from the Youth Action Board, and will develop a plan to inform the city’s next steps for preventing and ending youth homelessness.

Belgium: Healthy children detained in hospital because of shortage of youth care places

Children who are vulnerable but physically healthy have been lodged in the St-Pierre hospital in Brussels for months, because of a lack of places at specialised child-care facilities, doctors have revealed to the Mediahuis papers. The medical staff at the hospital argue the establishment does not have the support services the children require. At the same time, healthy children are taking up beds that should be available to sick children, who at present have to be found other places elsewhere, imposing a burden on families who live in the capital. The hospital, in the Marolles area of the city centre, lies close to two of the main metro lines, as well as three bus routes. All Brussels hospitals which have a paediatric department also have places for emergency situations involving children who are not ill. But in this case, chief of staff Elisabeth Rebuffat of St-Pierre told the papers, children have been waiting three to six months to find a suitable place in an appropriate institution. “However things could take even longer, up to even nine months if we are looking for a place for a child with autism or another psychological disorder.” Not only is there no adequate support network, but the hospital environment is far from suitable, there is a risk of infections, and some aspects of the care of the children concerned are not reimbursed by medical insurance, medical staff said. The main problem is that healthy children are taking up beds needed by children who are medically ill. But the hospitals are obliged to take the healthy children on, on the orders of a youth magistrate. And as one explained to Mediahuis, the lack of places in suitable child-care institutions leaves the magistrates no choice. 

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13 JUNE

UK: Doubled in a decade, tally of the children placed in care

Last year 14,490 children were taken into care in England – 40 a day – almost double that of 2008, when the figure was 7,440. The bombshell new statistics came in an answer to a parliamentary question. Meanwhile the number being looked after by people other than parents, such as foster carers, reached a record 72,670 in England last year. Experts blame the crisis on a “toxic mix” of poverty, poor housing, domestic violence and substance abuse, made worse by cuts to children’s centres and family support services that were intended to tackle the problems. They also point to a 38 per cent rise in child sexual exploitation – almost half of which is carried out by online predators. Next week the Family Rights Group charity will examine the spiralling numbers of care orders in a care crisis review. The British Association of Social Workers, the Family Division of the High Court and other UK children’s services will take part. Emily Cherry, Barnardo’s policy director, said: “We are facing a crisis for children and social care. If we don’t act urgently we are storing up more problems for the future. Care leavers are more likely to suffer with mental health problems and the Government must act with urgency to prevent further crisis.” She added: “The shortfall and total lack of early intervention in services that have been set up to protect children and parents suffering from the toxic trio of mental health, substance misuse and domestic violence that we’re seeing in times of austerity has been at the heart of this.” She said early intervention from family services was also needed to prevent online abuse. Council leaders recently warned funding cuts had pushed children’s social services to “breaking point”, with action only being taken when youngsters were at imminent risk of harm.

Australia: Academic calling for change in handling of school bullies 

An academic working to improve the wellbeing of children has called for change in the way schools handle bullying. Last week the Mandurah Mail revealed there were 763 suspensions at three Mandurah high schools last year, with one school having 10 per cent of students suspended in term two. Telethon Kids Institute honorary researcher Kevin Runions said there was a reliance on punishment in schools, rather then looking at the bigger issue. “Suspending the bully is usually a waste of time and will not help the situation,” he said. Dr Runions said a recent study trialing an approach called ‘motivational interviewing’ had been conducted with school bullies helping them “deal with the problem they enjoy having”. Dr Runions said the approach encouraged the bully to find reasons to behave differently. “You’re never going to get meaningful change from someone if you don’t allow the person to make choices for themselves,” he said. Telethon Kids Institute recently conducted a four year study on a Year 8 and 9 bullying program trialed in 12 Western Australian schools. Dr Runions said the study worked with both the bully and the victim, and said it was successful in reducing both sides of bullying. Dr Runions said bullying affected the whole community, because the bully and victim were exposed to possible issues in the future. “Bullying is a well established risk factor for adolescent mental health problems, self harm and suicide,” he said. “It can affect both the target and the bully.” Dr Runions said bullying programs had more success if the whole school and community supported the cause. 

Namibia: San need early childhood development programmes 

A report released last week has revealed that some of the barriers preventing San children from accessing early childhood development (ECD) programmes involve the rude and dismissive treatment by staff members of service providers as well as language and communication hurdles. The report, titled the “Participatory Rapid Assessment of Integrated Early Childhood Development Programmes among San Communities in Namibia” compiled between June and July last year, was a joint project by the Office of the Vice President: Marginalised Communities, with support from the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) and Palms for Life Fund, a non-governmental organisation based in New York. Participants – parents and community members - also identified other barriers preventing their children from accessing ECD services. Alcohol abuse, long distances to service delivery points, illiteracy and reliance on unreliable donor funding for certain IECD services like nutritional support were cited, among others. “Across all services, there are serious obstacles preventing San communities from accessing support, assistance and quality services, with serious impacts on the communities, and specifically the children.” Delivery is further complicated by the fact that IECD services are wide-ranging, specialised and fragmented across ministries, with different ECD services falling under the gender equality ministry, and the education, home affairs and health ministries. This creates challenges both in terms of coordination at a national level, as well as making access more costly and complicated for individuals. Unicef country representative Rachel Odede said a government report reveals that 34% of Namibia's children live in poverty, and that 730 000 Namibians are at risk of food insecurity, with 1 in 5 children being stunted. "When children miss out on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented in early childhood to develop healthy brains and lives, we as duty-bearers (governments, civil society, development partners, parents and communities) perpetuate inter-generational cycles of disadvantage and inequality,” she stated. 

USA: No more sleeping in offices, Kansas foster care contractor opening new facilities for kids to stay

Children entering the Kansas foster care system will soon have a new short-term place to stay in Kansas City. With kids sleeping in their offices several nights a month, KVC Kansas, one of the state’s two foster care contractors, has been looking to open some sort of crisis center for the past year. KVC Kansas kept 28 kids in its offices overnight in March, the most recent month for which data was available. The contractor says no children have had to sleep in its offices since May 18. KVC had initially planned to open a basic shelter in January, but then realized that wouldn’t be enough. The kids most likely to be without a family member or a foster home to go to were kids with more serious behavioral or mental health problems. The hospital arm of KVC’s parent company is setting up and licensing a facility equipped to handle kids who might be violent or prone to run away. The new youth residential center will provide mental health services and 24-hour supervision. The facility is scheduled to open later this month. 

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11 JUNE

USA: Children from border fight in Washington state foster care

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and a roster of fellow Democratic politicians on Saturday decried the federal government's decision to separate young children of asylum seekers taken into custody at the U.S.-Mexico border from their parents indefinitely. The administration is sending more than 1,600 immigrants – including some of those parents – to federal prisons amid a lack of space in other facilities. Inslee said six children were brought to a Seattle foster care facility after being separated from their families at the border. It's unclear where the parents are, but the governor's office said they are not in Washington state. "We must understand this is not an accidental infliction of trauma on children," he said at a press conference before a rally that was attended by dozens of protesters. "It is an intentional infliction of trauma on children." The unnamed foster care center is the only facility in Washington that takes referrals from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Local officials couldn't say what obligation the state has to care for the children. U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Seattle Democrat, said she met women being held at the SeaTac prison on Saturday who had come from 16 different countries. She said most of them are seeking political asylum from violence and rape against themselves or their children. About half of them said they were separated from their children, who were as young as 6 years old, Jayapal said. "What's heartbreaking is they were not given any chance to say goodbye to their children, to explain what was happening," Jayapal said. Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Thursday sent a letter to the Trump administration seeking more information, including where the children of the women are and when they can expect to see their children again. 

Scotland: CEO of care group awarded OBE 

A care company with over 150 employees across Scotland and a residential home in Tranent is delighted that their CEO Julie Joseph has been honoured by Her Majesty, The Queen in the 2018 Birthday Honours. Julie has been awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her outstanding work in both the care and charity sectors. Julie explained how she came to found the group which she now runs. She said : “I have a business background, have a degree in psychology and worked in residential care in the early eighties. The company models their homes on family homes with two or three bedrooms and two adult carers in each home at any time. There are fourteen homes with another four coming soon as well as three schools. The children who come to live with the Common Thread Group may stay for a short time or a couple of years, but they all have some kind of traumatic background in common. The aim is always to move them into mainstream schools, college or work. Julie has worked with children since 1988, and came to believe that residential care for looked after children could create better outcomes for them. One of her fundamental principles is that those working within such psychologically toxic environments need a very specific level of care and organisational structure hence the creation of the organisational structure adopted by Common Thread. Before this Julie had created an innovative crisis intervention service, which worked on the same premise “keep your staff well and they can more effectively serve the young people they are honoured to be working with”. She has been instrumental in helping hundreds of children in need across the UK, being accommodated by her company. From modest beginnings in 2004 in the southwest her company has grown organically now providing 14 homes and 3 schools across Scotland. 

South Africa: LGBTIQ+ activist on warpath to stop bullying in Gauteng

Bullying has been identified as the main cause of suicide among members of the LGBTIQ+ community. This has led activist Daniël du Preez to form One Love LGBTIQ+, an organisation that empowers communities to learn more about gay people. Du Preez, who is an activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, intersex and queer plus (LGBTIQ+) community, said the organisation would host annual projects and events to help fight homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia among Gauteng communities. He had identified bullying as the main problem, which often was the cause of suicide among young people. “Although school bullying is a severe, nationwide problem, many teachers and administrators are reluctant to intervene or adopt policies to prevent it. And many children do not report violence or harassment because they believe it either will not make a difference or will make matters worse,” Du Preez said. Through educational campaigns, Du Preez was working to ensure that school environments were inclusive, equitable and safe for all learners. He has started the teaching tolerance project, which aims to promote safe school environments. It will be launched on Youth Day, 16 June. Du Preez He said many LGBTIQ+ youths had been harmed psychologically and alienated from their families by conversion therapy, which purported to change a person’s sexual orientation. The practice, based on the idea that LGBTIQ+ people had a mental disorder, also promoted a climate of bigotry and discrimination. His work can also be traced in juvenile centres and child welfare centres across the province.

USA: Young drinkers underestimate the effects of supersized alcopops, shows study

College students seriously underestimate the effects of drinking a new class of beverages being marketed across the country, according to a new George Mason University study. "Supersized alcopops" – sweet, colorful and fizzy drinks that have been shown to appeal to youth – now contain almost as much alcohol as a six-pack of beer in a single can, and young drinkers don't know how much these drinks can affect them. The new study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, randomized Mason students into two groups, and asked each group to estimate what their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) would be if they hypothetically consumed over the course of 2 hours 1, 2, or 3 cans of the product shown to them: an empty can of either supersized alcopop or of regular beer. They were also asked how many cans they could drink before it would be unsafe for them to drive. Students estimating the effects of supersized alcohol consistently underestimated the impact of these high-alcohol beverages. "These new products constitute a unique danger to youth," according to study lead Dr. Matthew Rossheim, an assistant professor of global and community health in Mason's College of Health and Human Services. "Yet our findings clearly show that young people are not getting the message about how much they can be affected by them." The Federal Trade Commission has stated that consuming one can of supersized alcopop during a single occasion constitutes binge drinking and is therefore an unsafe practice.

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8 JUNE

Canada: Métis community to take control of their child welfare in historic agreement

For the 520 Métis children in foster care in B.C., life could soon change. On Thursday the Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) signed an agreement with the province to transfer authority of child welfare to MNBC by 2021. Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy and MNBC president Clara Morin Dal Col signed the historic MNBC and British Columbia Joint Commitment, which the Metis Nation has been working toward for years. “It’s a historic moment for our people and for our nation. We are reclaiming what is rightfully ours, our children and our families. We see this as a step toward reconciliation,” said Jason Simmonds, director of the ministry of children and families at the Métis Nation British Columbia. Allison Bond, deputy minister of children and family development, said that the province is on board with the transfer and doing what is right for children. “We agree with the Métis nation that it is the Métis people that know what’s best for with their children, youth and families.” Bond said that details on the transfer of authority to the Métis nation will be worked out over the next few years, as this is a new process for both parties. There are currently only two Delegated Aboriginal Agencies (DAA) that provide services to Métis children – one in Surrey and another in Kamloops. “We will sort out the details, but it is the Métis nation that will figure out how to transfer those organizations that are currently delegated into organizations that exercise the authority under some form of legislation that the Métis nation itself creates.” 

UK: Inspectors praise trailblazing children's services department

A council selected by government to lead the way for others on the future of children's services has been praised by Ofsted inspectors for its "ambition to improve" and an extensive transformation programme. North Tyneside Council was announced by the Department for Education as one of eight new "partner in practice" councils earlier this year – local authorities deemed to be performing at an exceptional level that other councils can learn from. The council was last month held up as an example of councils investing money upgrading technology so children's social workers can spend more time supporting families by the British Association of Social Workers as part of its 80-20 campaign. Inspectors conducting a "focused visit" said that since its last full Ofsted inspection in March 2017, which found services to be "good" overall, senior managers and leaders have led an extensive transformation programme. "This has seen the establishment of a fully functioning multi-agency safeguarding hub (Mash), the very recent implementation of a new fit-for-purpose electronic system, and a whole-system approach to the introduction of a recognised and evidence-based model of practice," said a letter outlining the findings of the visit states. "In the cases audited and in all other work considered, the local authority had acted appropriately to safeguard children and keep them safe. "The Mash works effectively to safeguard children. Partners are well engaged, which ensures timely information sharing, the consistent application of thresholds and proportionate responses for children and their families who need help and support."

Canada: Funds added to help young people in care learn to drive

A program that helps young people in government care learn to drive is being expanded. Funding is doubling for the Take the Wheel driver training program to $100,000, with the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks, ICBC and the provincial government collaborating with youth in care to expand the program from its initial launch. "For some, learning how to drive is not just a rite of passage, but a necessary, life-long practical skill, especially for those who live in areas where easy access to public transportation is not always a viable option," said Katrine Conroy, minister of Children and Family Development, in a news release. "We want to be sure that young people who have been in care can access the same opportunities as everyone else, and gain the kind of skills many parents see as necessary for their children." Take the Wheel was established in 2017 as a pilot program, and the ministry has donated an additional two vehicles for youth, who may not otherwise have access to a vehicle for practice or road tests. The ministry has also re-invested $61,000 in Strive, a 12-week program offered through the YWCA that helps youth and young adults gain life and employability skills, as well as $150,000 for Agedout.com, a website that provides resource connections for youth transitioning out of government care. As of April 1, the Agreements with Young Adults program has been expanded to make more funding available, throughout the calendar year, to eligible former youth in care under the age of 27, to help them complete post-secondary, rehabilitation and/or approved life-skills programs.

USA: San Francisco voters ban flavored tobacco

San Francisco voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a sales ban on flavored vaping liquids and more traditional flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. City supervisors had already approved such a ban last year, but enough signatures were collected to put the measure before San Francisco voters on Tuesday's ballot. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, 68 percent of voters were in favor of Proposition E and 31 percent were against it, CNN reported. "I think it almost certainly will serve as a catalyst for other cities around the country to take on the issue of flavored tobacco products, including menthol," Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said ahead of Tuesday's results. The ban comes as the Food and Drug Administration is considering its own restrictions on flavored tobacco. Advocates also say more needs to be done to stop teenagers from using e-cigarettes like Juul, claiming the fruity flavors used in such devices are designed to entice young people to start smoking.  

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6 JUNE

Canada: Youth-in-care tuition waiver program expands to include trades training

The B.C. government is expanding its former youth-in-care tuition waiver program to include trades training. "As a society we need to step up," said Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark in announcing the new program. "For former youth in care, this tuition waiver program can mean the start down a rewarding new path," she said. Today's announcement is limited to training programs delivered by union trainers in the construction trades. It expands the existing program which provides tuition waivers at all 25 post secondary schools in the province.Since September of 2017, 335 former youth in care have benefited from the provincial tuition waiver program. The tuition waiver program was estimated to cost $2 million in the 2018 B.C. budget and is open to youth who were in care for at least two years and who are between the ages of 19 and 26. According to the Industry Training Authority, a B.C. Crown corporation, one out of four tradespeople will be retiring in the next decade.

USA: After a decade of abuse allegations, Texas Juvenile Justice agency considers slate of reforms

Amid allegations of physical and sexual abuse of minors in the state’s juvenile lockups, the scandal-rocked Texas Juvenile Justice Department has had a massive leadership shakeup in recent months. Gov. Greg Abbott has demanded to see an action plan to address how kids at state lockups are treated – and now the head of the Juvenile Justice Department has submitted one. Mike Ward of the Houston Chronicle says the recent stories of abuse in juvenile lockups are part of a much longer story. “There was a scandal back almost a decade ago. The agency was completely overhauled. The top management was given their walking papers. In fact, the agency was renamed,” Ward says. “This latest series of recommendations mirrors a lot of the recommendations that have been made over and over again.” Recommendations include requiring officers who work with children to wear body cameras, giving counties more resources, and more. “They’re going to turn over what they call the checkpoints to the Office of Inspector General that’s going to put licensed police officers or licensed peace officers in there, rather than having juvenile correctional officers,” he says. “And they will redeploy those JCOs to supervision of the youth.” Ward says the main focus is to get children out of remote lockups and into specialized programs – and juvenile justice advocates are saying they’re cautiously optimistic about the future of the department.

Social deficits may be reversible among transgender youth

Jack Turban, MD, from Harvard Medical School argues that recent findings of overrepresentation of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptomology among transgender youth reflects social deficits related to social stress and deprivation rather than true ASD symptoms. In a letter to the editor published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Dr Turban argues that these symptoms and social deficits are likely reversible with improved social engagement, especially affirmation and support from peers and loved ones. Transgender youth have high rates of peer and family rejection as well as anxiety and depression. Rates of internalizing psychopathology increase as patients age. The rates of testing positive on scales for ASD also increase with age for transgender youth, contrary to the typical trends of ASD symptomology. The rate of social deficits resulting from internalizing psychopathology would be expected to increase, however. Research suggests that 80% of transgender youth report being bullied, 40% of transgender adults report a history of family rejection, and 10% of transgender people report family violence after revealing gender identity. Recent research following transgender individuals from late childhood into young adulthood shows that gender-affirmative hormonal and surgical care results in normative global functioning. A TransYouth project demonstrated the prepubertal transgender children who had affirmation of their gender identities and were permitted to socially transition had developmentally normative rates of anxiety and depression. “These studies provide hope that future cohorts of transgender youth, if provided with acceptance, can develop normative mental health,” writes Dr Turban.

UK: Social Work England to have power to limit duties

The new social work regulator will have the power to limit the types of work social workers can do and test them on their English skills, the government has confirmed. In its official response to a consultation on the establishment of Social Work England, the government said that the new regulatory body will be able to place conditions of registration on social workers who do not meet expected professional standards. The move has been backed by the majority (79 per cent) of those who responded to the consultation. In attaching conditions on registration Social Work England will have to gain the consent of the social worker, the government said. The regulator will also be required to draft clear rules around conditional registration, including how the restrictions can be reviewed, changed and removed. The government has said that the aim of conditional registration is to ensure that social workers can practice safely. "We have made clear in the regulations that the ability to attach conditions to an individual's registration is linked to that individual's ability to meet eligibility criteria and requires their consent," states the government's response. "Regulations will require Social Work England to register applicants who meet the eligibility and procedural requirements but provide flexibility to register with conditions to ensure they can remain practising safely." 

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4 JUNE

USA: The tech that’s changing how cities help the homeless

Every day, a team of community health paramedics in Austin, Texas, fans out across the city to provide aid to the growing number of people on the streets. Finding the homeless isn’t always easy – Austin’s annual homeless census found that at any given time, more than 2,500 people are unsheltered; in a year, that number exceeds 7,000 – and those are just the most obvious, countable cases. Harder still is finding their papers. “It’s a great anomaly to find someone who has all their identity documents,” said Jeremy Davis, an EMS with Austin’s community health paramedic program. “To get them properly connected to homeless services, you need their birth certificates, social security cards, health insurance records – all those are interdependent.” And often, Austin’s homeless don’t have any of them. Soon, though, that could change. In May, Austin began piloting a project to give the homeless a portable, digital identity, hosted on blockchain technology. It’s funded by a $100,000 grant to test the idea, and in the running for a $5 million program grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayor’s Challenge. For those whose lives are characterized by impermanence, the city hopes to provide a digital footprint in a system that will exist online – one that can’t be deleted, lost, or stolen. One that the individuals can control themselves, and that can be used by homelessness service workers to provide better, more informed aid.

Singapore and Slovenia tie for the title of best country in the world to have a childhood 

Singapore and Slovenia tie for the title of the best country in the world to have a childhood, according to a report published by non-governmental organization Save the Children. We don’t know about the NGO, but our childhoods in the 90s were filled with copious amounts of tuition classes, extracurricular schools and getting our asses whooped for failing grades. But we digress. Singapore and Slovenia were assessed to have the best environments in the world for children to grow up in, where kids are most likely to fully experience childhood for emotional, social and physical development, as well as play. “Singapore is a great place for children to grow up with good access to high-quality education and medical care services, while also being one of the safest countries in the world,” said Save the Children’s Asia regional director Hassan Noor Saadi. “Threats to childhood that plague other countries – like early marriage, poor access to education and war – simply don’t exist in Singapore, or at extremely low levels.” How Save the Children measures this is through indicators called “Childhood Enders” – basically events that mark the end of an intact childhood. These “childhood enders” include: child dies, malnutrition permanently impairs child’s development, child leaves or fails to enter school, child begins work life, child marries, child has a child, and child is a victim of extreme violence. Depressing stuff, especially when you know that these are very real hardships children in other countries experience. Countries are scored and ranked according to performance across this set of enders, revealing where childhood is most and least threatened. In this case, children in Singapore enjoy the best childhood, with countries such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, Ireland making it to the top 10 of the ranking. Only Singapore and South Korea (tying with Iceland and Italy for eighth place) are the only two Asian countries that appear in the top-tier list.

UK: Secure schools 'to be modelled on children's homes'

Proposed new secure schools for young offenders will be modelled on secure children's homes and hold up to 70 young people, the government has revealed. Plans to pilot two secure schools were first announced in December 2016, on the back of recommendations made in Charlie Taylor's review of the youth justice system. Their aim is to place a greater focus on the education and rehabilitation of young offenders, improving safety in the youth secure estate and reducing reoffending. Last year youth justice minister Phillip Lee said they could be up and running by the end of 2019, and potentially rolled out nationally within 10 years. Draft guidance published today by the Ministry of Justice setting out the expectations and requirements for prospective secure school providers reveals that each of the establishments will have between 60 and 70 places. Based on this, around 13 secure schools would potentially be required across England and Wales to accommodate the current youth custody population, which stood at 926 under-18s as of March this year. The guidance states that they will be run by "not-for-profit child-focused and creative providers who will put education, healthcare and purposeful activity at the heart of their work to rehabilitate young offenders". It is proposed that they will be registered as both a secure children's home and a 16 to 19 academy. Restraint techniques involving pain will be banned. "They will be located in line with demand and close to the communities they serve," the guidance states. 

USA: Illegal immigrant program creating proxy foster care system, says official 

More than 10,000 minor children who crossed the southwest border illegally, without a parent or guardian, are currently in the custody of Health and Human Services (HHS). The vast majority (more than 90 percent) hail from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Most are aged between 15 and 17. Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families, said the Unaccompanied Alien Children Program has grown vastly beyond its original intention. “The [program] was never intended, however, to be a foster care system,” Wagner said on a May 29 media call. He said the program runs at an immediate cost to the federal taxpayer of over $1 billion a year. A total of 21,720 unaccompanied minors were apprehended on the southwest border between Oct. 1, 2017, and March 31, according to the Department of Homeland Security. An additional 4,605 were deemed inadmissible at U.S. ports of entry. Wagner said that under a current immigration loophole, HHS is forced to release minors from Central America into the United States rather than return them to their country of origin, if they do not qualify for another immigration benefit. White House senior adviser for policy Stephen Miller said this creates a two-tiered illegal immigration system. “Aliens arriving illegally from Mexico, by and large, can be processed quickly and returned home together quickly. Aliens arriving from Central America – that is not the case. And they are entitled under these current loopholes to be released inside the United States. Many [are] never to be seen or heard from again,” he said. The administration wants Congress to amend the TVPRA so that minors who are not genuine trafficking victims can be quickly returned home or removed to safe third countries.  

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1 JUNE

Canada: Half of children born to mothers in child protective custody also taken into care by age 2

A study in the June 2018 Pediatrics found that nearly half of the children born to adolescent mothers in child protective services such as foster care, also ended up in protective custody by their second birthday. The study, "The Cycle of Child Protection Services Involvement: A Cohort Study of Adolescent Mothers," looked at data from the Population Data Research Repository at Canada's Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. Rates of children in child protective services care in this province are among the highest in Canada, and higher than in most developed countries. Among the 5,942 mothers studied who themselves were in care, 25 percent had their children taken into care the first week, an additional 17 percent had a child taken into care between 7 days and 1 year, and 7 percent had a child taken into care between the child's first and second birthday. This resulted in almost half of children being taken into protective custody before their second birthday--much higher than the 10 percent of children taken into care among adolescent mothers who were not in care when they gave birth. Researchers said mothers who give birth while in care have specific needs that may not be met by existing services available to adolescent mothers to assist in the transition to motherhood. Learning the age children are most likely to be taken into care can help to identify time periods during which additional supports and services could potentially help break the intergenerational cycle of involvement with child protection services. 

UK: Major study to explore whether child abuse triggers psychopathy

Around 10,000 children and young people across the UK will take part in a major study to investigate whether being a victim of child abuse can lead to mental health problems, such as psychopathic traits. A team from the University of Huddersfield will survey the group of children, which will include a number of young offenders, in a bid to shed light on the issue. It said previous research among serious offenders and children has shown a link between abuse and offending exists, and wants to explore further and identify potential ways of preventing it. The UK survey is one of five taking place across the world, with the research team carrying out similar-scale exercises in China, Uganda, Jamaica and India. The project team, co-directed by professor Adele Jones and professor Daniel Boduszek, from the University of Huddersfield and supported by research fellow Dr Dominic Willmott, hope to finish analysing the 50,000 responses by early 2019. Professor Matt DeLisi, of Iowa State University, whose areas of expertise include the impact of adverse childhood experience on the development of criminality, will also be involved with the project. "We strongly believe that [child abuse and neglect experiences] can link not only to anxiety, depression and self-harm, but also to development of psychopathic traits," said professor Boduszek. "We will use self-report questionnaires rather than face-to-face interviews because children, particularly boys, do not feel comfortable openly disclosing sexual abuse. The exercise has to be anonymous and participants have to be sure that no-one will track their experiences back to them if we want to get honest responses."

USA: New York City to open first ever youth shelter to address LGBTQ homelessness

The city has committed to opening NYC’s first ever shelter for young New Yorkers up to the age of 24, primarily to address homelessness among young LGBTQ New Yorkers. First Lady Chirlane McCray made the announcement Tuesday as part of a larger $9.5 million investment toward tackling LGBTQ homelessness in the city. Other initiatives that are part of this investment are as follows: expansion of services at three youth drop-in centers in the city that will now be open 24/7 – the eventual goal is to have at least one youth drop-in center open in every borough; expansion of training for parents and caregivers to become peer-to-peer advocates for families struggling with accepting an LGBTQ member; a clinical training program that will look to recruit clinicians of color from diverse neighborhoods across the city and train them in family acceptance work; and to create bilingual, Spanish-speaking family support services for LGBTQ Latinx youth. “Left without a family support system to rely on, these LGBTQ young people, particularly young people of color, experience extreme physical and mental health disparities, and higher rates of homelessness and unemployment,” said McCray, in a statement. “Today’s announcement is the next step in our deep commitment to support and empower LGBTQ young people across our City.” 

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