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World headlines news relating to children, youth and families

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31 MAY

Major review launches into children's care system in Scotland

A major "root and branch" review that will look into legislation, practices, culture and ethos of the children's care system in Scotland has launched. Ordered by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the Independent Care Review will listen to young people in care, as well as those with experience of care, their families and care providers to inform recommendations intended to improve both the quality of life and outcomes for young people in care.The review, which is expected to take two years, will be conducted by a team of 13 people including five young people with experience of care. It will be chaired by Fiona Duncan, chief executive of Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland.Sturgeon said every young person should have an equal opportunity to succeed in life, no matter their circumstances. "We should celebrate the progress that has been made that has allowed many of our young people who grow up in care to do great things in life – and those who work with looked-after children do an amazing job," she said. "However, we know that there are still many challenges facing young people in care and that their opportunities are all too often not the same as other young people in Scotland. "The care system must and can do better by our most vulnerable children and young people. 

In treating autism, drugs often overshadow behavior therapy

Many kids with autism are taking antipsychotics without participating in behavior therapy, new research suggests, despite evidence that medication is most helpful when paired with therapy. In a study looking at the experiences of more than 5,100 children with autism ages 2 to 17 from across the country, researchers found that the odds of antipsychotic use increase with age. Just 5 percent of kids ages 2 to 11 took the drugs, but that number rose to nearly 18 percent for those ages 12 to 17, according to findings published in the May issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. The majority of children on the medications were not participating in behavior therapy. “It is particularly concerning that for both age groups (2–11 and 12–17 years) over three quarters of children prescribed atypical antipsychotic medications were not receiving behavior therapy,” wrote researchers from the University of Toronto, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Columbia University in their findings.

‘All of our kids are subject to this’: tainted drugs kill 16-year-old girl

Parents of young people killed by the overdose crisis as well as New Westminster police are warning teens and parents to watch out for lethal pills sold as MDMA after the death of a 16-year-old girl over the weekend. Another 16-year-old girl has been hospitalized, and remains in critical condition. Both girls attended Power Alternate Secondary School in New Westminster, an alternative school with just 66 students. The New Westminster school district has mobilized its “critical incident response plan” and will have extra staff and counsellors on hand when students return to class Monday. Officials wouldn’t confirm whether the girls attended the district’s only high school. In a statement, the board said it held a community discussion earlier this month with parents and guardians in an effort to heighten awareness surrounding the drug crisis sweeping the province. “We have been concerned, as are many school districts, about the current overdose crisis,” the statement reads, adding that the district is working closely with police.
Police have issued an urgent warning to teens and their parents because they fear more of the same deadly pills are circulating among students. 

Canada's youth share 150+ Reasons We Love Canada with hand-painted murals

VIBE Arts, an award-winning charitable arts education organization and Scarborough Town Centre (STC), the largest shopping centre in the east GTA, recognize Canada's 150th birthday by unveiling 60 awe-inspiring murals hand-painted by youth from every Province and Territory. The national 150+ Reasons We Love Canada project was created by VIBE Arts. The artists, aged 9 to 29, come from thirty community organizations across the country including homeless shelters, under-resourced schools and youth agencies. Their hand-painted murals express the spirit of Canada from their many unique perspectives. The murals express meaningful stories of Canada through the eyes of Canada's youth acknowledging the diversity, culture, character and strength of our nation. Today, the original murals will be unveiled at STC with beautiful large scale reproductions on exhibit until July 3, 2017, for everyone to experience. The original murals (4'x 6') will be installed in Toronto subway stations throughout July and August, with digital displays in 15 airports and on more than 300 PATTISON Outdoor billboards across Canada. "It's a great feeling to share this experience with so many others," says Jacob Carter, a student at the Urban Aboriginal School in Sault-Ste-Marie. "Everyone put so much into the project. It's fantastic the way it's come together."


29 MAY

Manchester attack: Youth worker 'warned authorities' about suspect

Calls have been made for greater investment in youth services after reports that authorities were warned by a youth worker of concerns about the suspected suicide bomber responsible for an attack at Manchester Arena this week. The BBC has reported that a Muslim community worker said that he flagged up concerns five years ago, after Salman Abedi, who would then have been around 17, said he "was supporting terrorism" and that "being a suicide bomber is okay". The community worker said they had come into contact with Abedi when he was studying at Manchester College. A total of 22 people were killed and a further 119 injured following an explosion at the 21,000 capacity Manchester Arena on Monday night during a sold out Ariana Grande concert. The National Youth Agency highlighted the early warning as a sign of the value of youth work. Paul Miller, chief executive of the National Youth Agency said frontline youth workers can play an important role in tackling radicalisation. "Youth workers are skilled at understanding young people's vulnerabilities and are often well placed to gauge challenges and threats like radicalisation, and to escalate safeguarding issues where that's needed," he said. "Youth workers need to play a regular and stable role in young people's lives for this to happen and we need to see investment in youth work as an investment in the future of our young people."

Ireland: Outcomes of report for children in long-term foster care launched

An important report on outcomes for children and young people in long-term foster care is to be launched in Galway and Donegal. The report entitled ‘Outcomes for Permanence and Stability for Children in Long-term Care’ is based on the views and experiences of foster carers, families of origin and young people who have been in long-term care between the period of 2008 and 2013. The study is focused on the factors that were found to affect the stability of foster care placements for children and youth in long-term care in Ireland. The major study was commissioned by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency and was completed by researchers Dr Lisa Moran, Professor Caroline McGregor and Dr Carmel Devaney at the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway. The project was carried out in partnership with Tusla Child and Family Social Work in Donegal and Galway. The findings underline the significance of perceived service support, communication, and relationships as key factors that improve permanence and stability for children and youth in care.

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

About 63% of young South African children live in poverty, which can affect their physical, cognitive and emotional development, a new study has found. The study, a joint publication between Ilifa Labantwana, the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency, was published in the South African Early Childhood Review. The publication provides data, analysis and commentary on over 40 statistical indicators measuring the progress of Early Childhood Development (ECD) service delivery across multiple government departments, including health, social development and education. ECD focuses mostly on children, from birth to six years of age. The study found that about 3 969 000 young South African children live in poverty, with the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo having the highest rates.

Tanzania: A hero, who saved nine children from drowning honoured

A sixteen year old boy, Tisekwa Gamungu, who rescued nine pupils after a dhow capsized in Lake Victoria on Wednesday, will be honoured by the Suleiman Kova Foundation. The foundation plans to raise Sh2 million, which will be handed to the boy. Speaking on Friday morning in one of the local television station former Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police Commander, who is also the foundation founder, Mr Suleimani Kova, said the boy will also be trained on rescue techniques. The nine are among 21pupils, who were saved after a dhow they were travelling in capsized in Lake Victoria on Wednesday. Three pupils are still missing. 


26 MAY

School choice policies may impact segregation and diversity of public schools

Despite decades of educational reform and legal efforts, many U.S. schools are experiencing increasing segregation, with 16 percent of public schools serving both minority and high poverty students. A Supreme Court decision a decade ago eliminated the use of certain types of district policies that had been voluntarily adopted by some school districts to address rising segregation. Now, a Penn State researcher is looking at how student assignment policies may be impacting the diversity of public schools.

Australia: Young offenders to face adult courts, tougher sentences under Victorian law changes

Teenagers charged with serious violent crimes will face trials in adult courts under legislation introduced to the Victorian Parliament, which has been criticised by human rights groups. The Government has announced sweeping changes to youth justice policy in response to repeated riots at youth detention centres and a series of widely-publicised crimes involving young offenders, which the Opposition has labelled a "crime wave". Under the legislation, teenagers over the age of 16 who are charged with offences such as aggravated home invasion and aggravated carjacking would be tried in an adult court. Attorney-General Martin Pakula said offenders over the age of 18 would no longer be sentenced to youth detention, and would instead be sent to adult prison. "For those who are aged 18–21 who currently are eligible for the dual-track system, where they can serve their time in the youth justice facilities, that will no longer be available to them except in the most exceptional circumstances," Mr Pakula said.

European countries seek common approach to child protection training

Universities across Europe, including Kent and Stirling, are involved in a project to design a set of training materials for child protection services that can be used by social workers in eight different countries. The move is an attempt to create a common approach to child protection practice across Europe and, at the same time, allow social workers from different countries to learn from each other. The project, which began in 2015, is led by Paul Rigby, a lecturer in social work at the University of Stirling. Rigby says that while the theory behind social work training in European universities is broadly the same, the practice may differ. He points out that many eastern European universities have only been offering professional social work programmes since the early 1990s. Under communism, social work did not exist as a separate profession; in some of those countries child protection is still the remit of the church. The project will deliver child protection training in five modules. Each European institution will develop a case study for its own country as the vehicle for contributing to broader social work training. The mass movement of children across European borders continues and is unlikely to slow down in the near future. Rigby says: “My concern is that we take a very Anglocentric approach that we’re getting things right and others aren’t, and that isn’t the case. There’s a lot we need to learn from other countries.”

Organized sports not enough to fulfill activity requirements

Organized sports don't provide children with nearly as much exercise as many parents might expect, according to a Kansas State University study. Katie Heinrich, associate professor of exercise behavioral science and director of the kinesiology department's Functional Intensity Training Lab, said children need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day, including bone and muscle strengthening activities. Some parents might think enrolling their children in organized activities or structured sports with hourlong classes or practices would fulfill this need, but research finds they do not. In a study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences and Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Kansas State University researchers found that between sitting while listening to instructions, standing in line while waiting their turn and other parts of practices, only about 30 percent of practice time is actually spent in moderate to vigorous exercise. Despite not providing the full amount of needed exercise, organized sports are still beneficial because they provide structure, companionship and character-building opportunities, along with some exercise, Heinrich said. To help children get the amount of daily physical activity they need, Heinrich advises parents to make sure children have at least 40 minutes outside of practice to play freely.


24 MAY

Dozens of Wales' looked-after children in care outside country

More than 130 looked-after children from Wales are currently in care placements outside the country. Figures vary between local authorities, with 16 children from Swansea in care outside of Wales, but none from Carmarthenshire or Denbighshire. Action for Children said some were being placed "hundreds of miles away", making them feel "disconnected". The Fostering Network said without more foster carers, some children would end up living a long way from family. BBC Wales asked all 22 local authorities in Wales how many children and young people they currently have placed in foster care outside the country. Eighteen councils provided figures, showing at least 131 have been placed outside Wales - either with a foster carer, a relative or friend, or in a home. The Fostering Network said last week at least 440 foster families were needed across Wales. And Dr Jael Hill, a consultant clinical psychologist at Torfaen Mist, said the lack of foster carers – particularly for children with specialist needs – was at the heart of why youngsters were ending up out of Wales.

UK: Autism investigation prompts concerns of under-diagnosis in care system

An investigation into the prevalence of autism among children in care has prompted concerns that many are not being diagnosed and are missing out on important support as a result. Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to 145 councils have revealed widespread differences in the proportion of looked-after children diagnosed with autism. Among councils that responded, 19 (13 per cent) did not know whether any of their looked-after children had been diagnosed with autism, while six declined to respond. Of the 120 councils that did supply figures, two said none of their looked-after children had been diagnosed. This includes the Corporation of London which had just eight children in its care when the request was made, and also Calderdale Council, which had a children in care population of 301. A further two councils, Sandwell and Oldham, reported figures below the national prevalence rate of 1.1 per cent. When the request was made they had looked-after children populations of 587 and 476 respectively. In contrast, Walsall Council reported that 81 (12.7 per cent) of its 636 looked after children population had been diagnosed with the disability. National Autistic Society policy manager Tim Nicholls said: "This is deeply concerning and means that some children go through the care system without a full understanding of their needs or the right support in place, which could have a serious effect on their long-term prospects.

Early puberty linked to growing up in poorer homes

Children from disadvantaged households are more likely to hit puberty early and could face poorer health later in life as a result, an Australian study has shown. Researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Melbourne found boys who grew up in very disadvantaged homes had more than four times the risk of starting puberty early, at 10 or 11 years of age, while girls had double the risk. Professor Melissa Wake, a researcher in the team who is now based at the University of Auckland, says it is likely the same link would be found in New Zealand children. “Early puberty may be one of the ways in which social disadvantage gets under the skin and influences children’s later life chances, both in terms of economic prosperity and health,” she says. The factors determining early puberty have received greater attention recently as more children are starting puberty at an earlier age than past generations. Professor Wake, the new Cure Kids professor of child health research at the Liggins Institute and The University of Auckland Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, says New Zealand and other countries are already grappling with many of the factors so far implicated in early puberty, such as social disadvantage, mental health issues, and obesity. “Findings like these highlight the importance of tackling these issues at a society-wide level.”

South Africa: A model of hi-tech learning

Set in between houses and a sprinkling of shacks in the dusty township of Kaalfontein Extension 8 in Ebony Park, Midrand, Ponelopele Oracle Secondary School has become a beacon of hi-tech learning for the community. MEC Panyaza Lesufi has hailed the multimillion-rand school, built in 2006 through a public-private partnership between computer technology company Oracle and the Gauteng department of education as a model for how the provincial government’s information and communication technology (ICT) smart schools – with smart boards and tablets – should be preserved. He told City Press that the school had set a good example of how communities could partner with government to enhance government’s initiatives in transforming education in the midst of raging battles with criminal elements hellbent on thwarting the modernisation of schools in the province. Ponelopele is one of more than 400 township schools that have benefited from the project across the province.


22 MAY

Five-fold increase in number of refugee and migrant children traveling alone since 2010 – UNICEF

The global number of refugee and migrant children moving alone has reached a record high, increasing nearly five-fold since 2010, UNICEF said today in a new report. At least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in some 80 countries in the combined years of 2015 and 2016, up from 66,000 in 2010 and 2011. ‘A Child is a Child: Protecting children on the move from violence, abuse and exploitation’ presents a global snapshot of refugee and migrant children, the motivations behind their journeys and the risks they face along the way. The report shows that an increasing number of these children are taking highly dangerous routes, often at the mercy of smugglers and traffickers, to reach their destinations, clearly justifying the need for a global protection system to keep them safe from exploitation, abuse and death. “One child moving alone is one too many, and yet today, there are a staggering number of children doing just that – we as adults are failing to protect them,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth. “Ruthless smugglers and traffickers are exploiting their vulnerability for personal gain, helping children to cross borders, only to sell them into slavery and forced prostitution. It is unconscionable that we are not adequately defending children from these predators.”

UK: Care leaver university scholarship scheme opens

Care leavers will be able to benefit from three years of free accommodation as part of an initiative designed to help support them through university. A total of 28 universities are taking part in the scholarship scheme. The scheme, run by the Unite Foundation, is available to under-25s who are care leavers, or estranged from their family, and have a place at one of 28 participating universities. A total of 70 places are on offer for the 2017/18 academic year. "Too few young people estranged from their families or leaving care realise their full potential at university," Unite Foundation manager Helen Arber said. "We want to change that. A Unite Foundation scholarship means a rent-free university home for three years of degree studies." "It also brings other benefits, such as work placements and activities that support successful study and future careers." Accommodation will be provided by Unite Students, the student accommodation management and development firm that launched the foundation five years ago. Applications need to be submitted before the closing date of 31 May.

UK: Finalised Labour manifesto promises care system overhaul

A vow to overhaul the children's care system and end the government's focus on adoption has been added to the final version of Labour's manifesto for next month's general election. The manifesto, officially launched by party leader Jeremy Corbyn in Bradford today, confirms a range of policies that featured in a leaked draft version that emerged last week, such as extending free childcare entitlement and preventing further cuts to youth centres and children's services. But it also includes a fresh commitment to improve the way the children's care system works.

May edition of CYP Now: Social Work Special; 30 hours childcare; staff retention

The May edition of the new-look CYP Now has a 12-page special report on social work with children and families. The special report features an in-depth look at latest policy affecting children and families social work, summaries of recent research, and examples of how councils are innovating to improve social work practice. The main feature in the May edition looks at one of the first youth courts to adopt a problem-solving approach to working with young offenders. It finds the approach is improving wellbeing and reducing reoffending.


19 MAY

Facebook and Twitter 'harm young people's mental health'

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young people’s mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations. Instagram has the most negative impact on young people’s mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young people’s feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact. The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate children’s and young people’s body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said. The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

Recommendations for improving children’s mental health care in California

A new report from Young Minds Advocacy makes the case that the publicly funded mental health system for children in California needs a shake up. Released last week to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Month, the report argues that California needs to adopt a comprehensive vision of children’s mental health. Responsibility for the mental health needs of California’s most vulnerable children is spread out among a Byzantine system of federal and state funding streams and child-serving agencies. As a result, the coordination of care spread amongst an array of different mental health programs is often challenging, according to Patrick Gardner, president of Young Minds Advocacy. In California’s Children and Youths’ System of Care: An Agenda to Transform Promises Into Practice, Gardner estimates that more than one quarter of a million eligible California children with serious mental health needs failed to receive Medi-Cal assistance and that only 17 percent of the eligible special education students receive mental health services as part of their individualized education plans (IEPs).

Direct funding service option will be offered in new Ontario autism program

Ontario is giving families of children with autism more options for their children's service by offering a new, permanent direct funding option, which will be implemented by the end of this year through the Ontario Autism Program (OAP). Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau made the announcement at Monarch House in Oakville today, speaking with families about Ontario's commitment to flexible services and supports for children and youth with autism. By the end of this year, the province will implement a new direct funding option as part of the OAP. This will allow all families to choose between receiving direct service or receiving funding to purchase services for their child. Families currently receiving direct funding will continue to receive their funding throughout the transition, and will be able to choose the new OAP direct funding option to receive services from their preferred provider. Next month, families will begin to transition into the new OAP, which will provide services that are flexible and tailored to the unique needs of each child, regardless of age. The program will be implemented gradually over the coming year, with the program expected to be fully in place by spring 2018.

New Zealand: Updated physical guidelines have been released for children and young people aged 5 to 17

The 'Sit Less, Move More, Sleep Well – Physical Activity Guidelines for Children and Young People' guidelines include new sleep recommendations as well as updated advice on amount of physical activity children and young people need. The updated advice includes:

• Uninterrupted good-quality sleep of 9 to 11 hours per night (for those aged 5 to 13 years) and 8 to 10 hours per night (for those aged 14 to 17 years), with consistent bed and wake-up times.
• An accumulation of at least one hour per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity involving a variety of aerobic activities. Vigorous physical activities, and activities that strengthen muscle and bones should also be incorporated at least three days a week.
• No more than two hours per day of recreational screen time.
• Breaking up sitting time and participating in a variety of light physical activities for several hours.

The guidelines are available on the Ministry of Health website, 


17 MAY

UK: Survey reveals shortage of parent and child foster placements

When the Fostering Network carried out its annual survey this year to find out what types of foster placements were in greatest demand, the top two spots – homes for teenagers and sibling groups – were as expected. But the third on the list – parent and child placements – came as a surprise. Some 57% of fostering services said they were looking for more carers to offer this type of placement, typically for a young mother and her baby or toddler. Demand for these placements may be on the rise because other forms of assistance – such as residential mother and baby units or supported lodgings – have been “reduced or shut down because of austerity”, says Jackie Sanders, director of communications for the network. “There is more of a push to keep children with their families in this way,” she says. “These foster carers look after young mothers – or sometimes fathers – who are experiencing difficulties. They help them to develop parenting abilities and, hopefully, keep the parent and the child together in the longer term.”

Three quarters of rice products sold as baby food found to contain illegal levels of arsenic

A result of industrial toxins and pesticides, the poison contaminates rice while it is growing and can impact the development of young children. Parents should avoid giving rice to young children, scientists have said, after a new study found almost three quarters of rice-based products sold as baby food contain illegal levels of arsenic. A maximum level of arsenic allowed in rice used for baby food was introduced by the EU in January 2016 to reduce children’s exposure to the harmful toxin.

Doctors urged to help child abuse victims

Australia's leading child protection advocate Hetty Johnston has pleaded with the medical profession to better educate themselves on the issue of child sexual abuse. Doctors must not ignore their role in helping victims, she says. "It is a human right of of every survivor to have medical professionals in their life who understand what's happening for them," Ms Johnston said. Speaking at one of Australia's largest gatherings of specialists in Brisbane, Ms Johnston said the medical fraternity would be across this issue in a "nanosecond" if it was seen as a terrible disease striking down 59,000 children per year. "I just hope that the medical profession embraces this issue," she said after earlier noting the relatively small number of physicians to turn up to her talk. "Educate yourselves, please, encourage your peers to educate themselves, listen to people who are speaking on this issue, please understand it's real," she said at the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) annual scientific meeting.

Texas bill would give adoption agencies the option to reject families for religious reasons

Families who reside outside of what some see as a societal norm could soon face an uphill battle when looking to adopt a child in Texas. If state-funded foster care and adoption agencies in Texas don't approve of children going to families they find objectionable for religious reasons – including those headed by gay or transgender people, atheists and others – they won't have to send them there – if the state House of Representatives-approved bill continues its success through the legislative process, reports The New York Times. The bill would also let these agencies decide whether teenagers they care for should have contraceptives and abortion access, not to mention blocking the state from punishing an agency for declining services based on religion. The bill has received both support and concern. "We look forward to a swift approval by the Senate and the governor's signature, as this is a critical element of the foster care system reform," the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops executive director Jennifer Carr Allmon told The New York Times. On the other hand, "I truly want to see something that doesn't create so much concern and fear," Rep. Donna Howard, a Democrat from Austin, said during the bill's debate. "That we recognize there are a wide variety of beliefs and non-beliefs and all should be guaranteed services and should not be denied services on the basis of their beliefs or of their gender identity."


15 MAY

New Zealand: Support for vulnerable children into adulthood needed

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says new research confirms the need for wrap around support for at-risk children and young people to help them lead successful lives as adults. “We know that children who experience adversity are more likely to have poor education and employment outcomes, that’s why the Government is focused on ensuring they receive the support they need,” says Mrs Tolley. “Research published today shows only 44 per cent of at-risk children studied were projected to have positive education and employment outcomes. “The report highlights a number of protective factors which at-risk children and young people suggested would help – including accessible social, health and community services, particularly counselling, having self-belief and determination, and strong supportive relationships and networks. “It also shows effective early intervention, a child-centred and whole of family and whanau approach, effective wrap around support, and adult education opportunities are important to improving outcomes.

Child trafficking in UK hits record high, figures show

Child trafficking referrals in the UK have hit a record high after rising by 30 per cent in a year, statistics have revealed. The number of children referred to the UK Government’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which identifies victims of human trafficking, increased to 1,278 in 2016, the highest figure on record, according to the latest figures from the National Crime Agency. More than a third of all potential victims of trafficking were children aged 18 and under, with a majority of children drawn into exploitative labour, including forced criminality, such as cannabis cultivation. Overall, the NRM identified 3,805 potential victims of trafficking in 2016, a 17 per cent increase on 2015.

Ireland: Children leaving care to be granted extra rights from September

500-600 children leaving care each year after reaching the age of 18 will have the right to an aftercare plan from 1st September which will identify required supports, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone has announced. Answering questions in the Dáil the Minister confirmed that funding will be available to ensure proper resources are in place, including aftercare workers, to meet what will be a new statutory obligation. Minister Zappone said: “I am conscious that the transition to independent adulthood can be challenging for many young people. This is particularly true for children and young people in care. Planning for leaving care needs to begin in the years prior to leaving care and continue as part of the care planning process. This preparatory work is facilitated by a social worker and is based on collaboration with the young person, their carers and partner agencies. It is specific to the individual young person's needs. During the preparation for leaving care an aftercare worker is introduced to the young person. They are involved in the preparation for the leaving care process.”

Australia: Children found stealing aviation fuel, raising fears of petrol sniffing crisis

Children under 10 have been breaking into remote airstrips to steal aviation fuel, in a dangerous escalation of petrol sniffing in the Northern Territory. Health organisations have warned of a public health emergency, with 10 people hospitalised in the past three months, and said there was little indication of how widespread the dangerous practice was. CCTV footage published by the ABC on Monday showed young children and teenagers climbing on light aircraft parked at the Galiwin’ku airstrip, on East Arnhem’s Elcho Island to siphon the fuel.


12 MAY

Funding shortfall 'threatens support for vulnerable children'

A funding shortfall in council support for vulnerable children in England will be worse than expected, town hall bosses are warning. The Local Government Association says a shortfall in children's services budgets will reach £2bn by 2020. The LGA calculates that the shortfall will be £100m more than was suggested by its previous analysis last October, which had put it at £1.9bn. The government said its reforms would deliver quality care for all children. There is already evidence of a funding gap, according to the LGA, with councils having spent £600m more than they had budgeted for in the year 2015-16. It says the overspend is due to increased demand for children's social care, accompanied by cuts to funding from central government, along with inflation. The LGA says that population changes mean extra services will be needed, likely to cost an extra £1.1bn each year by 2019-20. At the same time, reductions to central government grants mean children's services budgets will be down £900m a year, even if councils raise business rates and council taxes to the maximum allowed under government rules, it adds. The LGA is calling for urgent action to address this widening funding gap and warns that services in many areas are "being pushed to breaking point".

New York ‘junk’ inspires kids to play

A new project in the heart of New York City is demonstrating that the mainly European tradition of adventure playgrounds, currently facing big challenges in the UK and elsewhere, as austerity bites, have enduring popularity wherever there are towns, cities and people with the vision to make space for them. Believing that “New York children need more access to trash, detritus, and junk as tools for play”, this May the local non-profit organisation that opened a 50,000 square-foot junk playground on Governors Island last summer, returns for a second year of free weekend play and a summer camp. Last year, says the charity, nearly 3,000 children enjoyed using discarded materials with hand tools to build, destroy, and play with as they wished. Play:groundNYC was founded on a simple principle: ‘children need space to explore without being told “be careful” and “watch out” ‘. Unusually for the US, the playground is staffed by playworkers, adults trained in the art of facilitating play by mostly staying out of the way. The playworkers ensure that hazards have been removed from the environment, allowing children to feel safe to take risks in their play.

New Zealand: Altogether Autism applauds Education Amendment Bill

New Zealand’s leading provider of research-based autism information today acknowledged the historic passing of the third and final reading of the Education (Update) Amendment Bill, which prohibits the use of seclusion in schools and early childhood services, and creates a legislative framework for the appropriate use of physical restraint in schools. Altogether Autism national manager Catherine Trezona says she agrees with Education Minister Nikky Kaye’s comment today in Parliament that: “there is no situation where it is acceptable for children and young people to be secluded.” “We made our position very clear late last year on seclusion. “Altogether Autism does not support the use of seclusion, where a person is placed in isolation in a room or area from where they cannot voluntarily exit. Seclusion is a violation of human rights and may result in damage to a person’s wellbeing.” Altogether Autism supports the planned use of respite. “Respite is the removal of a person to a safe place with minimal sensory stimulation (such as loud noise and bright lights) for a specific short period of time,” said Ms Trezona.

Australia: Court orders teenagers' removal from Barwon Prison as inmates transferred to Parkville

The Victorian Supreme Court has ordered all teenage detainees be removed from the state's maximum security adult prison by close of business today, as "relieved" juveniles continue to be transferred out. The State Government began removing the 16 teenagers from Barwon Prison on Thursday, just hours after the court ruled that their detention was unlawful and in breach of their human rights. The court reconvened today to sign orders forcing the Government to move all of the teenagers. The inmates are being transferred back to the Parkville Youth Justice Centre, which is still being repaired following riots last November. Lawyer Alina Leikin from the Human Rights Law Centre said she understood there was a unit and staff ready to receive the boys. "I spoke with one of our clients yesterday, he was packing his things to be moved from Barwon," she said. "He was absolutely relieved, and he said the mood was of general relief." Thursday's ruling was the third time the court had found the youth justice centre at Barwon Prison to be illegal.

Singapore: Third fostering agency set up in push for children to stay in family setting

A dedicated fostering agency to be run by the Singapore Muslim Women's Association (PPIS) has been set up. It is the third such agency and part of an $8 million, three-year pilot scheme announced in 2014 to place more children in foster families instead of institutional settings. PPIS president Rahayu Mohamad said yesterday that the new agency, expected to be up and running by the third quarter, aims to place 75 children with foster parents and recruit 12 new foster families over the next one to two years. MSF's Senior Parliamentary Secretary Faishal Ibrahim said: "We are happy with the performance of the existing two agencies that we have, and we feel that the third one will help us to increase our outreach, to increase awareness, as well as deepen our engagement." Ms Audrie Siew, MSF's director of children in care services, said that a dearth of foster parents is the biggest obstacle to the Government's target of having two-thirds of children in foster care be placed with foster parents, as opposed to residential care, by 2020. About two-fifths of such children are now with foster parents. There is a target of having 500 foster families by 2020, up from about 420 now.


10 MAY

Canada: Fourth indigenous girl dies while in child protection

The death of another indigenous teenage girl from a Thunder Bay group home has intensified demands by First Nations leaders for an inquest into why their children are dying while in child protection. Seventeen-year-old Tammy Keeash failed to make her Saturday night curfew at her Thunder Bay group home. Her body was later discovered on Sunday evening in the Neebing-McIntyre Floodway, according to Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political organization of 49 northern First Nations. Keeash, who is from North Caribou First Nation about 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, was the fourth NAN child to die while under care in a group home since last October. Amy Owen, 13, took her life on April 17 while in an Ottawa group home, and Courtney Scott, 16, died in a fire in an Orleans group home on April 21. Scott’s family says they have many unanswered questions as to what happened and why their daughter was unable to escape the blaze. On Oct. 29, 2016, Kanina Sue Turtle, 15, died in Sioux Lookout and her family is still waiting for answers. Due to a lack of mental health and child protection services in northern Ontario, many youth are taken out of their communities and placed in group homes hundreds of kilometres away from their families. But NAN has inherent jurisdiction over their well-being regardless of where they live, said NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.

Resource families want to help youth and birth parents

The Center for Poverty Research at the University of California-Davis released a policy brief describing a study to determine who would most likely be willing to act as a resource family, the level of knowledge the respondents had about fostering a child, and the most common motivations and deterrents to fostering. A total of 466 adults in California completed the study survey in 2016. African-American and Latino respondents each were more than twice as likely to report they would foster than non-Latino White respondents. Adults aged 25–34 were 67 percent more likely to foster than those aged 45–64. Parents who already had their own children were 144 percent more likely to foster a child than people who had no children. Additionally, the results of the survey indicated that most respondents had little knowledge about the foster care system, the experiences of youth in foster care, the foster system's goals for youth and families, and the support available to resource families. When asked about their motivations to potentially foster, respondents were 2–10 times more likely to focus on the perceived benefits to the child in foster care and their birth parents over any financial, social, or emotional benefits to themselves.

UK: Councils join forces to attract social workers to region

A group of councils has teamed up to run a regional campaign to persuade children's social workers to work in the area. The move by councils in the North East of England, which has 11 local authority areas, comes at a time when many councils across England face difficulties in filling vacancies. Government figures published earlier this year show that the total number of children's social work vacancies rose slightly from 5,470 in September 2015, to 5,540 in September 2016. Writing in a blog for the Association of Directors of Children's Services website, the organisation's North East representative, Daljit Lally, who is DCS at Northumberland, said the region is facing "immediate" workforce pressures. She said councils within the area have decided to work together to attract social workers to the region, rather than promoting their own individual local authority areas. "One of the things we've been working on recently is how we can work together to promote our fabulous region to those who are not fortunate enough to work here already," she said. 

UK: 7 out of 10 children with mental health problems are treated outside home area

Seven out of 10 children with serious mental health problems are being treated outside their home area, according to NHS figures. Around 69% of young patients were admitted to hospitals away from their local region in 2016/17, up from 57% the year before, an investigation by the British Medical Association (BMA) has found. Dr Gary Wannan, the BMA’s community care committee chairman, said it is alarming that more children and teenagers are being treated away from their homes when they are “at their most vulnerable”. “It can be an incredible wrench for children to leave their homes and being based far away is not going to help a young person in crisis,” he said. “In some areas we have seen the rate of investment improve so patients don’t have to be treated so far from home – in other areas, patients haven’t been so fortunate. “NHS England must ensure that, especially in these areas, the money gets through to local community teams so they can make a real difference to the lives of children, young people and their families.”



Guns send about 16 U.S. kids to the hospital every day

About 16 American children are hospitalized daily due to gunshot injuries, a new study says. "Our findings add urgency to the need for preventive public health measures to reduce gun injuries in children," said study lead author Dr. Alyssa Silver. The researchers reviewed federal government data for the study. The study found that more than 5,800 children were hospitalized with gunshot injuries in 2012. Most of the injuries to those younger than 15 were accidental, but most of the injuries among those ages 15 to 19 occurred during assaults. "The fact that 57 percent of firearm-related injuries in children under 15 years old were unintentional, for example, highlights the need for improved gun safety and storage practices," Silver said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.

Deaths of two First Nations girls in Eastern Ontario group homes raise alarms

The last time Jeffrey Owen spoke with his daughter, Amy, she was crying and asking to come home. “She was unhappy. She hated it there.” Weeks later, the 13 year old was found dead in her room at the Prescott group home where she was in care, thousands of kilometres from her family at Poplar Hill First Nation. Owen was told that Amy, who was under constant supervision, took her own life. He is waiting for the official report into her death. She did not have thoughts of suicide until she was removed from her community to become a ward of the child welfare system, he said. “Her spirit was broken.” Amy Owens died on April 17. Four days later, on April 21, Courtney Scott from Fort Albany First Nation died in a fire at her foster home in Orléans. The 16 year old was the only resident of the home who didn’t escape the fire. The deaths of the two First Nations girls far from home in recent weeks is raising alarm bells and fuelling calls for an inquest and legislative change.Poplar Hill band council officials have told Tikinagan Child and Family Services, the First Nations child welfare agency, not to take children into care until the community gets some answers about how they are being cared for and why they are being sent so far away.

UK: Appeal for 7,000 new foster carers to meet demand

The Fostering Network said 7,180 new carers are needed to replace those who leave and to increase the pool of carers to be able to provide suitable homes for the diverse range of children coming into care. It said shortages are most acute for older children and sibling groups, with almost all fostering services it surveyed (97 per cent) in need of carers for teenagers, while 86 per cent are calling for more carers for sibling groups. "Without more foster carers for teenagers, young people have to be placed with foster carers who live far from their families, friends and schools and are being split up from their siblings," the charity said. "Other teenagers are being placed with foster carers who, despite being excellent carers, are outside of their comfort zone when it comes to caring for teenagers or may not have the specific skills or experience to meet the needs of a particular teenager. "All this means that the stability of foster carer placements for teenagers is being undermined, which in turn affects their educational and other outcomes."

New Zealand: More funding from govt for vulnerable children, families

The government has made the early announcement in Wellington, saying it is expanding its home visiting programme Family Start. Prime Minister Bill English said just over $28 million would go to Family Start so it could help 570 more families. A further $40m would support more children with behavioural and communication problems. "This is work that comes directly out of the [Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study], which has followed children through to adulthood now for over 35 years and we're taking advice directly from that study about where and how to apply our public resource." Mr English said the funding is part of a $321m investment in a social package designed to help children most at risk of long-term dysfunction. More funding will be spent on helping schools work with violent children. Last month, principals said teachers were at breaking point because of growing problems with badly behaved and violent children. Now the government said it will provide $34.7m over four years to help children with behavioural issues, enabling the number receiving support services each year to go up from 5000 to 6000. A further $6m over four years will be used to help three- and four-year-olds with communication problems.,-families



Canada: Kids with mental illness turning in desperation to hospitals at alarming rates

Too many children and youth are experiencing a mental health crisis because they can’t get the treatment they need, when and where they need it. On May 1st, 2017, Canadian Institute for Health Information released new figures which demonstrate that children and youth with mental health disorders are increasingly seeking treatment in hospitals because they cannot access treatment in their communities. Since 2006:

• Emergency department visits for mental health disorders has risen by 63% and hospitalizations by 67% in Ontario – rates are higher than the national average.
• Prevalence of mental health issues has stayed the same
• During the same time hospitalizations for all other conditions fell by 18%
• Kids are also being re-admitted at alarming rates – kids with mental health disorders are readmitted more than twice as often as those with other conditions.

Services at community-based children’s mental health treatment centres have been eroding in the last decade because funding has not kept up with demand. Service providers are increasingly required to do more, with less. Investments in the community sector could save the government $1 billion over the next five years.

New Zealand: Budget 2017 – $68.8m support for vulnerable children

Budget 2017 invests an extra $68.8 million over four years to support vulnerable children and their families, say Minister for Children Anne Tolley and Education Minister Nikki Kaye. This is part of the Government’s $321 million Social Investment Package announced by Prime Minister Bill English today. The package includes:

“It’s important to intervene early and target support to families and whanau whose children are at risk of poor education, health and social outcomes,” Mrs Tolley says. “Family Start is a good example of the Government’s social investment approach – focusing on the needs of individuals and families, intervening early, and tailoring support around what we know delivers the best results for Kiwis. Budget 2017’s investment will increase the number of Family Start places by around 570 a year to ensure the programme is available throughout the country. This extra funding means Family Start will provide intensive support to over 7,100 at-risk families at any one time.”

UK: Children's services leaders question usefulness of abuse and neglect guidance

Proposed national guidance for children's professionals on tackling child abuse and neglect is "too long", and is unlikely to have a significant impact on practice, directors of children's services have warned. The Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) has highlighted a number of concerns with the draft National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice) guidance, which the Department for Education and Department of Health want all professionals working with children to use from September. It said that, at 581 pages, plus several supporting annexes, the guidance is "too long", while specific advice on identifying child neglect is "too simplistic" and fails to take into account wider factors such as poor housing that can impact on family life. "Some of the behavioural indicators of neglect seem overly simplistic and leave little room for the consideration of factors outside of the parent/carer's immediate control, for example poor-quality housing, insecure employment and benefit sanctions," the ADCS's response to a consultation on the guidance states.

UK: Youth organisations call for election pledges on social mobility

A coalition of youth organisations has called on political parties to pledge to tackle growing social mobility problems facing young people as part of their general election commitments. The group of eight organisations, including The Scout Association, and UK Youth, has written an open letter to the main political parties ahead of the general election, arguing that action is needed as young people are finding it tougher to access housing, work and education opportunities. They are calling for election manifesto pledges to include a commitment to providing a universally accessible, high-quality youth service. They also want provision of mentoring support from "positive adult role models", readily available information, advice and guidance services. Politicians are also being urged to prioritise volunteering, paid internship, training and employment opportunities for young people.



Ontario children and youth with ADHD often prescribed antipsychotics, study finds

One in 20 Ontario children and youth have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and many are prescribed antipsychotic drugs, despite having no other mental health diagnoses, researchers have found. A study by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences found almost 12 per cent of kids and youth with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, were prescribed antipsychotics like Risperdal, Zyprexa and Seroquel. "When we looked at the information on the children and youth with ADHD who were prescribed antipsychotics, a very, very small number of them had a condition where you would expect the use of an antipsychotic – conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia," said senior author Dr. Paul Kurdyak, head of the mental health and addictions program at ICES.

UK: Schools cutting mental health services to plug funding gaps, warn MPs

Cash-strapped schools are cutting mental health services such as counsellors and pastoral provision as they try to cover funding gaps, two influential groups of MPs have said. The health and education select committees joined forces for the inquiry, which called on the government to look at the impact of budget cuts on mental health services for children. Services to support wellbeing are “the first thing to go” when budgets are under pressure, the inquiry heard. The government announced £1.25bn in additional funding for young people’s mental health in 2015, but almost 80% of primary school headteachers responding to a survey said a lack of money prevented them from providing mental health support in schools such as counsellors.

UK: Youth reoffending rises to highest level on record

The proportion of young people committing further offences within 12 months of being convicted has hit a record high. Figures published by the Ministry of Justice show that out of the 34,682 juvenile offenders who were cautioned, convicted or released from custody between July 2014 to June 2015, 13,177 (38 per cent) went on to offend again within a year. The 38 per cent reoffending rate is the highest level since recent records began in 2004, and represents a 0.2 percentage point increase on the 37.8 per cent recorded in 2013/14. The average number of reoffences was 3.35 per young person - also the highest on record. The Ministry of Justice document points out that although the figure represents an increase of 4.4 percentage points since 2004, the size of the cohort has fallen by around 77 per cent since then. Meanwhile, the proportion of young people who go on to commit further offences within 12 months of being released from custody has risen to its highest level in four years. Between July 2014 and June 2015 around 900 juvenile offenders were released from custody and around 600 of these (69.4 per cent) were proven to have committed another offence within a year. This represents an increase of 1.7 percentage points compared with the previous 12 months and is the highest level recorded since 2010/11, when the figure stood at 72.7 per cent. As part of government efforts to improve standards within the youth justice system, responsibility for youth custody has been moved from the Youth Justice Board (YJB) to a newly created Youth Custody Service, which launched last month.

South Africa: Schools in Eastern Cape need R52bn

Lobby group Equal Education has released a damning report on the inadequate infrastructure at some schools in the Eastern Cape, which highlights the basic education department’s failure to meet government’s own norms and standards. The department had undertaken to ensure that, by the end of November last year, all schools would have access to some form of power supply, water and sanitation. It also promised to construct new buildings at all schools that had been built using materials such as mud, metal, asbestos and wood. The department cites underfunding for its failure to meet the deadline. Equal Education’s report has found that at least 17 of the 60 schools it visited in the past six months constituted “an outright violation of the law”. This did not just represent individual cases of the state failing to provide for pupils, but rather indicated that there were deep, systemic failures in the education department. The lobby group’s report, titled Planning to Fail, was released at the Steve Biko Centre in Ginsberg, King William’s Town, this week after an investigation into the state of school infrastructure in November.


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