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World headlines news relating to children, youth and families

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30 MAY

USA: Nebraska efforts aim to strengthen care for troubled children

Nebraska officials on Tuesday celebrated some early successes of efforts to strengthen services and support for troubled children and their families.
Among the results so far:

Gov. Pete Ricketts said the efforts to build a “behavioral health system of care” have had a positive impact on Nebraska youths and their mental health over the past two years. “What we have seen with the system of care is that it’s working,” he said. Work on creating a system of care got underway with support from a $12 million, four-year grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The effort seeks to better coordinate services and support provided by state agencies, private nonprofit groups, local governments, behavioral health care providers, families and patient advocates. Sheri Dawson, director of behavioral health for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, said a key goal is to break down barriers so that children and families can get the care they need, no matter which agency they approach first.

South Africa: Child abuse costs country billions 

Monday marked the start of Child Protection Week and a new study released by the University of Cape Town’s Children’s Institute shows that there are mounting social and economic costs to the country of physical abuse of children. The findings of the recently published "Birth to Twenty Plus" (BT20+) study – which followed more than 2000 children in Soweto, Johannesburg, from birth to 22 years old – indicate that 99% of these children have been exposed to some form of direct or indirect violence over their lifespan. “Many people believe that we have the right to beat children but do not realise the impact that it has on them. A child can’t distinguish between ‘discipline’ and physical punishment that hurts and causes pain. Physical punishment also affects how the child develops, it affects their cognitive development and leads to aggression. Physical punishment causes fear rather than discipline,” said Professor Shanaaz Mathews, director of the Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town, and co-investigator on the BT20+ study. The social abuse and physical abuse cost the South African economy billions of rand. In their study called "Violence Unwrapped: The Social and Economic Burden of Violence Against Children in South Africa", Save the Children calculated the economic burden of violence against children in South Africa. The study estimates that physical violence against children alone cost South Africa R103.8 billion in 2015 or 2.6% of its gross domestic product. “Violence against children is the ultimate abuse of power. Adults should use their power to influence change of behaviour in a positive manner. Their power should be used to protect children and not to harm them,” Save the Children South Africa’s CEO, Gugu Ndebele, said.

UK: Free schools boost for England's worst-performing areas

The government's free school programme is being redirected towards the worst-performing areas of England, particularly the North East. Ministers are targeting the next wave of about 35 new schools in the bottom third of lowest-performing areas. It comes after criticism that the free school programme has focused on the wealthier South East. The government will also give councils £50m to create about 740 new school places for children with special needs. The money could help to build facilities including sensory rooms and playgrounds with specialist equipment. It is part of £680m which the Department for Education (DfE) has allocated to help create 40,000 more good school places in primaries and secondaries by 2021. The £50m for special needs provision follows increased demand for services and concerns that schools do not have enough places. The money could be used to create extra places in bespoke schools or within mainstream schools, the DfE said. In April, the National Education Union heard schools were at "breaking point" and highlighted the plight of the "invisible children". But Labour's shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said the funding "will not reverse the damage that years of cuts have inflicted". Announcing the money, Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "All parents want to send their child to a good local school, one that meets their individual needs and supports them to achieve their full potential, regardless of the challenges they may face. This funding will help to create thousands more school places across the country, with a clear focus on transforming the experience of education for children with special educational needs or disabilities." 

Australia: Shocking youth homelessness figures – up 43 percent in a decade in Victoria

Almost 28,000 young people are homeless on any given night in Australia, but you probably won't find many sleeping on park benches, in public spaces or on the streets. Experts and advocates say young homeless people are more likely to be found in severely crowded share accommodation, crashing on couches or in inappropriate crisis housing residences. 'Homelessness' is classified as not having a safe, secure and appropriate place to call home. So while many of these young people do have a roof over their heads, they lack the basic privacy, security and comfort that most of us take for granted. The 2016 census reported more than 116,000 Australians as homeless, with nearly 28,000 of those being between the ages of 12 and 24. That's almost a quarter of the national homeless population. In Victoria, youth homelessness increased 43 percent between 2006 and 2016. The Council to Homeless Persons said the majority of these homeless youth were in that situation due to a family breakdown or family violence. The research suggests that couch surfing can be just as damaging and traumatising as rough sleeping for young people," CHP said. The findings of the Brisbane Youth Service and Griffith Criminology Institute were that young couch surfers had increased rates of suicide risk and self-harming behaviour, and poorer mental health. The federal Labor spokesperson on housing and homelessness, Doug Cameron, called on the government to pay greater attention to the issue. "The 2016 Census provides a sobering reminder of the need for the Government to prioritise youth homelessness in Australia," Cameron said in a statement. 

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28 MAY

Netherlands: Second part of study on the participation of children in youth care published

Dr. Stephanie Rap, Denise Verkroost, LL.M. and prof. Mariëlle Bruning conducted a research on the participation of children in youth care in the Netherlands. In 2016 the first part, a legal desk-research on the possibilities for children to participate in youth care procedures and decision-making in the Netherlands, was completed. It resulted in a (Dutch) research report and an article in the Dutch journal on Family and Child Law. In the first report it was concluded that the possibilities for children to participate in accessing youth care are unclear and that the differences between the various local municipalities can be substantial. The second part of this study considers the practical implementation of the right to be heard in the youth care system. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were held with twenty professionals from organisations involved in the implementation of youth care services and child protection orders in the Netherlands. Participants consider child participation as important and meaningful. The age of the child is an important determining factor when it comes to whether he or she is given the opportunity to participate. Generally, a minimum age limit of twelve years is applied. The possibilities of children to participate are better guaranteed in the compulsory youth care (in case of a child protection order) compared to voluntary youth care. In the – unregulated – coercive framework, the possibilities to participate are strongly dependent on the local municipality and the involved professionals. The report concludes with extensive recommendations for improving the opportunities for child participation in practice and suggestions for further research. 

USA: Foster parents introduce program to keep foster parents, caseworkers connected

When Jason Bays and his wife Nikki became foster parents in Michigan, they struggled to find a software system that would easily allow them to record their children’s daily activities and share those with caseworkers and other stakeholders on a child’s case. After struggling with a few software programs for a while, Jason, whose career is in IT, decided to create his own program, which they’ve used for the last two years. Earlier this month the couple launched the commercial version of FosterCare.Team. Designed specifically for the foster care community, the program can easily be used by foster parents, counselors, caseworkers, supervisors and agencies. During the development process, Bays met with people in various roles at agencies to get input on functions in the program. The program meets a wide range of needs, allowing caseworkers to track a child’s progress at school, which a counselor may access to see what behaviors may be flaring up at school or home. “I greatly appreciated utilizing FosterCare.Team,” said Jennifer Fedewa, adoption specialist with D.A. Blodgett St. John’s in Grand Rapids, Mich. “Whenever I had a few minutes, I could log on to obtain recent updates regarding the children instead of having to call or email the foster parents every week or every other week to find out about how the children were doing and to receive updates after medical appointments or school evaluations.” Some of the features include journaling, behavior tracking, photo galleries, discussion forums, file management and a searchable data archive. A shared calendar makes it easy to track court dates, birth family visitations and other important dates. It can be found at https://fostercare.team.

UK: Local authority crisis schemes 'failing to support families'

Crisis support schemes run by local authorities are failing to operate effectively with increasing numbers of families turning instead to food banks and other voluntary agencies for help, a report has found. A study by The Children's Society and the Church of England found that local authority-run schemes to provide food, fuel and furniture to people in crisis, known as local welfare assistance schemes are helping relatively few people compared to the former Social Fund, leaving voluntary and other statutory agencies trying to fill the gap. The Children's Society has called for stronger leadership from local authorities in developing effective crisis support for families in need. The report, Not Making Ends Meet, concludes that a lack of publicity, bureaucratic hurdles, and restrictive eligibility criteria appear to be deterring people from applying help under the schemes. Instead, people needing help are relying on a "patchwork of local crisis support networks including food banks, with effective and consistent provision varying from one area to another". One mother fleeing domestic violence with her children told the report's authors that she barely ate for five weeks while she waited for her new benefit claim to be processed and that if it hadn't been for financial help from friends and family she probably would have returned to her abuser.

USA: Texas foster kids continue to sleep in state offices

It appears that the Texas foster care system still needs a good deal of work, despite a federal order to overhaul the system. As The Austin American-Statesman reports, last month 50 foster children were forced to sleep in Child Protective Services offices for at least two consecutive nights as they awaited placement. The news comes even after Gov. Greg Abbott’s office has allocated over half a million dollars toward fixing the beleaguered system. The money was used to create more beds for children during those times of transition. Those beds, Houston, Abilene, San Antonio and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, cost the state $400 per night, and they’re 95% occupied. While the number of foster kids sleeping in officers has declined since last year, the goal is obviously to have zero children bedding down in the offices of state workers. Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for CPS, said his agency is working on the problem “around the clock, seven days a week.”

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25 MAY

Ireland: Self-harm among youth surges 22%

The rate of self-harming among children and young people soared 22% over a 10-year period to the end of 2016. A study by the National Suicide Research Foundation also found a rise in the use of “lethal methods” of self-harming, which might be linked to exposure to certain websites, and a rise in the rate of self-harming among those aged 10 to 14. However, the rate of self-harming was most pronounced among those aged 20-24 and those aged 15-19. The study used data from the National Self-Harm Registry Ireland involving around 30,000 people. The average rate of self-harm among 10- to 24-year-olds was 318 per 100,000 and peak rates were among 15- to 19-year-old females (564 per 100,000) and 20- to 24-year-old males (448 per 100,000). The lead author, Eve Griffin of University College Cork, said: “We observed large increases in self-harm in early adulthood. In Ireland, there are limited formal connections between child and adolescent and adult mental health services, which means that some young people do not make that transition. “There may be an unmet need in terms of clinical services for this group.” A recent report published found 70 children of school-going age died by suicide last year as mental health professionals begged for more staff. The 70 children whose deaths were recorded by the National Educational Psychological Service did not include children aged 16-18 who were not at school.

South Africa: State schools stunting children's development, says shocking new report

The South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) said on Tuesday that a report of theirs exposed the extent to which the State-run school system was stunting the development of South Africa’s children, especially black pupils. The IRR said the report, titled "Parents, not politicians, must run South Africa’s schools" was the first edition of FreeFACTS that they complied. "The report argues that the bulk of our state schools 'are not in the main inferior because of a shortage of money. Many emerging markets spend less on education than South Africa, but produce much better results'," the IRR said. "In South Africa’s case, however, 'corruption, destructive trade unions, ideological dogma, and incompetent bureaucrats and politicians are responsible for the fact that only a small majority of children will be well educated’." The institute said their research showed that ‘when communities control schools, results improve’, they said the report marked the case for a constructive alternative, suggesting that ‘a shortcut to much better education is to get bureaucrats out and let parents take over’. "The data in this report shows, among other things, that only 33 percent of matric candidates ‘passed’ maths with a grade of 40 percent or higher, that just 29.2 percent of schools have a library, that only 18.3 percent of government schools have a science laboratory, and that only 13 percent of the 2006 grade-1 class managed a university entry qualification when they wrote matric in 2017," author of the report, IRR Campaign Manager Marius Roodt said. "This may be the future of your child if you don’t find an alternative outside of the government school system – but few people can afford private schools." The report noted, however, that alternative approaches capable of achieving the ‘short cut’ to better education outcomes were feasible. The IRR said schools should be sold to community groups, churches, non-profit organisations, and private education providers for a nominal fee and let them run such schools within agreed guidelines.

Australia: Fewer children in detention but Indigenous rate falling more slowly

Fewer children are being held in detention and subjected to community supervision orders, but the rates are dropping much more slowly for Indigenous children. More than 5,300 children aged between 10 and 17 were in detention or under community supervision by youth justice officers last financial year, a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows. There are about 1,000 fewer children under supervision compared with five years ago, but the likelihood of Indigenous children being subject to some sort of youth justice supervision order has risen from 15 to 18 times that of non-Indigenous children. The rate of non-Indigenous children under supervision has fallen by 22% since the 2012-13 financial year, compared with a 9% drop for Indigenous children. “This has resulted in even greater Indigenous over-representation in youth justice supervision,” the institute spokesman David Braddock said. “The states and territories have successfully dropped the rates of both groups but they have had greater success for non-Indigenous kids than Indigenous kids.” “Indigenous young people were over-represented in youth justice supervision in every state and territory,” the report said.

UK: Scouts to expand to further 500 deprived areas and trial early years provision

Efforts will be made to set up Scout groups in 500 more deprived areas, and trial provision for children under the age of six as part of a new five-year strategy, the Scout Association has said. The uniformed youth work organisation said it wants to focus on growing its numbers by 50,000 more young people by 2023, increasing access to Scouting for young people "from all walks of life". The aim to extend the movement to 500 more deprived areas follows the establishment of 834 units in deprived areas since 2013. The new strategy also commits to greater support for volunteers, with a renewed focus on improving volunteer recruitment, training, and support. And the organisation has also said it will explore the potential for early years provision and intends to research, pilot, and evaluate different models to extend Scouting to under-sixes. Matt Hyde, chief executive of the Scouts said: "Scouting in the UK has experienced unprecedented growth in the last 13 years, with nearly half a million young people coming to Scouts each week to gain skills for life. "This gives us a powerful and important role to play in local communities, as we continue our work to bring communities together and champion inclusiveness, social mobility and civic participation. "This knowledge is at the heart of our new strategy, which is all about preparing young people for their futures by equipping them the skills that they need to succeed in life - practical skills, character skills and employability skills."

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23 MAY

Ireland: Minister Zappone initiates review and consultation in respect of the potential introduction of open or semi-open adoption

Dr Katherine Zappone TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, announced that last Friday 18th May, her Department initiated a review in respect of the potential introduction of open or semi-open adoption in Ireland. The review and subsequent consultation will need to consider the implications of:

The outcomes of this review and subsequent consultation will also be influenced by a variety of issues including: the legal and constitutional issues in relation to the status of the family under the Constitution, the impact of the referendum on children’s rights and any family relationships legislation. The views of a wide range stakeholders and people who are affected by adoption will be considered. A report on the findings of the review and consultation will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas not later than 18 months after its commencement, i.e. by Friday 15 November 2019. In conclusion the Minister said “My Department's overriding approach to any proposed change in adoption policy is that the primary focus is what is in the child's best interests.”

Australia: NSW launches drive to give children in care 'forever' families

New South Wales carers will receive more support and training under a new state government program designed to give children in care a permanent home. The My Forever Family program announced on Tuesday by the minister for family and community services, Pru Goward, is “the first program of its kind in Australia”. A discussion paper was released last year proposing a series of reforms for those wanting to adopt, consideration of stripping parental rights from those jailed over the abuse of their child, early intervention and simplifying court processes. Goward said the new program to start on 1 July would educate adoptive parents, carers and prospective guardians about the different ways they could support vulnerable children and families. “The program is focused on children having a family for life, not just until they are 18,” Goward said. Under the program, children will be matched with families who best support their needs – these could also include carers who can support restoring relations with the child’s birth family, prospective guardians or adoptive parents. A recruitment strategy for Aboriginal people will also be included, to ensure children stay connected to their families and community. The My Forever Family, run by Adopt Change, replaces Fostering NSW and Connecting Carers. 

UK: Young people want restrictions on apps to prevent addiction

Young people want restrictions on phone and tablet apps to stop users spending too much time on them or becoming addicted. A survey conducted by the University of Birmingham found young people believed their were dangers as well as benefits in social media use, and some believed it had helped them develop addictive behaviour, encouraged them to try “extreme” diets or to become obsessed with the way they look. They felt that social media companies had a responsibility to protect young people from the damage that social media could cause. Academics said: “Young people suggested that the liability/accountability lies with the social media sites and app developers, and feel that mechanisms should be in place to protect young people against inappropriate content that reaches them (e.g., fake news) and restrictions should be placed on apps to prevent excessive usage and the development of addictive behaviours.” The findings were published in a submission to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the impact of social media and screen-use on young people’s health. Academics carried out research involving 1,691 young people aged 13 to 18, who were asked about their engagement with social media, apps and wearable devices, and how it affected their health and well-being. 

Study: Teens exposed to more junk food ads eat more junk food

According to the largest study of its kind, people aged 11 to 19 who watched one extra advertisement per week about junk food, over the average of six, ate an additional 350 calories in foods high in salt, sugar and fat every week, adding up to 18,000 extra calories per year. The study of 3,300 teens, titled Familiarity With Junk-Food Ads Linked with Obesity in Young People, was conducted by Cancer Research UK and is being presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna from May 23 to 26. According to a press release, it is "the first to look at online TV viewing in such a systematic fashion, and adds to the growing evidence that TV and streaming adverts can influence young people's unhealthy diet." Obesity has many complex causes, but previous research has shown links between junk and fast food advertising and rates of childhood obesity, according to the study. All the teens were able to remember a junk food or fast food advertisement they saw while watching TV, and 80 percent of the brands they were able to recall had at least one fast food product as their top product. Researchers also said that those from what they described as a "more deprived background" were more likely to recall such advertisements. "The food industry wouldn't pump hundreds of millions into advertising their products by creating catchy adverts if it didn't get people to eat more," the authors said. "With today's teens spending more time in front of screens than any other activity apart from sleeping, curbing exposure to junk food ads on streaming platforms as well as TV will be key to helping teens make healthy diet choices and reducing obesity rates."

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21 MAY

USA: Suicide-related hospitalizations rising among youth, highest during school months

An increasing number of children and adolescents in the United States are struggling with suicidal thoughts as well as attempts. Data from hospitals across the U.S. were examined in a research led by Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The study looked into data from children's hospitals across the country, analyzing trends in the emergency room and inpatient encounters for suicide ideation and attempts. The patients were between the ages 5 and 17 years while the data spanned the period from 2008 to 2015. Lead author Dr. Greg Plemmons is an associate professor of clinical pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. He stated the findings reflected a trend that he himself had observed: Encounters dipped to lowest levels in the summer but peaked during the fall and spring. This seasonal variation indicated the need to address academic pressure, bullying, and school-related stress factors. "To our knowledge, this is one of only a few studies to report higher rates of hospitalization for suicide during the academic school year," Plemmons said. "All the factors that we know contribute – such as cyberbullying and regular bullying and traumatic events and the daily news – it really is a different world for kids growing up. This is the first generation that has not known a world without social media," he said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for those aged between 10 and 24.

UK: New £1000 support for young care leavers starting an apprenticeship 

Care leavers who choose to start an apprenticeship will receive a £1000 bursary to help the transition into the workplace. Care leavers will be boosted by a new £1,000 bursary payment if they choose to do an apprenticeship from August 2018, the Government has announced. The extra financial support will be for those aged 16-24 and help them in the first year of their apprenticeship as learners transition into the workplace for their practical studies. This change is one of a small number of improvements – including increasing the number of apprenticeship funding bands – which will come into effect from August 2018. Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton said: "We know those leaving care can experience additional barriers to getting an apprenticeship. Everyone should get a chance to be able to start an apprenticeship and change their life, so I’m really pleased that as we see how we can make the apprenticeship system work better we are able to offer this extra support for those leaving care."  Chief Executive of The Children’s Society Matthew Reed said: "It can be hugely difficult for children leaving care to manage their finances for the first time without the family support enjoyed by other young people and they are more likely than their peers to not be in education, employment and training. Care leavers have told us how they have struggled to make ends meet and pay the bills after taking up an apprenticeship on low rates of pay when they cannot rely on additional support from parents such as being able to continue living in the family home. That’s why The Children’s Society called on the Government to offer an additional grant to all care leavers in their first year of an apprenticeship, when pay can be as low as £3.70 an hour, and we are delighted that ministers have listened. We hope this grant will make apprenticeships a more viable option for young people looking to find work after leaving care and help set them on the path to a brighter future.

South Africa: 41% of rapes committed are against children 

Statistics reveal that more than 2 600 children were murdered in the country over the last three years – 5% of all murders. Furthermore, children were the victims in 41% of the 124 526 rapes reported in the same period. “These statistics are disturbing at the very least, and likely to worsen given the numerous crises within the SAPS leadership. It is clear that without political will, the police will continue to fail in its mandate to ensure the reduction of the country’s unacceptably high levels of crime and (to protect) all South Africans, especially children,” DA MP Zakhele Mbhele said. He had received the statistics in a reply to a parliamentary question. Mbhele said drastic action had to be taken against the senseless loss of life and the brutal murders of children. NGO Save The Children said the statistics are shocking. “We are aware of the rates of abuse, but people are not disgusted by it enough to take action. Some of these children are killed by the people they know,” said Save The Children chief executive Gugu Ndebele. She said this was a clear indication that the police were not adequately equipped to deal with violence against children. “We need to have trained police officers to deal with child violence because when a child reports that they have been hit or raped, in many cases the police don’t know what to do.”Director of the UCT Children’s Institute Professor Shanaaz Matthews said violence against children could not be managed from a criminal justice perspective. “It is multifaceted and requires a response from a range of actors. For example, a child often discloses abuse after months (often a normal response) for fear of being blamed, or after being threatened not to tell – medical evidence is absent as the injuries have healed, but the trauma remains and the family dynamics need to be handled,” Matthews said.

USA: The FDA is continuing to crack down on youth e-cigarette use

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is ramping up its efforts to curtail youth use of e-cigarettes – and demanding answers from some of the companies that make them. The FDA on Thursday announced that official requests for information were sent to five e-cigarette manufacturers: J Well, for Bo Starter Kit; YGT Investment LLC and 7 Daze LLC, for Zoor Kit; Liquid Filling Solutions LLC, for Myle Products; and SVR Inc., for SMPO Kit. The agency is requesting information about the companies’ marketing practices, product design and consumer complaints, in an effort to understand the youth appeal of their products, which are not legally available to minors. The requests come about a month after the FDA sent a similar letter to the makers of the wildly popular Juul e-cigarette. “Too many kids continue to experiment with e-cigarette and vaping products, putting them at risk for developing a lifelong nicotine addiction,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. “These products should never be marketed to, sold to, or used by kids and it’s critical that we take aggressive steps to address the youth use of these products.” The FDA said the companies included in the latest batch of requests were selected because, like Juul Labs, their products use high-nicotine e-liquids, are small and easily hidden and are designed for simple use. The companies have until July 12 to respond. 

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18 MAY

UK: Green Paper on child mental-health does ‘little for young children’, charities warn

Two years after the Prime Minister vowed to tackle “burning injustices”, the Government is failing the children most at risk of mental-health problems, charities have warned. Their concerns about the Government’s Green Paper on child mental-health echo those of MPs: the Education and Health and Social Care Committees’ review, published last week, concluded that the paper “lacks ambition and will provide no help to the majority of children who desperately need it”. “The Government’s plans do little to improve support for the most vulnerable groups of children, including those affected by sexual abuse and neglect, domestic violence and drug and alcohol misuse, those excluded from school, and refugee children,” the chief executive of the Children’s Society, Matthew Reed, said. The latest ONS statistics suggest that one in ten children in Britain is living with a diagnosable mental-health condition. The rate is higher among those in care or in the criminal-justice system, LGBT children, those with disabilities, and those from economically disadvantaged families. At the age of 11, children from the poorest 20 per cent of households are four times more likely to have a serious mental-health difficulty than those in the wealthiest 20 per cent. The Select Committee expresses disappointment that this element was not part of the review underpinning the Green Paper, describing it as “out of step” with the Prime Minister’s stated commitment to addressing “burning injustices”. It also says that the proposals “will not meet the needs of looked-after children” – and “may well exacerbate them”.  The British Psychological Society has called for a “seismic shift” in children’s provision. 

Canada: Wabaseemoong Children and Youth Centre opening celebrated

Bob Nault, Member of Parliament (Kenora riding) released the following statement regarding the grand opening of Wabaseemoong’s Child and Youth Wellness Centre: “We all want our families and community to be happy, healthy and safe, and today’s grand opening is a significant step on Wabaseemoong’s journey. Access to services, particularly culturally appropriate medical services, are a critical part of treatment and recovery, and now the children and youth of Wabaseemoong have access to this necessary programming within their own community. “This much-needed programming was made possible through a federal government investment of nearly $1.5 million from Jordan’s Principle; a federal government program that works to ensure that First Nations children receive the care and services they need, when and where they need them. This fiscal year alone, approximately $177 million was made available across Canada, to help fund the needed products and services to First Nations children. “It is an honour to join in the celebrations today, and acknowledge the hard work and dedication of Chief John Paishk, the council, and other community members who saw this project through.”

UK: Councils 'underpaying guardians and not offering full support'

Some local authorities routinely flout the law by failing to provide appropriate levels of financial support to carers who “do the right thing” by becoming legal parents to child relatives, the local government watchdog has said. Inquiries by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman revealed that councils were paying special guardians at less than the legal rate, often incorrectly calculating allowances, then changing and cutting them without consultation. After one case investigated by the ombudsman, a local authority agreed to make backdated payments to more than 170 carers after systematically and unlawfully underpaying them over a six-year period, despite being alerted early on to their error. Campaigners, who say the chaotic and inconsistent nature of state support too often leaves carers in poverty, welcomed the report and called on ministers to take action to ensure that councils were able to ensure that special guardians were fairly and consistently treated. “Special guardians are relatives and friends who have done the right thing by children who would otherwise be in care system … Too often local authorities ride roughshod over their and the children’s needs, taking advantage of these carers’ good nature and lack of knowledge of the system,” said Cathy Ashley, chief executive of Family Rights Group. The ombudsman, Michael King, said: “It is imperative that these children and their guardians get the right support available to them – and without having to fight the system to get what they are entitled to.”

South Africa: Violence against children cost the economy R238bn in 2015 

Save the Children South Africa estimated that the social and economic burden of violence against children was at R238.58-billion in 2015 alone. The organisation was briefing the portfolio committee on basic education on Tuesday on the results of its costing study on violence against children. It was also briefing the committee on key activities to be implemented to prevent such violence. Save the Children South Africa came to this figure by looking at a number of cost categories‚ including reduced earnings due to physical violence against children and emotional violence against children‚ and child welfare costs. In its presentation to the committee‚ the organisation’s CEO Gugu Ndebele said violence against children needed to be managed comprehensively. She suggested that children should be trained in identifying and reporting abuse. Ndebele added that parents and caregivers should be empowered on positive parenting and that there should be a ban on corporal punishment at home. This includes preventing it from occurring by having effective and skilled professionals‚ good quality early childhood development and education for all stakeholders including parents. 

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16 MAY

Canada: BC youth watchdog launches children’s rights campaign 

B.C.’s watchdog for children and youth has been around for more than a decade, so you’d think most people would have heard of the office by now. The sad reality is, however, that there are always new generations of children in need — many of whom have no idea about their rights or where they can turn for help. So Bernard Richard, the current representative for children and youth, kicked off an 18-month tour of the province Tuesday to teach kids about their rights and how his independent office can advocate on their behalf. “Youth is fleeting,” he said. “In the 11 years that the office has been around, a lot of youth have aged out of care and a new cohort comes in every year. So this is work that will always need to be done. Also, it is the reality that that a lot of people don’t know about our [office] — even professionals. It always surprises me to meet people who are maybe nurses or even teachers who don’t really know the work that we do.” Richard said the tour will visit schools, Aboriginal friendship centres, First Nations and child-welfare offices. Richard said the main message that he hopes children and youth get from the tour is that if they’re vulnerable, they have a place where they can go for help. “We can’t necessarily resolve all of their issues, but if their needs are around mental-health issues or moves from school to school — these are things that we intervene on all the time.” He said it’s also important for teachers and others to know that they can contact his office if they’re worried that one of their students is not getting the help they need with mental-health issues or special needs. 

UK: Rich families use 'privilege to opt out' of child services

Rich families are using "privilege" to disrupt or avoid child abuse investigations, a report has found. Goldsmiths University found wealthy households were effectively "opting out" of the child protection system. Social workers had uncovered cases of sexual exploitation and emotional abuse, but found children's services were biased towards poorer families. Professor Claudia Bernard, who led the study, said neglect cases in affluent areas often went "under the radar". The study received an overwhelming response from social workers who were frustrated by the way they were treated, she said. All respondents found richer families had a "sense of privilege", subjecting social workers to a level of scrutiny that poorer families did not. Social workers serving 12 local authorities around the UK were interviewed for the study. In one case parents of a young girl disclosing sexual abuse complained to the council about the investigation. Social workers were then rebuffed by school nurses who said there was no way the child's "great mum" would ignore such abuse. Teenagers in private fee-paying and boarding schools, often isolated from their parents, had complex safeguarding needs, the report found. Often the issues only came to authorities' attention when parents were dealing with an acrimonious separation and needed a child welfare report, the study said. The study called for social workers to be trained to deal with affluent families. The City of London Corporation, which commissioned the report, announced it was adopting the findings into its Service Improvement Plan. 

Italy leads the way in foster care for unaccompanied minors

'Profuce' project, an initiative to support the foster care of unaccompanied minor migrants, has been launched in Italy. It has been widely agreed that the foster care system in Europe must be strengthened in order to deal with the high number of unaccompanied minor migrant arrivals. This is the objective behind the project, "Profuce," aimed at promoting foster care for unaccompanied children across Europe. The project involves increasing the number of foster families, as well as providing new tools to parents and social workers for taking care of unaccompanied minor migrants. The project, which consist of a two-year program, is financed by the European Commission. The organization, "Istituto degli Innocenti," is heading the project in Italy, in cooperation with the City of Florence, and the non-profit Villaggio SOS in Vicenza. Greece and Bulgaria are also participating in the project. Profuce will launch recruitment campaigns to find foster families, with a total of 280 parents to be involved in the project. It will include training for social workers and for families, which will be coordinated in Italy by the "Istituto degli Innocenti." The training will use the "Alternative Family Care" method (ALFACA), developed by Nidos, a Dutch NGO. The method focuses on dealing with cultural differences, as well as psychological problems and focusing on the minor's best interests. With this method, importance is placed on certain aspects of a child's life, such as a strong bond with their family of origin and their own country.

Facebook creates youth portal to give teens tips about using its service

Facebook has created an online resource center for teenagers to learn tips and tricks for using the social networking service. On Monday, the technology giant debuted the Youth Portal, intended for teens to better understand how to control their Facebook settings, like determining who is allowed to see certain posts, as well as learning how other teenagers use Facebook to raise awareness about humanitarian issues. Facebook said that it consulted with an unspecified number of teenagers in the U.S., Italy, the United Kingdom, and Brazil in designing the new site. Some of the information that the Youth Portal provides includes safety tips for teenagers to adhere to when posting on Facebook. In one tip, Facebook recommends that teens ask themselves whether they would feel comfortable reading out loud to their parents or grandparents the contents of a Facebook post before posting it. Another recommendation is that teenagers not give out personal information to people they just met online and to only accept Facebook friend requests from people they know. Facebook also created a section in the Youth Portal about data privacy that shows teenagers how to change their user settings so that their posts or status updates only show to specific groups of people like their close friends or acquaintances. The social networking company’s release of a youth information center comes amid a general backlash against tech companies for failing to account for how their services will be used by children. A few of Apple’s big shareholders, for example, urged the company to address the rise of smartphone addiction and other negative consequences that the overuse of smartphones present to children. Apple then debuted its “Families” site in March as a way for parents to learn how to better monitor how their children use smartphones and apps. 

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14 MAY

New Zealand: $1.6m youth justice centre revamp 'signal' to tamariki

It was always much more than just a name change. That's the view of Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne​ Moss. Moss was speaking to Stuff inside Rotorua's Te Maioha o Parekarangi youth justice facility ahead of Children's Minister Tracey Martin officially celebrating the centre's $1.6 million refurbishment. "This is a new Ministry, we wanted to be working differently, putting children front and centre," she said. Moss said the refurbishment did away with the graffiti, scared walls, scratched glass and general wear and tear of the facility – and it's a process set to be rolled out to youth justice facilities in Auckland and Christchurch. She said an essential element in the change was getting the youth on board. "There's not an area they haven't touched," she said. "It is their home at the moment." She also said that despite skepticism from some, youth justice worked well in New Zealand. "Eighty-two percent never come back into contact with youth justice again," she said. The refresh appears to have been welcomed across the board. One of the youth residents said the new surroundings motivated them to take pride in the place and maintain its look. "It's refreshing and feels brand new. Gives you a clean feeling when you walk in the unit compared to before, yuck." Speaking at the Friday night celebration – after a thunderous haka from the youth – Martin said the Rotorua revamp, and the two that are set to follow, was a tangible expression of Oranga Tamariki's focus on improving the number of safe and loving places available for young people. "We want all young people in the care of Oranga Tamariki to know that their voices are heard so they get the services they need and that matter to them," she said.

South Africa: City of Johannesburg shines light on autism

The City of Johannesburg’s Social and Health Department hosted an autism workshop with medical doctors last week. The aim of the workshop was to equip doctors to recognise autism when it is presented to them by patients who visit the City’s 81 clinics. Member of the Mayoral Committee for Health and Social Development Dr Mpho Phalatse, who was the brainchild of the workshop, feels her department has an important role to play in making the lives of people with disability better. ​“Doctors need to be equipped to serve the residents better and can be a key point of contact for referrals,” said MMC Phalatse at the workshop. The workshop was also attended by the National Director of Autism South Africa, Sandy Usswald, who gave an excellent presentation on the history of autism, the symptoms associated with autism, and some of the myths about the condition. Usswald said autism is lifelong disorder that will affect people differently. According to Usswald, “South Africa has a few autism specialist and many children can wait for years before getting the right diagnosis”. This is alarming because early intervention can improve the development of autistic children. The City of Johannesburg’s Department of Health and Social Development wants to be at the forefront of creating awareness for autism and other disabilities. The City’s 81 clinics are the first point of contact for many residents seeking medical care and the clinics need to be informed enough to make referrals.  

UK: Aid sector urged to crack down on war zone child abusers

Sex offenders and paedophiles are travelling to the world’s conflict zones to prey on vulnerable children, the National Crime Agency has warned. Robert Jones, deputy director of the NCA’s child exploitation and online protection command, said offenders were exploiting the chaos of war and areas hit by natural disaster. He urged the aid sector to help make it as difficult as possible for individuals to commit crimes abroad. Jones said: “The challenge of impoverished children being exploited and people going to conflict zones to identify and exploit vulnerability needs a global effort to tackle it. People will identify vulnerability in a conflict zone, or an area hit by natural disaster. It’s a trait of their character that they will almost sniff that vulnerability out and then prey on it.” His comments coincide with calls for the UN to demonstrate leadership on the issue. The toolkit assesses safeguarding measures, trains staff and makes sure UN staff are aware of the laws in relevant countries. On Friday a UK delegation travelled to New York to encourage support among UN security council members for the organisation, which has 100,000 uniformed peacekeeping personnel, to implement robust child safeguarding measures. Academics from the University of Reading and the London-based charity Keeping Children Safe have developed a toolkit they say will close a “gap in the UN’s protection agenda” and help safeguard minors from potential exploitation and abuse. The NCA’s Jones welcomed the attempts to tighten protective measures in peacekeeping and humanitarian situations, and said that creating a “very strong misconduct regime in the aid sector” would help.“The crucial thing is that, if inappropriate behaviour has been detected, [staff] don’t just resign, move or reinvent themselves and travel to the next conflict to do what they have done before.” 

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11 MAY

Northern Ireland: Consultation launched on looked after children strategy

The Department of Health [DoH] and Department of Education [DE] have launched a public consultation on the draft Strategy for Looked After Children: Improving Children’s Lives. Both departments have pledged to support children and young people in care; those on the edge of care and also those young people who have left care and are still in need of some support. The draft Strategy was developed with the input of children in care and other stakeholders and aims to improve the life outcomes for looked after children. NI’s Chief Social Work Officer, Sean Holland is encouraging children and young people who are care experienced to give their views. He said: “It’s really important that care experienced children and young people help shape the Strategy. We have a draft, which we now want to take views on and I want to strongly encourage them to consider the draft Strategy and to make their views known. They know better than anybody what steps we need to take to make life better for a child or young person in care and I really believe that we can always do better.” Tommy O’Reilly, Deputy Secretary at the Department of Education, said: “We are committed to helping these children achieve their full potential in line with their peers and to reduce the differences which currently exist in areas such as educational achievement. The Strategy looks at ways to address the issues facing children and young people in care in the areas of health, education, personal safety, economic and environmental well-being and their ability to make a positive contribution to society.” The Consultation will be open from 9 May 2018 to 4 July 2018 and DoH and DE would encourage everyone to take the opportunity to contribute via the following link: https://consultations.nidirect.gov.uk

Canada: HSCA aims to strengthen the voice of youth

Next week Children’s Aid Societies across the province, the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) and the Ontario Child Advocate’s Office will be paying tribute to children and youth in care. Youth in care from across the province will gather at Toronto City Hall on May 14 for a program inspired by recent youth-driven advocacy and political action – both at home and around the world. “This year we saw significant and positive changes happening for youth,” stated a media release by Highland Shores Children’s Aid (HSCA). On Jan. 1, provisions contained in the new Child Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA) raised the age of protection to include services for 16 and 17-year olds. “The objective of raising the age of protection is to support the delivery of child protection services to all eligible youth until their 18th birthday,” stated the release. “This change has been something the child welfare sector has long advocated for and we strongly support this initiative while also recognizing that additional community supports are required given the complex developmental, social, and emotional needs of many youth.”HSCA is looking to “strengthen the voice of youth” by adding a former youth in the care of a CAS to its board of directors. The society is also looking for community members who are over the age of 21 and who have had experience in the care of a Children’s Aid Society, whether that was HSCA or another CAS within Ontario.  

USA: A new report on reforming probation practices for juveniles

In the past 20 years, juvenile justice system reforms have led to far fewer young people being held in juvenile detention centers. But the report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation says little has changed in the use of probation for young people. According to Steve Bishop, senior associate at the AECF Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, probation is too often used as another form of punishment. "The research that we have about adolescent development is pretty convincing that young people respond better to rewards, incentives, opportunities, experiences – things like that, that better motivate them – than the threat of punishment," he points out. The report recommends transforming juvenile probation from a system based on compliance and sanctions to one of incentives and individualized goals. A 2014 study in Ohio found that low-risk young people placed on probation were 50 percent more likely to re-offend than those who weren't placed on probation. Bishop points out that recent research into adolescent brain development suggests taking juvenile justice practices in a new direction would enhance both community safety and the futures of young people. "Reduce probation caseloads by diverting greater share of cases from juvenile court altogether,” he states, “and then refashioning probation into a more targeted, focused and effective intervention for the smaller population of youths that would remain on caseloads." The report notes that smaller caseloads let probation officers work more intensively with families and communities to help young people thrive. 

Canada: Toronto tops list of most youth-friendly cities

A first-ever ranking of Canada’s “most youthful” cities puts Toronto on top as the best place for young people to live, work and play, based on metrics such as the cost of a transit pass, monthly rent and concert tickets along with measures of youth unemployment, digital access and crime stats. The index, published Wednesday by Youthful Cities, a Toronto-based social enterprise, examines how attractive 13 Canadian cities are to people between the ages of 15 and 29. The rankings are based on 121 different indicators – collected by young people across Canada - and weighted by using an opinion survey of youth on what matters most to them. It’s a work in progress with longer-term plans to create an advisory panel and to be published annually. The index come as demographics in Canada are shifting: For the first time ever, seniors outnumber children, according to 2016 census data, a change that is reshaping everything from the labour market to health-care demand and the tax base. Municipalities will need to attract, engage and retain young people to their cities – and jobs market - or risk losing out. Youth “are needed more than ever before in our aging society and yet they are more mobile – youth vote with their feet,” the report said, adding that its 2016 survey found seven in 10 North American youth said they would leave their current city in the next several years. “Competition for this important labour force will intensify, yet there is a crisis of youth engagement in our cities.”

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9 MAY

USA: Minnesota program turns to data to find and help at-risk students

A project seeking to identify students who are at risk of turning to crime, and offering them help to steer clear of it, took a big step in Ramsey County last week. In order for the effort to succeed, it’s important to be able to predict juvenile justice involvement, and that task was made easier by the formation of a new joint powers board that will oversee a broad data review. The board is to include representatives of the county, the city of St. Paul, and the St. Paul and Northeast Metro 916 school districts – all coming together for an initiative that has been nearly four years in the making. Advocates concerned about the overrepresentation of people of color in the criminal justice system are expected to monitor the effort. The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office has taken the lead in the project, which coincided with a separate call two years ago for a community task force to promote safe schools. The task force was formed in the wake of increased student-on-staff violence across the county, and among its members was Connie Hayes, superintendent of the Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District. Last week, Northeast Metro 916 was the last of the four entities to sign onto the joint powers board. Other districts and cities could join later. “We are honored to be among the first to begin this important collaboration,” Syreeta Wilkins, a Northeast Metro 916 spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “Our hope is that by working with agencies and families to offer comprehensive, individualized support, and proactive, early interventions, we can empower children and youth to reach their full potential outside of the criminal justice system.” The county is one of two sites nationally that the National Council on Crime and Delinquency has selected to help develop a system to identify the factors contributing to delinquency. The other site is in New York City. 

Canada: Nova Scotia to hire over 190 to boost support of classrooms with behavioural issues, autism 

The hirings include 40 child youth care practitioners, 60 education assistants and 70 specialist teachers with expertise in supporting children with behavioural challenges. Education Minister Zach Churchill says the new hirings will include a range of professionals to support teachers whom he says “can’t do it alone.” The hirings include 40 child youth care practitioners and 60 education assistants; 70 specialist teachers with expertise in supporting children with behavioural challenges; 11 parent navigators to help families get programs and services; four student health nurses; and six school psychologists and speech language pathologists. The department is also funding eight alternative education programs throughout the province and two achieve programs to help students with complex needs to prepare for life after high school. Teachers will also received specialized training to help deal with complex classrooms, and teacher and education assistants will also receive training in autism support. The announcement follows the release of an independent commission’s report on inclusive education in March that recommended hiring between 600 and 700 more specialists by 2022. Commission chairwoman Sarah Shea said it would take time and further resources to fully meet the report’s goals, but she called Churchill’s announcement on Tuesday “an excellent start.” “The planned steps align well with the areas that were identified as priorities and provide more support for students, parents, and educators,” Shea said in a government news release. 

Canada: Ontario connecting Black youth and families to community supports

Ontario is connecting Black youth and their families to community supports with 11 new enhanced youth outreach workers in communities across the province. Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services and Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism, was at TAIBU Community Health Centre in Toronto today to announce the expansion of the Youth Outreach Worker program, part of Ontario's Black Youth Action Plan. TAIBU Community Health Centre is one of 11 organizations receiving funding to hire new workers dedicated to supporting Black youth. Youth outreach workers often come from the same neighbourhood in which they are providing service and share relevant life experiences with the young people they assist. Enhanced youth outreach workers are registered professionals who are qualified to deliver short-term counselling and clinical supports to youth in crisis. The new workers will also receive anti-racism training. Supporting Black children, youth and families is part of the government's plan to support care, create opportunity and make life more affordable during this period of rapid economic change.

Australia: Parkerville charity’s $25m historic Midland move

Australia’s largest child advocacy centre is being built on a heritage site at Midland’s historic railway workshops. The first sod was turned on the $25 million project yesterday and Parkerville Children and Youth Care chief executive Basil Hanna said holistic services at the new centre would help children recover as well as saving them from the horror of reliving abuse by telling their story repeatedly to police and other authorities. This is the second child advocacy centre to be built by the organisation and the second in Australia. “The first opened in Armadale seven years ago and we have seen 15,700 children and young people who have been affected by trauma and abuse,” Mr Hanna said. “We do child safety assessments three times quicker because we’re not working in silos, we have integrated services working alongside the police and government agencies. The child only tells their story once and doesn’t get re-traumatised from telling it over and over to 10 individual disciplines. They come together to work under one roof and everyone shares information. That’s what the success of the centre has been – it benefits the child and family. We work with families who are distraught and in a state of confusion and anger. We would say we are saving a lot of money too – when you remove the duplication of work, it’s a no-brainer.” Mr Hanna said a recent evaluation of the George Jones Child Advocacy Centre by the University of South Australia noted the centre as meeting international best practice. It responds to a third of all child sexual abuse reports in WA.

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7 MAY

UK: Ofsted pledges action to stop schools 'off-rolling' challenging pupils

Ofsted has promised to get tough on the practice of "off-rolling" where schools encourage challenging pupils to leave without officially excluding them. At an education select committee hearing, senior Ofsted inspector Sue Morris-King said the inspectorate is ramping up its scrutiny of off-rolling, which includes attempts by schools to encourage parents to home educate challenging children. The action follows recent concerns raised by the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) and the Children's Commissioner for England. She said that inspectors have recently undergone specialist training on the issue to help them better challenge schools where off-rolling is suspected to have taken place. The issue will also form part of next year's inspection framework. In addition, inspectors are taking into account incidents of off-rolling when delivering their judgment on schools. "If we find parents being pressured to take children off roll during inspection that is strongly challenged and will be taken into account in the inspection judgment being made," she told MPs. "We are looking more closely at off-rolling and how we can get that looked at more closely in our inspections and that is being considered in our 2019 framework. 

Australia: Keeping Indigenous foster kids connected to culture and country at camp

A school holiday camp being run out of Menindee in far-west New South Wales is setting out to help Indigenous children in out-of-home care stay connected to culture, language and family. The number of children placed in Indigenous foster homes has dropped from 74 per cent to 67.6 per cent over the past 10 years, but Family and Community Services (FACS) has found it hard to find enough carers in the far-west. In an effort to keep children connected to culture, language, family and country, Kutanya Cultural Camps, funded by FACS, has run school holiday programs for three years. FACS far-west client services manager Michelle Kelley said before the camps there had been an alarming lack of cultural knowledge among children in care. "This was one way of ensuring they remained connected to not only their own culture and identity, but general Aboriginal history, because they knew nothing about it at all." In January Australia's Aboriginal children's commissioner declared a rise in the number of children being removed from Indigenous communities a "national disaster". Michelle Kelley said she was confident the camps, along with ongoing support from FACS, were doing a good job keeping cultural connections strong. "It's not only about attending the camps, but making sure they have a cultural support plan in place … and finding out from family and community about how these kids maintain their identity and connection to country." Camp organiser, Lisa Kelley, said it was important to keep the children connected to culture so going home was not so daunting.She said the three years the camps had been running had seen a strong community and support network grow among the children. 

Canada:Training pediatricians critical to improving quality of care for transgender youth

Two new studies reveal the importance of better understanding the health care utilization of transgender children and adolescents and the need to train pediatricians to care for this population's unique needs. Nadia Dowshen, MD, MSHP, and Siobhan Gruschow, MPH, MEd, researchers at PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, will present their findings on trends in transgender youth's health care utilization and primary care providers' knowledge, comfort and experience caring for transgender youth during the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) 2018 Meeting in Toronto. The first study focused on measuring the knowledge, attitudes and skills of primary care providers in treating transgender children and adolescents. Researchers designed a cross-sectional survey aimed to learn more about the readiness of pediatricians to care for transgender or gender non-conforming youth. "Pediatricians may be the first or only contact for many transgender youth in the health care system, and therefore it is essential that pediatric providers be knowledgable and comfortable in caring for this population of youth with unique health care needs," said Ms. Gruschow, lead author of the study. "The results of our research show that we critically need educational interventions to prepare pediatricians in supporting transgender youth's health, well-being and early development."

USA: Strict gun laws spare young lives 

Fewer young Americans are killed by guns in states with stricter gun laws, a new study finds. "Injuries due to firearms are the nation's third-leading cause of pediatric death," said study author Dr. Monika Goyal. She is director of research in the division of emergency medicine and trauma services at Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C. "Firearm legislation at the state level varies significantly," Goyal said in a health system news release. "Our findings underscore the need for further investigation of which types of state-level firearm legislation are most strongly correlated with reducing pediatric injuries and deaths." In the study, more than 4,500 people aged 21 and younger died from firearm-related injuries in 2015. Eighty-seven percent were male, 44 percent were black and their mean age was 18. State rates of gun-related deaths among young people ranged from as low as zero per 100,000 youths to as high as 18 per 100,000 youths. Median rates were lower among the 12 states that require universal background checks for gun purchases (3.8 per 100,000) than in states that did not require background checks (5.7 per 100,000), the researchers said. The five states that require background checks before buying ammunition also had a lower median rate (2.3 per 100,000 youths) than states that did not require such background checks (5.6 per 100,000), according to the study. 

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4 MAY

Children's social services in Wales 'near crisis'

Children's services in Wales are nearly "at crisis point", according to the body that represents councils. The latest figures show that there has been a 149% increase in the number of court applications to remove children into care over the last nine years. The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) said councils faced a rising caseload with restricted budgets. The Welsh Government said it recognised the pressure on councils and had taken action to support families. A "section 31" court application is made by a council if they want to take children into care because they have evidence of harm or likelihood of harm to the child. Figures from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service show the annual number of applications rose from 422 in 2008-09 to 1,050 in 2017-18. The WLGA said although councils were coping as well as possible, the situation was not sustainable. "The system is very near at crisis point," said Geraint Hopkins, deputy spokesman for children at the WLGA. Mr Hopkins added: "Unless we significantly look at the resources available to children's services in Wales and the important early intervention methods that we take to try and prevent children coming into care then we're going to be in serious trouble. "It's been a difficult period over these last 10 years, austerity has hit many local authorities and whilst we have continued to meet the rising costs of looked after children, it's getting to the point now where we're really at crisis level."

60 percent of refugee children suffer from psychological problems

Sixty percent of refugee children in Turkey have at least one type of psychological illness, according to Dr. Veysi Çeri from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Department at Marmara University’s Pendik Training and Education Hospital. “Research carried out in Turkey and around the world shows that a majority of refugee children generally suffer from psychiatric illnesses,” Çeri told state-run Anadolu Agency on the sidelines of the 10th International Congress on Psychopharmacology and the 6th International Symposium on Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, held in the Mediterranean province of Antalya. “We have conducted four studies since 2014, covering children aged between 7 and 17. The combined results from those works show that 60 percent of those children have at least one type of psychiatric illness. The most common problems among refugee children are post-traumatic stress disorder and depression,” Çeri said. According to Çeri, children suffering from stress disorder and separation anxiety do not want to leave their homes to go to school. “Even if they attend school, many cannot concentrate in class because such problems affect their mental abilities. Some of the children are also bullied and insulted,” he underlined, warned that people with anxiety disorders are at risk of seeking comfort in drugs and alcohol. “If we do not treat these children at psychiatry services, we will end up having individuals who are uneducated, suffering from psychological problems, not speaking Turkish, and still living in our country,” Çeri said. Çeri noted that Turkey hosts more than 4 million refugees and 1.5 million of those are children.

Ireland: Appointment of John Cunningham as Chair of Gaisce – The President’s Award

Dr Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs today announced the appointment of Mr. John Cunningham as the new Chair of the Council of Gaisce – The President’s Award for a three-year term. Making the announcement, Minister Zappone said, “I am delighted to appoint such an eminently qualified person as Mr. Cunningham to this important position. Mr Cunningham is currently the Chair of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, and a Director of the Irish Youth Foundation, which supports projects for children and young people in disadvantaged communities. He also has a strong professional background in coaching, mentoring and entrepreneurship. He embodies all of the qualities that the President and I believe are essential to the role of Chair of the Council of Gaisce”. Dr Zappone also pointed to Mr Cunningham’s particular focus on inclusivity, a demonstrated commitment to social justice, and a commitment to supporting and developing opportunities within Gaisce’s work for vulnerable and hard-to-reach young people. Gaisce is a self-development programme for young people which enhances confidence and wellbeing through participation in personal, physical and community challenges. Gaisce is a direct challenge from the President of Ireland to young people aged 15-25 to dream big and realise their potential. Gaisce is non-competitive: participants are encouraged to choose their own activities and goals with the support of a trained, adult President’s Award Leader (or PAL).

United Arab Emirates: Sultan receives UN accreditation of Sharjah ‘CFC’

The accolade comes just three years after the emirate was named “Baby-Friendly City” by the UN and World Health Organisation. Sharjah has been crowned as the first city in the world to receive the UN’s prestigious title after successfully meeting the new international requirements and criteria launched by Unicef’s global CFC initiative and its new brand identity last month, to ensure the fulfillment of children's rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The CFC initiative aims to make the greatest positive impact on the lives of children and adolescents in the cities, towns and villages where they live. The announcement was made during a special session for Sharjah’s children and youth held at the Consultative Council of Sharjah, in the presence of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Baby Friendly Office. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Sheikh Sultan, who received the official accreditation from Unicef, said, "Our key goal has been, and always will be, to provide the sound foundations for a society where everyone can participate in shaping a future that is fit their ambitions and ours. And in spite of technological evolution and changing tools of labour, it is the human who will determine the direction and progress of societies and civilisations through ideology and determination."

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2 MAY

UK: Child poverty rise set to raise pressure on overstretched social services, research finds

Extra spending is needed to stop the predicted rise in child poverty causing England's overstretched children's social care services to deteriorate even further, the Education Policy Institute has warned. In a review of the state of children's social care, the independent research institute found that workforce instability, financial pressures and rising thresholds for intervention are damaging the ability of local authority social care services to support vulnerable children. The institute's review found services were grappling with significant rises in demand for their services with child protection plans up 24 per cent and the number of looked-after children up nine per cent between 2010 and 2016. It also noted that 80 per cent of councils are overspending on children's social care with one in 10 set to run out of reserves within three years if this trend continues. "Funding pressures for children and young people services on the whole may be reaching a particularly acute stage," the report warns. The review also found evidence that the social care workforce is unstable with agency staff accounting for almost 20 per cent of children's social workers employed by local authorities. This is leading to looked-after children experiencing more changes of social workers and high caseloads, which the review says correlates with poor Ofsted ratings. "The outlook for quality of provision – which is currently very poor – is concerning given the cumulative impact of years of local overspend and insecurity in the workforce," the report states.

Canada: Youth in care dominate missing-persons files in Kamloops

More than 40 per cent of missing-persons files reviewed in the first three months of the year involved youth in the care of the Ministry of Child and Family Development. “That continues to be a real concern,” Kamloops RCMP Supt. Brad Mueller told the city’s community safety committee on Monday morning. Seventy-one missing-person files in the first quarter of 2018 were related to youth in care. Kamloops Mounties are working with the ministry and contractors in the city to reduce missing-youth calls to police. “Coming up with some better solutions and reporting mechanisms and roles and responsibilities around that so it doesn’t automatically default to police,” Mueller said. He said missing persons files are labour-intensive for the local detachment. “There’s a very strict protocol that we have to follow, in terms of when someone is reported missing,” Mueller said. “There’s a lot of policy and procedure that we need to follow, so it takes a lot of resources and a lot of time.”

Netherlands: Sharp rise in kids in youth care 

The number of kids in the Netherlands receiving treatment or aid from youth care increased significantly over the past two years. In 2015, when Dutch municipalities took over the responsibility of youth care, there were 349 thousand kids in youth care, last year there were 392,500, according to figures from Statistics Netherlands, RTL Nieuws reports. Youth care helps kids and teenagers with psychological problems, behavioral problems, intellectual disabilities or learning problems, among other things. Over half of the kids in youth care are primary school age. And the majority – 250 thousand – are boys. Currently one in nine Dutch kids and teens receive help from youth care. The proportion differs by region. In Leeuwarden for example, one in five kids are in youth care. In Heerlen and Hoogezand-Sappermeer, 16 percent of kids get help from youth care. Low percentages are seen in small and church-prevalent municipalities like Schiermonnikoog and Staphorst, where less than six percent of kids are in youth care. Statistics Netherlands did not give an explanation for these differences. "Local conditions and policy choices play a major role, so explanations can not be given unambiguously", the stats office said.  

New Zealand: Nelson's young crims with nowhere to go face prospect of hard time in police cells

Young offenders in Nelson are still at high risk of being held in police cells due to a lack of beds in youth justice facilities, a Nelson lawyer says. On top of that, youth advocates agree a total lack of caregivers in Nelson equipped to provide care and support for low-level youth offenders, means many young people are left with nowhere to go. Youth advocate and lawyer John Sandston has spoken out about the issue of children remanded in cells before and said last week marked another near miss. "On Friday I had a kid who was, in the end, granted supported bail but I was told at that time there were 10 youths ahead of him around New Zealand waiting to get into residences." In March, Sandston's 15-year-old client was kept in Nelson cells for six days before being granted supported bail, as there weren't any available beds. There are four youth justice residences across the country which take a mix of young offenders – those in custody awaiting court proceedings and those serving sentences. If beds aren't available and the young person is high-risk, they can be held in police cells if a judge deems it necessary. Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft said this needs to be banned, with the exception of a 24-hour window allowing transport arrangements to be made. 

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