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Australia: Review into 'painstakingly slow, prohibitively expensive' family law system announced

A wide-ranging inquiry into the strained family law system will be launched – the first since the Federal Government passed legislation establishing a national Family Court in 1976. The review has already been greeted with cautious optimism from those on the front line of helping Australia's victims of family violence, but Federal Labor is warning there is a need for urgent action. The family law system has been criticised for being painstakingly slow and prohibitively expensive, putting undue pressure on those hoping the Family Court and its other services can resolve some of the most emotional legal disputes. There has also been concern the rights of victims and children are being overlooked by a system strained by demand. "The review of the family law system will be broad and far reaching, focusing on key areas of importance to Australian families," Federal Attorney-General George Brandis Brandis said. "These include ensuring the family law system prioritises the best interests of children, best addresses family violence and child abuse, and supports families, including those with complex needs, to resolve their family law disputes quickly and safely while minimising the financial burden." 

UK: Government 'must improve early language support to drive social mobility'

Early language development should be treated as a critical indicator of children's wellbeing on a par with obesity and vaccinations in order to boost social mobility, a report by the Early Intervention Foundation has said. Children's communication charity I Can is currently conducting an independent review of service provision for children's speech, language and communication needs. The charity's Language as a Child Wellbeing Indicator report said early language difficulties are an indicator of problems in later life including behavioural issues, poor mental health and offending. The report also notes how language difficulties are more common among children from the poorer families than in richer households. The foundation, which promotes early intervention to improve children's lives, said that because of these issues, early language development needs to be made a public health wellbeing indicator just like obesity and vaccinations. Jo Casebourne, chief executive of the foundation, said: "Our research makes clear the consequences of failing to close these income-related gaps in language development. For this reason, supporting early language development should be put at the heart of any social mobility strategy."

South Africa: Violent crime on the rise in Cape young offender centres

Crimes committed by minors at secure care centres were increasingly becoming more serious and violent, Social Development MEC Albert Fritz said on Wednesday. “The most common offences committed by children within [these facilities] are murder, common assault, housebreaking and theft, attempted murder, and rape,” he confirmed. Following a child probation services workshop held last week, the social development department said it would establish a task team within the Provincial Child Justice Forum to deal with issues affecting the “smooth” implementation of the Child Justice Act of 2008. “The aim of the workshop was to build consensus on best operating procedures with regards to the administration of justice to children who are in conflict with the law. Additionally, the workshop aimed to build better cooperation among stakeholders and discuss interventions which could deal with shared challenges in administering the act.” Fritz, in a statement, said that he had made it clear at the workshop that efforts should be aimed at diverting children away from the criminal justice system and into affirming social programmes. The department has four in-house centres for young offenders and funds two operated by NGOs.  

Myanmar: Government and UNICEF take critical step to improve the lives of children living in residential facilities

Today the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, with the support of UNICEF, launched a set of guidelines and minimum standards, alongside monitoring and oversight plans, aimed at bettering the lives of children in residential care, according to statement. The ‘Guidelines on Registration and Support for Voluntary Organisations and the Minimum Standards of Care and Protection for Children (MSC) in Residential Facilities’ were launched at an event that brought together around 200 participants from Government, Embassies, UN agencies, civil society and the media. In addition to detailing the steps that residential facilities will need to take to register and be eligible for Government support, the guidelines establish the services that these institutions will have to provide to children such as accommodation, health care, hygiene, nutrition and education, including vocational training. Minimum standards of quality for all these essential services are also stipulated in the guidelines. Under the new scheme, minimum training requirements for caregivers are established as well as a code of conduct they must adhere to. “Residential care plays an important role, and improving the conditions for children living in residential facilities is a key immediate step to protect children deprived of parental care,” said Mr. Paul Edwards, the Acting Representative of UNICEF in Myanmar. “Ensuring that all institutions caring for children are fully familiar with this new set of minimum standards and that they have the necessary tools to implement them is now essential, and so is the set-up of a robust system to monitor their implementation” Mr. Edwards concluded. “With these in place we can be more confident that children living in residential facilities are fully cared for and protected.”  



Australia should raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility

Australia should raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 to reduce the risk of children embarking on life-long involvement with the criminal justice system, according to one of the country’s leading criminologists. The minimum age of criminal responsibility in Australia is 10 but research shows children who have contact with the criminal justice system between the ages of 10 and 14 are far more likely to experience sentenced detention in their later years than children who are first supervised at an older age, says UNSW Sydney Professor Chris Cunneen. “The low age particularly affects Indigenous children, who comprise 87% of 10- and 11-year-olds under custodial and community supervision in Australia,” says Professor Cunneen, who will deliver a paper on the subject at Australia’s largest social policy conference today at UNSW. There are, however, major political barriers to raising the age, he says. “Many people in the juvenile justice system are unhappy that 10- to 12-year-olds are being locked up but politically there is no appetite for change. “At the very least, Australia should pass legislation to prevent courts putting young children in detention.” The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has criticised the low age in Australia, recommending an absolute minimum of 12 years, while arguing that 14 or 16 years is more appropriate.

UK: Foster charities fear child refugee crackdown after Parsons Green attack

Britain’s largest fostering charity has made an impassioned plea that the Parsons Green terror attack should not lead to a new crackdown on child refugees coming to Britain. Eighteen-year-old Ahmed Hassan, who is believed to have arrived illegally in the UK two years ago as an orphan from Iraq, was charged with the terror attack that injured 30 people nine days ago on a rush-hour District line train. Fostering and adoption agencies are worried that the government will use the bombing in west London as a pretext to stop child refugees being settled in the UK. In a letter to the children’s minister, Robert Goodwill, Tact Care’s chief executive, Andy Elvin, states: “Any attempted crackdown on child refugees would be wholly disproportionate to the evidence of potential risk.” The letter also claims that “by not accepting asylum seeking and refugee children in a planned way the Home Office are, inadvertently, increasing risks”.

USA: New PSAs focus on the importance of adopting teenagers from foster care

New public service advertisements (PSA’s) launched today by the Children’s Bureau at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in partnership with the Ad Council, AdoptUSKids and KBS, highlights the importance of adopting teens from foster care and emphasizes that adoptive and potential adoptive parents do not have to be a perfect parent in order to adopt youth from foster care. Older children in foster care, particularly teenagers, have a hard time being adopted from foster care. Of the estimated 428,000 youth in the U.S. foster care system, 112,000 youth are currently waiting for adoptive families. Youth between the ages of 15 to 18 years old currently represent 43 percent of all children actively photo listed on, and only five percent of all children adopted in 2015 were between the ages of 15 to 18 years old. “All of us – and that includes teens in foster care who are waiting to be adopted – need and want families to support us and to give us the connections, relationships, and sense of belonging that are so critical to our well-being,” said Jerry Milner, associate commissioner at the Children’s Bureau, and the acting commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families.” The PSA’s features the theme of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting… A Teenager” to recognize that being there for a teenager is the most important role that an adoptive parent can play as well encouraging the adoption of teens from foster care.

Welsh schoolchildren to receive early help with mental health problems

Children with emotional and mental health problems are to receive early help at school from teams of experts as part of a “unique” initiative being set up by the Welsh government. Pupils at more than 200 schools in Wales will be able to access on-site help as part of the £1.4m pilot scheme. The Welsh government’s announcement comes as concern grows about the ability of schools to look after children with mental health problems. Research published last week found that more than half of primary school teachers in England do not feel adequately trained to support pupils with mental health problems. NHS data for England gathered by the Guardian showed girls and young women are experiencing a “gathering crisis” in their mental health linked to conflict with friends, fears about their body image and pressures created by social media. The Welsh government said on Monday that its scheme was unique in the UK. It will cover 28 secondary schools, six middle schools and 190 primary schools in three pilot areas in north-east, south-east and west Wales. Dedicated child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) practitioners will be recruited to work with pilot schools.  



USA: Michigan sued for rejecting same-sex foster care, adoptions

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Michigan’s health and children’s services agencies in federal court on Wednesday, saying the state’s foster care and adoption system discriminates against same-sex couples on religious grounds. The suit was filed against the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Children’s Services Agency in U.S. District Court in Detroit. The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU and ACLU of Michigan on behalf of Michigan taxpayers and families turned away by state-contracted and taxpayer-funded child placement agencies because of the agencies’ religious beliefs, the ACLU said. The ACLU of Michigan said it was the first such legal challenge filed in the state. The U.S. Constitution does not allow state-contracted, taxpayer-funded agencies to use religious litmus tests in screening prospective foster or adoptive parents for children in the state foster care system, or to discriminate against same-sex couples, the ACLU said.

UK: Councils demand action to protect young people in custody 

Local councils are pressing the government to take action to make youth custody safer. The Local Government Association (LGA) has issued the call in response to a report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons published in July that revealed how rates of self-harm and assault within youth custody have soared in the past five years. In that report Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons, warned that the dangers are such that a tragedy is ‘inevitable' unless action is taken fast. In 2011 there were 4.1 self-harm incidents and 9.7 assaults per 100 children in custody, compared to 8.9 incidents of self-harm and 18.9 assaults per 100 young people in custody in 2016. Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, said the government must set out how it intends to improve safety now that the responsibility for the juvenile secure estate has moved from the Youth Justice Board to the new Youth Custody Service, which is part of HM Prison and Probation Service. "Councils take their responsibility toward child safety extremely seriously, and work hard to ensure that children and young people are never put in situations that would put them at risk," Watts said. "There is no other situation in which children and young people would be placed into environments that are known to be unsafe, and youth custody should be no exception.

New Zealand: Closer state care monitoring needed to prevent repeat of historical abuse - advocates

Another generation risks being ruined by abuse in state care, unless better independent monitoring systems are introduced, advocates warn. Wellington human rights lawyer Sonja Cooper said closer monitoring was needed to protect the 5700 children in state care against the profound damage caused by abuse. Cooper has spent the past 20 years representing victims who were sexually, physically and psychologically abused in state care, mostly from the 1940s to 1990s. Her youngest historical abuse client is just 17, and a growing cohort are aged 20-30, indicating abuse is far from relegated to the distant past. "I worry about particular providers and placements now, because of what I know about the past. And because research shows it will take on average 22 years for a victim of sexual abuse to report that." She advocated a monitoring system similar to mental health's district inspectors, who must see patients at prescribed times during their treatment, and who can arrive at care units unannounced. Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft, whose office has a statutory duty to monitor young people in state care, agreed closer independent monitoring was critical to keeping children safe. "We know on the basis of the past, and the concerning levels of historic abuse, that there hasn't been adequate monitoring in the past and that rapidly needs to change," Becroft said. "This isn't a matter of choice for any government, or discretion. It simply has to be done."

270 million Chinese youth use the internet

China's youth internet users reached 277 million, accounting for nearly one-third of the total number of Internet users. Young people's "net" age is becoming constantly younger yet facing the growing threat of online security breaches. The 2017 Cyber Security Awareness Week was held at Shanghai Jiao Tong University Tuesday. A millennium generation growth protection report led by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Internet Research Center was officially released, Shanghai Morning Post reported Wednesday. The report shows that Chinese millennials aged 12 to 19 have an internet penetration rate of 92 percent, far higher than the global rate, as most started using the internet in primary or junior high school. In the report, the current risks to teenagers accessing the internet include bad information, network addiction and cyber bullying. Among them, 85.7 percent of respondents encountered bad information on the internet.



UK: One in four girls have depression by the time they hit 14, study reveals

One in four girls is clinically depressed by the time they turn 14, according to research that has sparked new fears that Britain’s teenagers are suffering from an epidemic of poor mental health. A government-funded study has found that 24% of 14-year-old girls and 9% of boys the same age have depression. Their symptoms include feeling miserable, tired and lonely and hating themselves. That means that about 166,000 girls and 67,000 boys of that age across the UK are depressed. The findings are based on how more than 10,000 young people that age described how they were feeling. The data has prompted fresh questions about how social media, body image issues and school-related stresses affect young people’s mental welfare. It also strongly suggests that being from a low-income family increases the risk of depression and that ethnicity is potentially a key factor too.

USA: D.C. Council poised to overhaul city’s troubled Youth Rehabilitation Act

A majority of the D.C. Council has signed on to a bill to overhaul the District’s Youth Rehabilitation Act, a law that a Washington Post investigation found provided leniency to hundreds of young-adult offenders who went on to rob, rape or murder in recent years in the nation’s capital. The bill, authored by council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), would make those charged with some sex crimes ineligible for leniency under the act and would require new vocational and other programs for young offenders. It also would eliminate a provision that required D.C. Superior Court judges to decide at sentencing whether defendants 21 or younger should later have their crimes removed from the public record. Instead, offenders would have to serve their full sentences before returning to court to ask that their records be cleared. Allen, who chairs the council’s judiciary committee, said the change would create an incentive for good behavior post-conviction and give judges the benefit of years of observations by jail officials and others before making that decision.  

UK: Ofsted criticises lack of action to prevent domestic abuse

Not enough is being done to prevent domestic abuse and address the impact it has on children, Ofsted has warned. A report on the way agencies respond to children living with domestic abuse found that social workers, the police, health professionals and other agencies such as youth offending teams and probation services are often doing a good job to protect victims. But the watchdog said "far too little" is being done to prevent domestic abuse in the first place, and to repair the damage it causes afterwards. According to the Office for National Statistics, seven women every month are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales and 130,000 children live in homes where there is "high risk" domestic abuse. "There is a lot of good work being done to protect victims of domestic violence – emergency services are particularly effective," she said. "But we're not so good when it comes to helping victims deal with the aftermath and get on with their lives. The justice system must play a role, but there is work to do to stop it happening in the first place." Schooling said schools have an essential role in educating children about domestic abuse. Teaching children about healthy relationships is already part of the curriculum, but Schooling said it is often not prioritised by schools. "I want to see a new approach to tackling domestic abuse – one which focuses more on prevention and repairing long-term damage to child victims," she said. 

Netherlands: Municipal youth care budgets run out as more kids need help

An increasing number of children are in need of help from youth care, while half of Dutch municipalities have no more money left in their youth care budget, according to a study by broadcaster NOS and Binnenlands Bestuur among 228 municipalities. Over three quarters of the municipalities now have waiting lists for youth care, half of the municipalities call these waiting times irresponsible. Three quarters say they've seen an increase in demand for youth care. And 87 percent don't think they'll be able to get by with the youth care budget for next year. Half of the municipalities already spent everything in their youth care budget for this year, meaning problems for the last three months of 2017. The expected shortages range from a few hundred euros to as much as 12 million euros, according to the broadcaster. The municipalities worry about increasing waiting lists and that a patient stop may be necessary. When the responsibility for youth care was transferred to the municipalities on January 1st, 2015, the expectation was that children will have access to better and more efficient help. With that in mind, the youth care budget was reduced every year. In the study, the municipalities indicate that they need more time to implement a more innovative and appropriate care system. 



UK: Justice secretary urged to rewrite child sexual abuse guidelines

MPs have urged the justice secretary, David Lidington, to rewrite “extremely damaging” official guidance that means children as young as 12 could be held responsible for their own sexual abuse. New rules the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) have drawn up mean some child victims of sexual assault could be refused compensation on the grounds that they “consented” even if their abuser has been jailed. The draft guidance, published by the Guardian last week, was described by a prominent survivor of a Rotherham child-grooming ring as an “absolute disgrace” that would re-traumatise applicants. The Labour MP Lisa Nandy called on Lidington to intervene and stop the revised CICA rules from being implemented. In a letter to the justice secretary, Nandy said: “It is clearly inappropriate for a government agency to suggest that children have the ability to consent to sexual activity when the law is clear on this point, and sends exactly the wrong message about the seriousness with which child abuse is treated.”

New Zealand: Online trauma awareness training package being developed

The Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki has partnered with Werry Workforce Whāraurau to develop a trauma awareness training package. The training package includes three modules designed for caregivers and frontline practitioners within the children’s workforce. The modules or online courses include:

• Module 1: Childhood trauma: impact on development and behaviour
• Module 2: Trauma-informed care for caregivers
• Module 3: Trauma-informed care for the children’s workforce

Each module takes between 1 to 2 hours to complete. The modules provide a foundation for understanding types of trauma, impacts of trauma, resilience, considerations for different cultures, ways to build resilience and safety, and how to care for yourself as a caregiver or professional. The modules are still being piloted and may be revised in the future. They are currently available online at no cost. To access the modules, register with the Goodfellow website and follow the detailed directions on the Werry Workforce Whāraurau website.  

UK: MPs to probe rise in knife crime in wake of spate of deaths

A new cross-party group of MPs and peers has been launched to investigate the rise in knife crime across the UK. Sarah Jones MP, chair of the APPG on knife crime, led a debate on the issue in the House of Commons last week. The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on knife crime, which will be supported by children's charity Barnardo's and youth charity Redthread, will evaluate policies and programmes aimed at reducing knife crime, developing recommendations for government on how to tackle the issue. The launch follows the deaths of four teenagers in the space of a week across the country last month after stabbings, including a 15-year-old boy from Croydon. Sarah Jones, Labour MP for Croydon Central, who will chair the group, said: "This group brings together MPs and peers with huge experience and enthusiasm to tackle this tough issue. "This is a UK problem which needs a UK-wide response. This summer I met towering figures in my local community who are fighting this problem and I know there are countless others developing solutions across the country. "I will continue to press for a long-term, cross-government strategy for knife crime, and I hope that this APPG will bring us closer to this." 



UK: Number of young people penalised for carrying knives at eight-year high

More young people are being cautioned or sentenced for carrying knives than at any time for nearly eight years, new figures have revealed. Under-18s were penalised for knife possession 1,180 times from April to June, Ministry of Justice statistics show – the highest quarterly tally for that age group since the period July to September 2009. In total, 5,237 knife possession offences were dealt with by the criminal justice system in the three months to the end of June – up 6% on the equivalent period in 2016. An MoJ report accompanying the statistics said knife possession offences fell between 2008 and 2014, but the trend has reversed in the last three years. The figures come amid fresh concern about knife crime, particularly in London where 13 teenagers have been fatally stabbed so far this year. Teenagers have also been charged in many cases where adults have been the victims of deadly stabbings. Police have shifted their outlook on youth knife crime away from a narrative of gang violence, and now say young people are more often carrying blades for status and self-protection.

Young people fear for futures in Brexit Britain, says study

More than two-thirds of young people in the UK have an "international outlook" and many fear for their prospects once the UK leaves the EU, says a report. Ipsos Mori questioned a representative group of almost 2,000 18 to 30-year-olds for a study by cross-party think tank Demos, for the British Council. Overall, young people said they feel "overburdened" by responsibility and "multiple barriers", says the report. Ministers said schools worked hard to prepare pupils for life in a modern UK. The report is part of the British Council's Next Generation series of studies of young people in countries facing pivotal change – others include reports on Bangladesh, Ukraine, Colombia, Turkey and South Africa. Alongside the survey, the researchers held focus groups and workshops with young people across the UK. Many of those interviewed were still "angry and emotional" about last year's vote to leave the EU but the report notes that, while 69% of young people who voted were in favour of remaining, about half did not vote. Of those polled, six in 10 said they would vote to remain if another referendum was held now. "While there are certainly those who see leaving the EU as a great opportunity, many participants in our focus groups were worried about impacts on their lives, prospects and future plans, including constraining opportunities to work and study in other countries," says the report. "Furthermore there was some concern that internationally the UK will be seen as a country looking inwards at a time when global co-operation has never been more important." 

South Africa: Organisations meet in a bid to stop child violence

Since January, 61 child murders have rocked the Western Cape, the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture says. The highest number of deaths of young people aged 18 and under were recorded in June - Youth Month. During this month, 11 child murders, including the rape and murder of 18-month-old Jeremiah Ruiters from Kensington, were committed. Yesterday, the Community Chest hosted a collaborative meeting in aid of efforts to stop child murders and abuse. Various organisations joined the conversation at the Novalis Ubuntu Institute in Wynberg, where public health researcher and director of the Children’s Institute, Professor Shanaaz Matthews, emphasised that programme development should “encompass a communitywide approach instead of silo approaches”. “We need to increase investment in prevention. Presently, it is largely being spent on response to violence instead of prevention. Our child protection system is failing us and we need to revise this system,” Matthews said. Trauma Centre director Valdi Van Reenen-le Roux called for a commission of inquiry into child murders in the province. “The commission of inquiry will hold the government accountable. Why is there not sufficient support for child protection and why is there no budget for it?” Le Roux asked. 

Focus Ireland’s hard-hitting video on youth homelessness has made a big impact on social media

Focus Ireland has today launched a hard-hitting short film to highlight the terrible crisis of young people becoming homeless when leaving state care at 18 and it has received a warm welcome on social media this evening. Called “I can’t Sleep” the video features an actress playing the part a young person leaving care. The emotive twist in the piece is that it shows two versions of how her character Lucy’s life pans out: one where she is safe as she has getting aftercare support and housing from Focus Ireland and the other version of her life where is homeless and in danger on the streets as she has no support. The piece features the U2 song “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” and the band kindly gave permission for Focus Ireland to use the song. The short film is being rolled out across TV and social media in a campaign made possible by support from Bord Gáis Energy (BGE) as part of its partnership with Focus Ireland. 



USA: Bipartisan Bill aims to provide support for homeless college students

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on Tuesday introduced legislation that aims to remove barriers to access to higher education for homeless students and those in foster care. The Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act is sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington; Sen. Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio; Rep. Katherine Clark, Democrat of Massachusetts; and Rep. Don Young, Republican of Alaska. It would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to streamline the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the Fafsa, provide housing options for students in between terms, and improve outreach to homeless students. “The skyrocketing costs of college impact all students, but for homeless and foster students, the challenges they face far too often put higher education out of reach,” Ms. Murray said in a news release announcing the legislation.

Scotland faces a foster care crisis

Action for Children is now warning that vulnerable youngsters face an uncertain future because of the attitude. The charity’s study reveals 88 per cent of Scottish adults who took part show little or no interest in fostering. More than 1,000 people were polled with only six per cent saying it was “fairly likely” and one per cent choosing “very likely”. Paul Carberry, Action for Children’s director for Scotland, said: “These shocking figures reveal the true scale of the current fostering crisis in Scotland. “Across the country, we have more and more children and young people who desperately need the stability a foster carer can give them yet we have fewer and fewer foster parents. “We are looking for people from across Scotland who can provide a secure and loving home to children who have experienced trauma and loss.” The findings also highlight that more than half the country’s households have a spare room with three-quarters using it as a guest bedroom. Yet few would consider using it to provide a home for one of 800 children in need in Scotland.

New Zealand: Wellington youth mental health service forced to turn away hundreds of patients

A youth service in Wellington that provides counselling, support and medical care has turned away hundreds of new patients due to a strain on its services. Evolve Wellington Youth Service, based on Cuba Street in the central city, has turned away around 800 patients since December last year. Chairperson Samuel Andrews said "This came from really, really high demand... we closed to maintain a safe clinical service." Mr Andrews said the amount of funding being provided to Evolve did not meet the surge in demand the clinic has experienced over the past few years, especially in the area of mental health. He said while the clinic has recently been given funding by the Capital and Coast District Health Board (CCDHB) to hire a new part-time GP, Evolve cannot cope with the demand for youth mental health services in Wellington alone. "It's also about other services being more accessible to young people," Mr Andrews said. "At the moment we need other services to step up, places young people can go to that they feel comfortable going to, and that they can go to more than once." He said the service attracts young people because it offers holistic care, is easy to find about out and easy to get to. "The one-stop model is good for youth, it's the most effective way to support young people by meeting their immediate needs, and provide care for them to be the person they want to be."

Australia: Celebrating Victorians who protect children

Excellence in helping children by workers across the children, youth and families sector was recognised at the Victorian Protecting Children Awards, last night.The awards highlight the work being done to protect and ensure the wellbeing of some of the state’s most vulnerable. They provide an opportunity to acknowledge dedicated child protection staff, carers and community sector staff from across the state, along with family support and innovative educational programs, and contributions to child protection policy and practice. Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos said "I congratulate the winners and everyone who has been recognised – I know their stories will inspire others to continue on the journey in caring for Victoria’s vulnerable children. These awards show just some of the innovative ways people in the community are protecting children, which is everyone’s responsibility. There is no greater calling than protecting vulnerable children, this work is difficult but emotionally rewarding. Tonight we offer recognition for this commitment.”  



Ontario and Grand Council Treaty 3 sign relationship agreement

Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services, and Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh, Grand Council Treaty 3, signed a relationship agreement today in Kenora that will strengthen the relationship between Ontario and Grand Council Treaty 3. Today's agreement reaffirms a commitment to work together to improve outcomes and opportunities for Anishinaabe children and youth in Treaty 3 territory, through the co-implementation of the Ontario Indigenous Children and Youth Strategy. The Ontario Indigenous Children and Youth Strategy provides the framework for the province to support Grand Council Treaty 3 to transform the system of services for children and youth to better meet the needs of Anishinaabe children, youth and families. Working together with First Nations communities is part of the government's commitment to strengthening relations with Indigenous peoples in Ontario. Supporting Anishinaabe children and youth and helping them reach their full potential is part of our commitment to reconciliation.

New York City: City hospital system is expanding children’s mental health programs 

Recognizing that negative childhood experiences can affect a person’s health long into adulthood, New York City’s public hospital system is expanding its mental health programs for children and adolescents. The programs, which NYC Health & Hospitals plans to announce on Wednesday, are designed to address the challenges facing many of the hospital system’s young patients, such as poverty, violence and substance abuse – circumstances that doctors said make children more likely to need mental health treatment but less likely to get it. The programs follow the increasingly popular “integrated care” model, which aims to minimize the bouncing of patients between physical health doctors, psychiatrists and community resources. Instead, previously isolated services are brought into tandem. The HealthySteps program, for example, pairs a social worker or psychologist with pediatricians, so parents can receive advice on how to structure playtime or gain access to food stamps at the same time as their newborn receives immunizations. Project TEACH trains pediatricians to diagnose and prescribe medication for common disorders such as depression and anxiety. And the 100 Schools Project coaches teachers and guidance counselors on identifying trauma or substance abuse in middle and high school students. “Traditionally, everything was siloed,” Dr. Charles Barron, NYC Health & Hospitals’ deputy chief medical officer, said of the division between physical and mental health care. “Now we’re recognizing there’s a continuum in a child’s life – at home, in school, certainly in health care centers – and so creating these partnerships is really important.”

28.8% of kids in foster care in Arkansas now with kin

State officials over the past two years have more than doubled the percentage of children entering the foster system who are placed with a relative. The achievement – a key metric for improving state care of what was a growing number of foster children – was announced Wednesday in a news conference at the Department of Human Services. Arkansas now places 28.8 percent of foster children with relatives, instead of 14 percent. Since beginning a series of changes and hiring more employees starting in November, the total number of children in foster care plateaued. The number totaled about 5,040 a year ago and was projected to grow to 5,800. However, it's now at 5,035. But officials say there's work to be done, including recruiting enough foster families to handle 200 more children in Sebastian County. While the county contains only about 4 percent of Arkansas' population, about 20 percent of foster children come from that county. Other goals include hiring and training more workers, continuing to reduce caseload for employees, finding more foster parents for older children and those with special needs and reuniting more children with their families. 

India Nobel winner in new campaign for abused and trafficked children

India's Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi hopes one million people will join his latest drive starting Monday – against the sexual abuse and trafficking of children. "It is a war on rapes, war on child sexual abuse and trafficking because these are not ordinary crimes and they cannot be solved through the business-as-usual approach," Satyarthi told AFP in an interview. "Two children are sexually abused every hour. One child goes missing every eight minutes in India and they are not disappearing in thin air," said Satyarthi. "These children are trafficked... sold and bought like animals. Sometimes at lesser prices than animals." More than 9,000 children were trafficked in India in 2016, up nearly 25 percent from the previous year, according to the Ministry of Women and Child Development. About 14,000 children were victims of rape and sexual harassment in 2015, data from the National Crime Records Bureau showed. But those figures may only be the tip of the iceberg, with experts saying the government underestimates the numbers in a country where a shroud of silence surrounds such crimes.  

Coping with gambling addiction in Uganda

With more than a thousand casinos in Uganda, gambling has become a craze among its youth. There are about fifty companies that have the required licenses to operate casinos in Uganda. The options for gambling in Uganda include lotteries, sports betting, pool clubs and traditional casinos. In an effort to curb gambling which is seen as a major cause of the growing poverty, the National Lotteries Board doubled up the license fee to $3,500 in 2013. Besides the fees, the Board also banned setting up gambling centers and casinos anywhere near government offices, churches and markets. Despite the move, gambling continues to draw huge crowds in casinos and betting centers that are open throughout the day and night. The youth of Uganda are getting trapped in ever increasing debt and poverty because of their addiction to gambling, according to NGO Board of Uganda. The love for sports betting and online gambling is also a deterrent for many youngsters to seek active employment, according to the Board. A majority of the population in Uganda earns below one dollar a day in income.



Top N.S. pediatrician calls for free tuition for youth in foster care

Nova Scotia’s top pediatrician says the British Columbia government’s new plan to waive post-secondary tuition fees for existing or former children in foster care will pay off over the long term. Dr. Andrew Lynk, head of pediatrics at Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre, urged Nova Scotia to follow suit, saying the move will provide better health and economic outcomes for people who have grown up in care at least part-time. Many have suffered “toxic stress” by being raised by people other than their parents, which changes people’s brains and affects how they think and behave – essentially affecting their mental health, he said on Tuesday. Many also still need support after they turn 19 and age out of the provincial care system. Studies show they don’t do well in education, employment and health outcomes, and are at risk for addictions and conflict with the justice system, said Lynk, whose practice includes some children or youth in care. “There’s all sorts of reasons that this would make good sense as a society, as a very wise investment, and to keep as many of those young people as possible going and getting them trained or skilled and educated and becoming productive, engaged people in our society,” he said.

UK: Councils pressured to place children in boarding schools instead of care

The government will lean on “reluctant” councils to place vulnerable children in boarding schools instead of costly residential care, an education minister has said. Officials will promote boarding as an alternative to care, against what Lord Nash described as a backdrop of historic “prejudice”, as part of a drive to place more vulnerable children in state and independent boarding schools. Boarding School Partnerships, an organisation that links care charities and councils with boarding places for children, was launched earlier this year with ministerial support and funding from the Department for Education and Education Endowment Foundation. Around 100 children under the care of councils already attend boarding schools in England, saving local authorities tens of thousands of pounds. Boarding fees range from £25,000 to £39,000 a year if paid in full, but can be lower if bursaries or scholarships are applied, while a residential care placement costs well over £100,000. In 2014, the National Audit Office found that the average annual spend on residential places was between £131,000 and £135,000 per child. Lord Nash denied the scheme was a cost-saving initiative, and told the House of Lords that the government was “very keen” to encourage more local authorities to consider boarding for vulnerable children. 

Tasmania: Child protection workers make plea to Minister to 'have a heart' and provide more resources

Tasmanian child protection workers have walked off the job to protest against conditions they claim are forcing them to make "impossible decisions" about vulnerable children. The workers have called on Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma to "have a heart". The industrial action has been led by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and the Health and Community Services Union (HCSU), which want the Government to provide more resources to the sector. The CPSU's Thirza White said more staff were urgently needed and there were currently 30 vacant positions. "Staff will no longer accept work arrangements that require them to prioritise the needs of one vulnerable child over the needs of another, because there are simply too few staff," she said. In July, the ABC aired concerns from staff about the daily pressures the system was under. Ms White said it was only getting worse. "Staff in Child Safety Services (CSS) have raised their concerns with Ms Petrusma for three-and-a-half years, and despite reviews, restructures, name changes and promises of additional staff, the situation has become worse," she said. "Unmanagable work loads make working for CSS extremely difficult so experienced staff leave and funded positions are often left vacant for lengthy periods." About 60 staff from around the state walked off the job on Wednesday and gathered in Hobart. 

A new Texas law will create a more private foster care system

On September 1, hundreds of new laws took effect in Texas. A number of those were aimed at improving the state’s child welfare system. Failure to do so was not an option. In December of 2015, after a wave of reports about Texas kids dying from neglect and abuse while in foster care, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack found the state’s foster care system was unconstitutional, and deemed it “broken.” Fast forward to May of 2017 when Gov. Greg Abbott signed a number of bills to overhaul that system. “ One of the major changes to the foster care system that lawmakers approved during this year’s legislative session was already in the works before Texas was sued in 2011. It was originally called Foster Care Redesign – and now that Senate Bill 11 has taken effect, it establishes a model that increasingly privatizes the foster care system. The program will begin rolling out across the state soon. Kaysie Taccetta is director of conservatorship services with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. She has been working on foster care redesign, now called the community-based model, for the state. Taccetta says the goal of the new model is to bring resources closer to the communities they serve. Community-focused programs, and the opportunity to privatize services are also intended to improve the distribution of foster care providers around the state. Providers include child-placement agencies, residential treatment centers that serve special needs children and facilities that function like emergency shelters. Community-based contractors that manage a range of services are seen as a way to reduce the complexity and bureaucracy of the existing state system.



Ireland: Emotional damage to homeless children should be examined by Children's Ombudsman

The impact of homelessness on children living in emergency accommodation should be examined by the Ombudsman for Children, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy TD has said. New figures from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive have showed there were 2,423 children in emergency accommodation in the Dublin region at the end of July, an increase of 150 children since June. “It must be heartbreaking for families sending their children back to school this week, fearing that they may face being teased or ostracised because they are homeless. This can only add to the already enormous daily stress endured by homeless families,” said Murphy. The spotlight is on the issue as children return to school this week, she said, adding that thousands of homeless children are traveling to school from emergency accommodation including hotels and B&Bs. Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said the latest figures are “very distressing”, adding that it is a “wake-up call” for government. Murphy said the emotional damage being inflicted on these children through no fault of their own must be assessed.

Carolina Youth Development Center wins national accreditation

Carolina Youth Development Center (CYDC) has achieved national accreditation through the New York-based Council on Accreditation (COA). CYDC is a nonprofit serving Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties that provides shelter and support services to child victims of abuse and neglect, as well as youth mentoring programs and a community-based prevention program that helps at-risk families access the resources they need to stay together. “Accreditation is a meticulous process that leaves no stone unturned in evaluating an organization, and we are proud of this tremendous accomplishment,” said CYDC Chief Executive Officer Beverly Hardin. “Successful accreditation is affirmation of our high quality, comprehensive care services.” The COA accreditation process involves a detailed review and analysis of an organization’s administration, management and service delivery functions against international standards of best practice. The standards driving accreditation ensure that services are well-coordinated, culturally competent, evidence-based, outcomes-oriented and provided by a skilled and supported workforce. According to a news release, COA accreditation demonstrates accountability in the management of resources, sets standardized best practice thresholds for service and administration and increases organizational capacity and accountability by creating a framework for ongoing quality improvement.

Montreal: McGill pilots new bursary program for students coming from foster care

As a child growing up in and out of the Ontario foster care system, Arisha Khan never thought she'd attend a university. "As a former youth in care I wouldn't think that I have the capacity to go to McGill," she told CBC's Daybreak. But that's just what she did. Now going into her fourth year in McGill University's International Development and Social Entrepreneurship program, Khan had to overcome a lot to get to where she is. That's why she decided to author a report for the student union, where she works as the vice-president of finance, about the struggles facing students coming from a similar background. Khan went on to help the university develop a new pilot project called the "Youth in Care Bursary," which offers a minimum $5,000 bursary to students coming from the child welfare system for up to four years. "Anyone in Canada can apply," she explained. "I think this is a really positive step forward." The bursary, announced Aug. 1, is managed through the financial aid office. One of the goals listed on the university's site is to "increase the number of current or former foster care youth enrolled in and graduating with a McGill degree." 

UK: Government takes over Croydon child services after 'serious failures'

The government has taken control of Croydon’s children’s services after an Ofsted report revealed “widespread and serious” failures were leaving youngsters at risk. It blamed weak management at all levels of the south London borough for failing to ensure social workers followed protocols for missing children and those at risk of sexual abuse. Too few young people who ran away were spoken to by a social worker when they were found, inspectors reported, so the council had little data on the other risks they might be facing. Children were also forced to wait for unacceptable periods of time for help, the report said, leaving them at risk of greater harm. Inspectors also found many social workers were saddled with unsustainable caseloads, meaning they were unable to give enough time to each child and leading to high staff turnover. Foster carers also complained they were not being properly supported by the local authority and that fostering was not being properly regulated. The report said: “When circumstances for some children do not improve, the local authority is either too slow to take action or reduces the level of support without evidence of demonstrable progress. This means that some children remain in harmful situations for too long. The government has appointed Eleanor Brazil – who worked with Haringey council following the Baby P scandal – to improve children’s services in the borough. 



Housing and homeless guidelines for LGBTQ2S youth released by Alberta government

A new resource for the province’s housing and homelessness system is aimed at helping Alberta’s LGBTQ2S youth feel safe and accepted when using services. In a release from Irfan Sabir, minister of community and social services, he announced the LGBTQ2S Youth Housing and Shelter Guidelines – the first of its kind in Canada. According to the release, nearly one in three homeless youth in Canada identify as being part of the LGBTQ2S community, and research indicated that these youth are subject to higher rates of discrimination, violence, and abuse when compared to other young people. Sabir said all Albertans deserve to feel safe and accepted when accessing services and said he knows more needs to be done to help LGBTQ2S youth feel supported when they’re at risk of or experiencing homelessness. “These new guidelines follow the leadership of Alberta’s LGBTQ2S service providers and help ensure our entire housing and homelessness system is secure and inclusive for everyone,” he said. According to the government, the guidelines were developed through a cross-ministry and community partnership and will help individuals and organizations build relationships of openness and trust with vulnerable youth by ensuring confidentiality, providing guidance to staff on how to create respectful and inclusive environments and providing information about LGBTQ2S-friendly language. 

San Antonio: 1,200 foster kids displaced because of Hurricane Harvey flooding

More than 1,200 foster care children were evacuated from 24 residential centers in the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Harvey. Right now, they're in backup shelters and churches but the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services says that they are figuring out what to do next if those centers are destroyed. "I think it's trauma for them. It's additional trauma, but sadly these kids are used to being displaced," said Renee Garvens with Roy Maas Alternatives. "But they're pretty amazingly resilient in their ability to just grab their stuff and walk away from one home to the next." The Roy Maas Alternatives has prepared to take in as many as 100 of the 1,200 displaced kids in their existing shelter and an additional facility in Boerne. "The kids that we serve have already been through very traumatic experiences," said Bill Wilkinson with Roy Maas Alternatives. "Not only have they often lost the loved ones in their lives, they've also lost a lot of their personal things. So when something like Harvey happens, they're re-traumatized in ways that are very unfamiliar to them." Roy Maas says that they'll have counselors on hand to help kids deal with the new trauma. 

Wales: Gwent AM to lead four-year inquiry into children in care

A committee led by a Gwent AM is to launch a wide-ranging, four-year series of inquiries into the experiences of children in care in Wales. The Welsh Assembly's Public Accounts Committee, which is chaired by Monmouth's Nick Ramsay, is to carry out the extensive inquiry over the remainder of the current Assembly term. The first stage of the project will look into how far services deliver value for money for the young people who experience them. Other stages will look at arrangements around foster care, the role of local authorities and the use of the funding helping schools support deprived children. Conservative AM Mr Ramsay said: "The Prison Reform Trust recently stated that children and young people with experience of care are ‘significantly over represented in the criminal justice service and in custody’. "Statistics from 2015 show that 45 percent of care leavers aged 19 were not in education, training or employment. "This is unacceptable, and we know that their experiences of care contribute to putting them at a disadvantage as they move into adulthood. "We have taken this unique approach because we think continuous scrutiny is needed to ensure that councils and other public services focus on making improvements.

UK: Young black people nine times more likely to be jailed than young white people

Young black people are nine times more likely to be locked up in England and Wales than young white people, according to Ministry of Justice analysis. The official exploratory study also shows that young black people are more likely to be identified with “gang concerns” and be considered a risk to others when being sentenced than any other ethnic group. The research was released on Friday, before next week’s expected publication of the final report of the landmark review into the treatment of black people by the criminal justice system. The report, commissioned by Downing Street and carried out by the Labour MP David Lammy, is expected to include strong recommendations for action. About nine in every 10,000 young black people in the general population were locked up in young offender institutions, secure training centres or secure children’s homes in England and Wales in 2015-16. This compared with one in every 10,000 of those from white ethnic backgrounds, four in every 10,000 of those from mixed ethnic backgrounds, and two in every 10,000 of those from backgrounds classified as “Asian and other”. 



California looks to help out-of-county foster youth

After the state passed two laws last year addressing the needs of “out-of-county” foster youth, California has rolled out new rules to support them, including better access to mental health services. Currently, 13,313 foster youth in California are considered “out-of-county,” meaning that they have been placed in a different county than the one where they first entered the foster care system. About 22 percent of all foster youth in the state are in out-of-county placements, according to the Child Welfare Indicators Project at the University of California, Berkeley. Out-of-county foster youth have long struggled to receive adequate mental health services, with counties failing to appropriately transfer responsibility and funding for those services. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1299, which created rules for children in out-of-county placements, making it easier to distribute mental health funding from one county to another. According to California Alliance of Child and Family Services Executive Director Carroll Schroeder, the new law solves a long-standing child welfare issue in California. “A problem which for 20 years eluded solution has been elegantly, effectively and efficiently solved with the enactment of AB 1299 that mandates the county where a foster youth lives is responsible for his or her mental health care,” Schroeder said. “Now, all that remains is for counties and the state to implement the bill’s provisions in a way that ensures children and youth receive the mental health services they need and to which they are entitled.” 

Wales: Inquiries to prioritise needs of children in care

A series of investigations into the impact of public services on children and young people in care is being launched by an assembly committee. Inquiries will look into issues including fostering and grants given to schools to help poorer children. Public accounts committee chairman Nick Ramsay said "too often" children's needs were not prioritised. Ninety children were in care in Wales in 2016 per 10,000 people, compared to 60 per 10,000 in England. The Welsh figure has increased by 40%, from 64 children in care per 10,000 people in 2003. The Prison Reform Trust has said people who had been in care were significantly over represented in the criminal justice system and custody. Mr Ramsay, Conservative AM for Monmouth, said: "Statistics from 2015 show that 45% of care leavers aged 19 were not in education, training or employment.
"This is unacceptable and we know that their experiences of care contribute to putting them at a disadvantage as they move into adulthood." The committee will spend the next four years on the inquiries, the first of which will look into the value for money of services for children and young people in care. The committee has asked for responses to an initial consultation by 15 September.

USA: New research links increased minimum wage to reduced child maltreatment

Advocates claim that raising the minimum wage would lift many families out of poverty and reduce income equality, but a new study contends that a rise in wages would also reduce child maltreatment. According to a study from Indiana University and University of Connecticut researchers released in the January issue of Children and Youth Services Review, neglect reports involving young children declined by 10.8 percent in response to a $1 increase in the minimum wage. According to University of California Berkeley economics professor Michael Reich, the study provides more evidence that boosting wages can provide health benefits for low-income families. “The results complement a number of other recent papers showing that minimum wage increases have beneficial effects on infant and maternal health, adolescent fertility, and other health outcomes,” said Reich, who has studied the impact of minimum wage increases in California. Bruce Lesley and Cara Baldari of Washington, D.C.-based First Focus said raising the minimum wage should be part of the conversation in addressing child abuse and neglect: “A reduction in child maltreatment rates through raising the minimum wage would have a profound impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of children who experience maltreatment and would reduce the economic cost to cities and states responsible for providing services to children and families who have experienced abuse and neglect.”

UK: Children's homes open at fastest rate in five years

The inspectorate's annual children's social care statistics show that at 31 March 2017 there were 2,145 homes operating in England. This marks a four per cent increase on the previous year's 2,071. However, the number of registered places in children's homes barely changed, increasing from 11,639 to 11,664 – a rise of less than one per cent. The figures also show that the proportion of children's homes being run by local authorities is continuing to decline. In 2013 local authorities ran just over a quarter of children's homes (26 per cent) but this has now shrunk to a fifth (20 per cent). Private sector organisations run 72 per cent of all children's homes, the remaining eight per cent are operated by the voluntary sector. Ofsted reported that 82 per cent of the children's homes it inspected in the year to 31 March 2017 were rated "good" or "outstanding", compared with 79 per cent the year before. Local authority children's homes achieved the highest percentage of good or better homes at 85 per cent followed by the voluntary sector (83 per cent) and the private sector (80 per cent). Ofsted also noted that, contrary to expectations, local authorities rated good or outstanding were more likely to experience increased social worker turnover following their inspection, while inadequate-rated councils were more likely to see reduced turnover.

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