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27 SEPTEMBER

Canada: Newfoundland and Labrador child and youth advocate says most recommendations acted on

Newfoundland and Labrador’s child and youth advocate Jackie Lake Kavanagh says 95 per cent of past recommendations have been acted on, as she released her office’s 2017-18 status report Wednesday. As of March 31, the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate had made a total of 201 recommendations to various government departments and agencies. Of those 201 recommendations, 95 per cent have been implemented, four per cent have been partially implemented, and only one per cent have not yet been implemented. Kavanaugh, in a news release, said she will continue to follow up with departments and agencies on any new or outstanding recommendations until they are all appropriately addressed. “Our collective responsibilities to the wellbeing of children and youth are significant and it is vital for children, youth as well as their families and the public to see that each recommendation for change and improvement is followed and the status published,” Kavanagh said. In previous reports, she said her office monitored and reported on progress of the Child Death Review Committee (CDRC) recommendations. As the CDRC is separate from the child and youth advocate, reports to the Department of Justice and Public Safety and is legislated under the Fatalities Investigations Act, Kavanagh said her office will no longer monitor CDRC recommendations. One recommendation from the 2017 report The Case for Specialized Health Care Responses to Recognize and Prevent Child Sexual Abuse remains not implemented, while four are partially implemented. Four of the seven recommendations are done. Also from 2017, The Case for Specialized Health Care Responses to Recognize and Prevent Child Sexual Abuse report has one outstanding recommendation and four partially implemented recommendations. Only two of seven are completed. The 2015 report A Tragedy Waiting to Happen and the 2017 report The Case for Culturally Responsive Services each have one partially implemented recommendation outstanding, but most recommendations done.  

UK: Young care leavers in Greater Manchester have been taking part in a pioneering initiative aimed at tackling youth loneliness

The Youth Co-operative Action project – run in 2018 by the Co-operative College and supported by the Co-op Foundation through a £25,000 grant from the #iwill Fund – aimed to inspire young people through creating a support network to bring young care leavers together. The initiative followed a 2016 government report highlighting how 64% of leaving care services were judged by Ofsted in 2015 as ‘requiring improvement’ or ‘inadequate’. Feedback from care leavers also highlighted that isolation and loneliness were huge issues, with the lack of a reliable social network throughout their late teens and early twenties also cited as being particularly “problematic”. As part of the project, groups of care leavers from Rochdale and Manchester visited community-based projects and organisations – such as Incredible Edible in Todmorden and Pastures New in Rochdale – which emphasise working together and giving back to the community. “This gave the young people a chance to witness the difference social action projects could make to those involved and their local areas,” said the Co-operative College, “while also enabling then to pick up inspiration for their own joint community project that they’ll launch as a group later this year with the support of Greater Manchester Youth Network.” The Youth Co-operative Action project finishes at the end of November with a celebration event. Those involved will then act as mentors for any future projects. “Isolation and loneliness are real issues for many young care leavers,” said Jim Cooke, head of the Co-op Foundation. “By funding projects such as this, the Co-op Foundation is supporting young people to talk openly about loneliness, often for the first time, while also helping each other and their communities through youth social action.” Simon Parkinson, chief executive and principal of the Co-operative College, added: “This is a fantastic project that is making a real difference to those involved and to local communities across Greater Manchester. By placing co-operative values like solidarity, social responsibility and openness at the heart of this work we’re inspiring a new generation of young people to work together and tackle the issues that matter to them.”

India: UNICEF organizes media roundtable on ‘alternative forms of child care’

The family is a natural environment for growth, well-being and protection of children. However, children with inadequate or no parental care are at special risk of exploitation and abuse and require alternative care services. To inform and discuss Alternative forms of Child Care for children in need of care and protection or for those separated from their parents, UNICEF organized a media roundtable on ‘Alternative forms of Child Care’ in Odishs today. Setting the context to the media roundtable, Laxminarayan Nanda, Child Protection Specialist UNICEF Odisha said, “Children are separated from their parents for reasons that include forced migration, natural disasters, diseases, abuse or neglect, social exclusion, death of one or more parent, and even a lack of household resources. Putting these children into long term institutional residential care affects the holistic development of the child. UNICEF collaborates closely with the Department of W&CD and YCDA to advocate for effective implementation of JJ (CPC) Act – 2015 and integrating the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (2009) into its policies; strengthen community-based activities and social protection services to support and strengthen families to prevent separation, and support family reintegration when possible.” Rajendra Meher, Secretary, YCDA spoke about Odisha’s experience on different forms of Alternative Child Care, “Instead of institutionalising children, alternative child care is a better option, as it provides them a safe environment to grow until they are reunited with their parents or are permanently rehabilitated”. “YCDA in collaboration with District Administration of Boudh, Bolangir & Khurdha and technical partnership with UNICEF, has initiated several interventions to demonstrate alternative forms of child care. This includes Kinship Care, Independent Living, Sponsorship and After Care,” he added. Harihar Nayak, Member of Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (OSCPCR) spoke about the role of the Commission towards Protection of Child Rights. He said, “Since Kinship Care is a widely accepted practice especially in rural areas, it is important to bring Kinship Care and Independent Living practices into the legal framework, so that the children get their rights and entitlements.”  

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25 SEPTEMBER

Canada: 'They want our help': Child advocate blasts Manitoba's mental health, addiction supports

Manitoba's Advocate for Children and Youth says young people are dying from drug overdoses and suicide while the province remains mired in "ideological debate" about treatment. In a statement published Friday, Daphne Penrose outlined concerns with Manitoba's mental health and addictions system, which she says lags behind those in other provinces. She said her statement comes after meeting with provincial officials this week. "I am disappointed to learn that six months after the Virgo report [on mental health care and addictions treatment in Manitoba] was released, the government still does not have a concrete plan of action for youth mental health and addiction," reads the statement, which says 143 young people have died by suicide over the past 10 years, including eight last month alone. Penrose also said drug-related deaths – including methamphetamine overdoses – are "skyrocketing" and the number of meth-related deaths doubled over the last year. "While other provinces move forward in addressing Canada's opioid crisis with … decriminalized public health approaches to substance misuse, Manitoba lags behind, seemingly stuck in an ideological debate, at the grave expense of too many children and youth," she said. "All of us, as parents, grandparents, and community leaders, have a personal stake in doing better by our children and our youth." Currently, Manitoba's youth mental health services and supports have restrictive admissions criteria that prevent young people from getting the treatment they need when they need it, said Penrose. Penrose is advocating for a "full continuum of services" to deal with the trauma that can lead to mental health and addiction issues. "They need early intervention and prevention services so that they can get assistance in dealing with that trauma before it becomes too much and they turn to possibly drugs or alcohol or they start having mental health issues," she told CBC News in an interview Friday. 

Australia: Juvenile Justice NSW staff to receive new training

More than 500 frontline staff in Juvenile Justice NSW will receive new training in de-escalation and use of force for managing detainees in youth centres. The initiative is part of the NSW government’s $1 million investment in improved training for frontline staff managing an average of about 286 detainees across the state’s six Juvenile Justice centres, one of which is at Dubbo. It will improve skills in de-escalation and negotiation, as well as refresh use of force and protective tactics initiatives. Minister for Corrections David Elliott said the government was backing frontline officers with better training to ensure they had the best tools to do their job safely. “The safety of our Juvenile Justice youth officers is my top priority,” he said. “They work in a demanding environment managing detainees who display a range of complex behaviours, including emotional volatility and impulsive violence. “While the number of detainees has reduced significantly over the past 10 years, managing them remains challenging. “It is vital Juvenile Justice officers have the skills to respond appropriately.” The $1 million investment has also funded the rollout of improved officer training in mental health, communication and managing challenging behaviour. Juvenile Justice executive director Melanie Hawyes said the training would support officers as they deliver rehabilitation programs to young offenders.

New Zealand: Unisys' new portal allows children to easily communicate

Unisys Corporation today announced the global availability of the FamilyNow™ Child Portal, a tool for children at risk that enables child welfare workers to better address their needs by more easily communicating and building relationships with them. The new portal is accessible via any web-enabled device and available for implementation either separately or as a part of FamilyNow, a comprehensive, next-generation case management software solution that helps government social services agencies protect children at risk. It features a graphical interface that makes it easy for foster children 13 and under to share information, photos and more, with access and content approved by caseworkers. All Child Portal data and communications are protected through industry-leading cybersecurity and privacy protection tools. “The FamilyNow Child Portal uses friendly and secure technology to address an ongoing challenge for child welfare professionals,” said Richard Amer, Director of Digital Governments, Unisys Asia Pacific. “It’s not uncommon for today’s child welfare worker to have between 20 and 30 cases, with many of those cases involving multiple children. Workers often struggle just to see children in the required timeframes, let alone develop relationships through constant communication. The FamilyNow Child Portal makes this possible so that case workers can more easily take action and focus on outcomes.” 

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20 SEPTEMBER

American Academy of Pediatrics calls for "gender-affirming" approach to treating transgender youth 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a policy statement for parents and clinicians caring for transgender and gender-diverse children and adolescents recommending that they be granted access to “gender-affirming” care. “In its dedication to the health of all children, the AAP strives to improve health care access and eliminate disparities for children and teenagers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) of their sexual or gender identity,” the statement reads. "Despite some advances in public awareness and legal protections, youth who identify as LGBTQ continue to face disparities that stem from multiple sources, including inequitable laws and policies, societal discrimination, and a lack of access to quality health care, including mental health care,” the statement continues. “Such challenges are often more intense for youth who do not conform to social expectations and norms regarding gender.” Among the recommendations made by the AAP are that transgender and gender-diverse children, their parents, caregivers, and siblings should be allowed to access family-based therapy and support, that transgender youth have the right to be referred to and treated according to their gender identity, and that insurance plans should cover transition-related care, including hormones and even potential surgery, that have been ruled medically necessary. The AAP recommends that medical providers who work with transgender children advocate for policies and laws that recognize their patients’ gender identities and protect them from harassment, exclusion, or bullying. The AAP also recommends, as part of the “gender-affirming care model,” that parents play a role in ensuring the well-being of their children, noting: “Supportive involvement of parents and family is associated with better mental and physical health outcomes. Gender affirmation among adolescents with gender dysphoria often reduces the emphasis on gender in their lives, allowing them to attend to other developmental tasks, such as academic success, relationship building, and future-oriented planning.” Population-based surveys estimate that 0.7% of teens aged 13 to 17 are transgender, according to the AAP. Past studies have indicated that rates of attempted suicide and suicidal ideation are particularly high among transgender youth. By affirming a youth’s gender identity and expression, parents and medical providers can potentially reduce feelings of alienation and combat problems like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and self-harm — which are higher among transgender youth than their cisgender peers.

Scotland: Edinburgh Council criticised over lack of support for child leaving foster care

Edinburgh Council has been criticised for failing to support a child leaving care after her foster placement ended with short notice, including wrongly advising her to pose as homeless to be offered somewhere to live. In the report, carried out by the The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) – which investigates complaints against public authorities – the complainant, referred to as Ms C, was an advisor to Ms A. At the time, the council advised Ms A that she should pose as homeless ''in order to secure accommodation''. Ms C complained to the SPSO that the council had ''failed to provide the required support and after-care to Ms A as a looked after child, and that they wrongly used homelessness legislation in order to secure accommodation for Ms A.'' Opposition councillors have lambasted the council for its lack of support and SPSO have now told the council to apologise to the complainant and launch an ''audit of young people under their care that are due to leave their care placement in the next 12 months.'' A spokesperson for the SPSO said: ''While the council acknowledged that they failed to provide consistent support to Ms A, we did not consider that the council adequately acknowledged their failings. ''We identified that the council missed a number of opportunities to plan proactively for Ms A leaving care, that they wrongly advised Ms A to present as homeless and that they failed to evidence the after-care support they provided. We upheld this aspect of the complaint.'' The council has recruited two care experienced young people to work alongside councillors and senior officers.

UK: Duty of care to young people is extended to age 25 – but is there enough cash to cope?

A requirement for councils to give more young people help to get on in the wider world has sparked concern over funding pressures. Councillors and officers alike shared their worries at the latest Stockton Council Children and Young People Select Committee on the back of a government shift in legislation. Jackie Ward, child placement manager at Stockton Council, explained to the panel how the government had introduced a “duty of care” which extended how long authorities have to provide support services to those leaving care from age 21 to 25. And there were misgivings the pot of money offered to cope wasn’t enough for a council already fighting a tight budget. Stockton Council offers personal assistants to all care leavers up to age 21 at the moment - as well as council tax exemption, match funding for driving lessons and a £2,000 bursary for university. It also offers alongside a raft of other support services including bespoke supported housing, emergency accommodation at “crash pads” and a Tees Active gym membership. Ms Ward told councillors services were receiving about £11,000 in the first year to cope with the changes with “about £22,000, £33,000 and £44,000” offered in the following three years. Chairwoman Cllr Carol Clark said she “could not understand” why the council was only receiving £11,000 in the first year – rather than having more money up front to cope with youngsters coming back into the system. Ms Ward said the government had done a “bit of guess work” to work out the funding formula. And Martin Gray, director of children’s services, added his voice of concern. “There has been a lot of noise about this nationally and criticism of the process – we echo that,” said Mr Gray. Meanwhile, the council has drawn up ideas to adjust the existing service. A report for the meeting showed how offering a careers advisor to care leavers up to age 25, an offer of more work apprenticeships at the council and an offer to fund a TV licence for a first year could be used to help meet the requirement. 

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18 SEPTEMBER

USA: Pediatricians group recommends 'affirmative care' for transgender youth

For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement that calls for gender-affirming health care for all transgender and gender-diverse (TGD) youth. The policy, which was posted online Monday and will be published in the next issue of the journal “Pediatrics,” is aimed at pediatricians who “are focused on promoting the health and positive development of youth that identify as TGD while eliminating discrimination and stigma.” Noting that the field is “rapidly changing,” the AAP said in a statement that its new policy aims to address the disproportionate health risks faced by trans youth, like “high rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance use, self-harm and suicide.” The main thrust of the proposal is what the AAP calls a “gender-affirmative care model,” or GACM, in which “providers work together to destigmatize gender variance, promote the child’s self-worth, facilitate access to care, educate families, and advocate for safer community spaces where children are free to develop and explore their gender.”The GACM undergirds “a strong, nonjudgmental partnership with youth and their families can facilitate exploration of complicated emotions and gender-diverse expressions while allowing questions and concerns to be raised in a supportive environment.” In an interview with NBC News, the lead author of the policy guidance paper, Dr. Jason Rafferty, said “the biggest thing right now is the lack of education around this issue.” He said the policy guidance aims to ease the process for transgender and gender-diverse children and their parents as they attempt to navigate the pediatric challenges posed by the transgender experience.

Scotland: More Supported Lodging schemes could help tackle youth homelessness

More lodgings could help tackle youth homelessness in Scotland according to a new report from Heriot Watt University. Supported Lodging schemes are used for care leavers in Scotland. It gives young people their own room in a private home. Specialist support is given to both the host and the lodger. The report for Shelter Scotland found a "high degree of support among sector experts" for expanding supported lodgings. Experts also predict the move could reduce hostel and B&B use among young homeless people. Youth homelessness has fallen in recent years in Scotland, but people aged 16-24 are over-represented among the overall homeless population. In 2016/17 a total of 1,755 temporary accommodation placements for young people were into hostels and 670 into B&Bs. Lead researcher Beth Watts said: "The findings provide strong support for the development and growth of Supported Lodgings schemes in Scotland, targeting young people who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness. It's clear there is an urgent need. Existing accommodation options for young people are inadequate. Despite improvements in recent years, too many young people are still living in B&B and hostel accommodation at some point in their 'homelessness journey', an experience they can find isolating, intimidating and even harmful. Shelter Scotland's George Drennan-Lang said: "We think a Supported Lodgings service, with specially trained hosts, would provide some young people with the secure home environment they need to help move forward in life."

UK: Ofsted relaxes inspections for struggling 'inadequate' councils

Councils where children's services standards are deemed to be "inadequate" are to receive shorter, less intense re-inspections, Ofsted has announced. Under the inspection of local authority children's services (ILACS) system, which was officially introduced in January, inadequate councils received up to six quarterly monitoring visits prior to a three-week re-inspection under the predecessor to ILACS – the single inspection framework (SIF). However, Ofsted has now announced that inadequate councils will no longer receive a three-week SIF inspection, instead getting a two-week standard ILACS visit – the same inspection that councils judged to be "requires improvement" get. An updated ILACS framework, which was first published in November 2017, sets out the change. "We will no longer carry out re-inspections of inadequate local authorities using the single inspection framework," the document states. "We will re-inspect using a standard inspection under this [ILACS] framework." ILACS has been touted as a less demanding inspection regime, designed to reflect the pressures councils face as a result of funding cuts. Its predecessor the SIF had been criticised for being too demanding. The framework sets out a new requirement for councils to produce an action plan if concerns are raised on a focused visit. 

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13 SEPTEMBER

Canada: Child and youth care workers heading to Tłı̨chǫ and Dehcho

Youth in two small communities in the Yellowknife area are getting more resources tailored for their mental health. The Government of the Northwest Territories announced Tuesday that new Child and Youth Care Counsellors will start working in Tłı̨chǫ and Dehcho this month. They will provide counselling services for students in schools and will work with children and their families. Minister of Health and Social Services Glen Abernethy says they’re meant to help fill a gap in mental health resources for young people. “Our children and youth deserve specialized care tailored to their unique needs. That is why we are working with our partners to put in place responsive solutions for NWT children and youth.” The government has committed to adding 42 full-time CYCCs and seven clinical supervisors across the territory over the next four years. They are heading to regions and schools based on their need, and seven have so far been recruited or hired. “The addition of CYCCs in NWT schools will provide a much needed holistic, integrated approach to mental health for children, youth and their families,” says Minister of Education, Culture and Employment Caroline Cochrane. “The services offered to children and youth today will impact the economic and social outcomes of the NWT in the future.” 

UK: Self harm trebles among children and young adults post-social media

Child psychiatrists have expressed alarm over a sharp rise in self-harm among teenagers since the advent of social media. National research shows a tripling in poisonings via paracetamol and antidepressants among those aged between 10 and 24 in the UK between 1998 and 2014. The figures come amid concerns about "an epidemic of mental illness" among young people, with the internet fuelling insecurity, anxiety and copycat behaviour. Experts said they were particularly worried about rising cases among girls aged 10 to 15, with a doubling in paracetamol poisonings seen in the last two years studied. The research by the University of Nottingham tracked 1.7 million UK patients aged between 10 and 24 from 1998 onwards, using GP and hospital records. The study suggests around one in seven children and young people have attempted self-harm or suicide, most commonly by taking high quantities of drugs such as paracetamol. Dr Bernadka Dubicka, chairman of the Royal College of Psychiatrists‘ child and adolescent faculty, said: “The findings in this report are very troubling and reinforce recent reports of a rise in self-harm in young people, particularly girls and young women. “Comparisons around body image on social media are likely to be affecting girls more than boys and this could have contributed to this rise in self-poisoning.“But this is just one of a number of potential factors behind the rise, which include academic pressures and worries about the future – services are overwhelmed by demand and the number of child psychiatrists has fallen.” The new research, published in the British Journal of General Practice, comes as a report by charity Young Minds warns of a crisis in mental health care, with three in four children seeking help forced to wait so long that their condition deteriorated. Emma Thomas, the charity’s chief executive said: “We hear every day from young people who have been left waiting for support while their problems have got worse. Some tell us that they’ve started to self-harm, become suicidal, or dropped out of school because they can’t get the help they need.”

USA: Young people with opioid addiction not getting proper treatment

The vast majority of young people struggling with addiction to opioids are not receiving medications that have been recommended to treat their disease, a new study shows. Only one in four received one of the medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone – within three months of their diagnosis, according to the report in JAMA Pediatrics. The situation was even worse for the younger people with addiction, researchers found. Just one in 21 adolescents under age 18 received one of the guideline-recommended medications, researchers found. “This study shows that the great majority of youth are not receiving treatment recommended in evidence-based guidelines,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Scott Hadland, a pediatrician and addiction specialist at the Grayken Center for Addiction at the Boston Medical Center. “That’s really concerning because the data suggest that when people do receive medication they are much more likely to remain in treatment.” Remaining in treatment can be the difference between life and death, Hadland said. The three guideline-recommended medications help by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms, Hadland explained. “That allows people to really focus on recovery,” he added. “An additional benefit is that people are less likely to overdose because of the pharmacological properties of these medications.”

UK: Educational psychologists demand smacking ban

Smacking is harmful to children's mental health and a UK-wide ban should be introduced, the organisation representing educational psychologists, has said. The Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) said that although corporal punishment was initially banned in state schools in 1986, with a full ban in place in all schools in all parts of the UK by 2003, it is still allowed in the home. A parent, or caregiver, can smack or otherwise physically hurt a child within the law as it currently stands if the punishment is "reasonable". AEP will propose a motion at the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in Manchester today calling for a full ban on corporal punishment in the UK. It said that under the current law even when there is physical evidence of severe punishment, it is almost impossible to prove that it is unreasonable. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to show that the punishment was unreasonable, and as the violence takes place behind closed doors, gathering evidence is difficult and successful prosecutions are rare. Addressing the annual TUC Congress, John Drewicz, member of the Association of Educational Psychologists' national executive committee, will say: "Smacking is harmful to a child's mental health, it models aggressive behaviour and it says to them that it is okay to use violence. There are many other more effective ways of teaching children right from wrong than by hitting them. Sixty countries already have full bans, including Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Germany and Portugal, and it is time to make violence against children illegal in the UK in all settings, including the home." 

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10 SEPTEMBER

USA: Outrage over Trump’s ‘sickening’ plans to detain migrant children indefinitely

Opponents of Donald Trump’s approach to immigration have lined up to condemn as “inhumane” and “sickening” proposals to facilitate indefinite detention of migrant children and their families. The administration has announced it plans to withdraw from a federal court agreement that strictly limits the conditions under which authorities can detain migrant children. And the government proposed new rules it said would enable it to detain minors during their immigration proceedings. The administration has long targeted the Flores Settlement Agreement, a 1997 federal consent decree that places significant curbs on how long and in what conditions the government can detain migrant children as it seeks to dissuade migrants from crossing the US southern border. If it goes into effect, the regulation would enshrine some of the protections while circumventing other key ones, by allowing the government to detain children in facilities not licensed by state authorities to hold minors. Opponents were outraged. The plan was “inhumane”, said the House of Representatives minority leader, Nancy Pelosi. “This is another inhumane assault on families and children,” she said. “It’s a wrong decision … I completely disagree with what the president has done.” 

UK: Jersey's vulnerable children 'not a priority'

Children's services in Jersey are "struggling in isolation" due to a "legacy of widespread failures", inspectors have said. Ofsted found "a lack of political and corporate support" with "substantial" infrastructure changes needed. The report said: "Vulnerable children have not been a priority for the States of Jersey." In response the States of Jersey said it has committed to faster action on changes. A 2017 Jersey Care Inquiry report found children may still be at risk on the island and children in the care system were not always receiving the kind or quality of support they needed. Chief minister senator John Le Fondre said the States accepted Ofsted's findings and welcomed the recommendations. He said: "We have already started to implement a new improvement plan and will now take any necessary further steps to take into account the recommendations for further improvement." Glenn Houston, chairman of the Jersey Care Commission, said: "[The Ofsted] inspection found that whilst there was no child at risk of immediate harm, much needs to be done to improve social work services for children and young people in Jersey." Ofsted found social workers and managers were not "provided with the right conditions to carry out their work". It said improvements were also needed for care leavers and in dealing with those who experienced neglect or were at risk of sexual exploitation.

USA: Extracurricular activities improve outcomes for foster care youth

Participation in extracurricular activities improves educational outcomes among older youth transitioning out of the foster care system, research conducted by Georgia State University professor of social work Lionel Scott and his colleagues has found. Their study, published this year in Children and Youth Services Review, examines whether participation in supplementary activities is associated with completing high school and starting college by age 19 for this population. Scott’s co-authors included Tony White with the Department of Behavioral Health, Washington, D.C., and Michelle R. Munson of New York University. Their findings suggest students in foster care who participate in extracurricular activities increase their likelihood of graduating from high school with a diploma by age 19. These youth reported better grades and greater educational aspirations when they participated in activities outside of the core classroom curriculum. However, extracurricular participation was not associated with college entry among this population by age 19. Neither was it related to obtaining a General Education Diploma (GED) by age 19. “This finding is important,” Scott said, “as the child welfare literature suggests graduating from high school with a diploma versus obtaining a GED is more advantageous for vocational and post-secondary educational prospects of transitioning foster youth.” Scott and his co-authors followed 312 young people over two years. They conducted interviews at three-month intervals to track academic performance and goals. Sixty percent of the young people reported they participated in one or more activities outside their school’s academic requirements. “One factor that likely encourages higher grades is that many extracurricular programs, like sports, for example, require a minimum grade point average or level of academic performance for participation, hence encouraging students to maintain higher grades and disqualifying students with lower academic performance,” Scott said. “Some students may be more motivated to stay engaged with school and keep on the right path particularly because of their association with extracurricular activities. “Our findings suggest efforts to make extracurricular participation a standard aspect of foster youth developmental experience are essential for their educational well-being.”

UK: Concerns remain at major children's trust, Ofsted finds

Concerns remain over the standard of social work practice within the largest children's services trust to be established, Ofsted has found. Birmingham Children's Trust was launched in April to improve standards within the council's children's services department, which have been rated as "inadequate" since 2009. But in the second monitoring visit since the trust took over provision, inspectors found that in some neglect cases social workers are over-optimistic about the welfare of the child, which is preventing swift decisions being made around further intervention. Concerns also remain around the evaluation of social work practice. While a new evaluation process has been set up inspectors say that more work is required to ensure the trust can effectively measure performance and learn from its findings. In addition, the trust's work with partners was found to not always be consistent, and they are not always actively involved in multi-agency child protection meetings. "The trust is continuing to make some progress in improving services for its children and young people," states Ofsted in a letter to the trust. "However, a number of areas continue to require improvements in services for children and their families. These include the quality of the trust's evaluation of social work practice, the consistent engagement of partners in contributing to multi-agency meetings and ensuring that in cases of neglect, over-optimism does not lead to inaction." 

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5 SEPTEMBER

Netherlands: Youth care workers hold protest to highlight funding gap ‘crisis’

More than 2,500 youth support workers are staging a demonstration in The Hague on Monday calling on the government to provide extra funding and reduce their administrative burden. Protesters held up boards with the names of children and teenagers who are missing out on essential support because of the pressure on the sector. Health minister Hugo de Jonge has already rejected a plea by unions to provide €750 million extra to address the problem. Youth worker Niekie Warnaar told RTV Rijnmond that urgent cases were being held up because of a lack of funding. ‘To cite one glaring example: a 15-year-old homeless girl who I can’t find a bed for the night because of all the bureaucratic wrangling.’ Responsibility for youth care was devolved from central government to the municipalities in 2015. The government also said the total care bill needed to be cut by €450 million, even after the transfer caused administrative problems such as waiting lists and delayed payments. The FNV union says the switch has led to a ‘race to the bottom’ as councils try to buy in care on the cheap, while waiting lists increase and children and their parents receive inadequate services. Vice-chair Kitty Jong said: ‘Many youth care providers are at breaking point or leaving the sector. It is a crisis that is on the verge of becoming a tragedy.’

Health Canada just saying no to old-school anti-marijuana ad campaigns

In the past, public health campaigns warning of the harmful effects of drugs delivered one resounding message: Don't do it. But now that the federal government has decided to legalize marijuana, Health Canada has undertaken new strategies to try and land on teens' screens and in the places they hang out. "Inevitably, that communication and education is going to be more nuanced and subtle," said David Hammond, a professor in the school of public health at the University of Waterloo. Hammond said the federal government has adopted a harm reduction approach to its education around cannabis. That means instead of warning the public not to consume it, the messages point out that there are circumstances where it should be avoided. Health Canada says it has rolled out a number of public education campaigns and has invested some coin in the effort. A social media campaign has been underway since last spring, and Public Safety began running a campaign on drug-impaired driving last fall. There's also a cannabis health facts advertising campaign underway, launched last March, which aims to deliver "honest facts" to teens. This campaign features questions from the public and answers by cannabis experts, and can be found on the government's cannabis website. As recently as July, Health Canada launched an interactive engagement tour which targets youth and young adults and takes place at events like fairs, music festivals and sporting events. The department said the planned investment in cannabis public education, awareness and surveillance is more than $100 million over six years. This includes $62.5 million over five years, proposed in last year's federal budget, to support community organizations and Indigenous groups that are educating their communities on the risks associated with cannabis use.

USA: New, close to $20 million juvenile justice center underway

“We designed this for not a correctional feel. We did not want our kids who come here to feel like they’ve been incarcerated. Some need to be incarcerated, but most are going to age out and they’re going to get better,” Bill Sommers, director of the Office of Juvenile Justice Services, in Lake Charles, Louisiana said. Sommers said he hopes the children who come through the center never have to come back and Calcasieu Police Juror Dennis Scott, agrees. “So when somebody loses direction we want to help create a path, when somebody feels hopeless, we want to be there to make sure they feel like they mean something,” Scott said. The building is expected to have 38 beds and “an on-site medical clinic and expanded space for mental health services and vocational-technical training,” according to their website. Sommers said this center has been talked about for at least a decade, and the staff could use the space. “This is a game changer. I mean, the space and programming in which we’ll be able to provide here, which we can’t right now because we’re spaced limited, really, we’ll be able to see a difference for decades to come,” Sommers said. When designing the new building they didn’t want want kids to feel like they’ve been imprisoned. Sommers said the whole goal was to build the center around programming. “Recidivism rates should go down, this is a whole new chapter,” Sommers said. He said he expects the building will be finished by late 2019 or early 2020. 

Scotland: Child mental health waits worst on record

Child mental health waiting times were the worst on record between April and June, according to new figures. Only 67.8% of the 4,664 children and young people who started their treatment during the three month period did so within the Scottish Government’s 18-week waiting time target. The figure compares with 71.1% in the previous quarter and 80.7% for the same quarter in 2017, and is the worst on record since the target was set in 2014. Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey admitted they were “completely unacceptable”. The government set a standard for the NHS to deliver a maximum wait of 18 weeks from a patient’s referral to treatment for specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) from December 2014. Ministers said the standard should be delivered for at least 90% of patients. However the latest figures show the 90% target was met by only three NHS Boards – NHS Ayrshire and Arran, NHS Shetland and NHS Western Isles. Only 34.4% of people were seen within 18 weeks in NHS Tayside, while Forth Valley and Grampian failed to achieve 50%. Across Scotland, 27% of people waited 19-35 weeks, around 4% waited 36-52 weeks, and around 1% waited 53 weeks or longer. Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “These statistics are horrendous and heartbreaking.” He added: “There is no excuse for the worst child mental health waits on record. They show more than 200 children and young people waiting over a year for treatment. This SNP Government is failing a generation of young people who need help and it is having a devastating impact on them and their families.”

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3 SEPTEMBER

USA: California passes bill allowing trans foster kids to access transition-related care

The bill, AB-2119, was introduced by openly gay Assemblymember Todd Gloria. It mandates that the California Department of Social Services develop guidelines by 2020. The guidelines are to outline best practices, ensuring trans youth are aware of their options. Additionally, the guidelines would allow them to access Medi-Cal services to pursue hormone or other medically necessary treatments. Earlier this week, the bill was approved by the State Senate. After some amendments to the wording, it was approved by the Assembly with a 53-22 vote. It now heads to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. ‘The passage of AB 2119 today is a momentous sign of hope for transgender foster youth living in the system growing up feeling neglected, forgotten, or out of place. With this bill, I hope those foster youth will be assured that we see you. We care about you, and there is a place for you in California,’ Gloria said in a statement. ‘AB 2119 will empower transgender foster youth to live authentically and simply be themselves. Governor Brown now has the power to make that a reality.’ Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur believes this bill has the possibility to save lives. ‘[The bill] gives LGBTQ foster youth room to focus on other important aspects of their lives, including succeeding in school, building healthy relationships, and fully engaging in positive youth development programs,’ Zbur said in a statement. In addition, The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) also applauded the passage of this bill. ‘Every young person in foster care deserves, and is entitled to, medically necessary health and behavioral health care,’ Shannan Wilber, NCLR’s youth policy director, said in a statement. ‘The harms caused by the denial or delay of medically necessary care are particularly acute for transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth, who often encounter barriers to receiving the care they need to ensure their health, safety, and well-being.’

UK: Call for tech firms to act as 80,000 in UK pose sexual threat to children

A “call to action” for technology companies such as Facebook and Google to do more to help combat online child sexual abuse is to be sounded on Monday by the home secretary, Sajid Javid, as a part of a new government push. Javid will make the announcement as figures from the National Crime Agency (NCA) reveal that up to 80,000 people in the UK present some kind of sexual threat to children online, although experts caution that this is a conservative estimate. New funding support for law enforcement battling the problem is also expected to be unveiled as the home secretary outlines a “personal mission to tackle child abuse in all its forms” in what is being trailed as a flagship speech. The NCA said on Sunday that more than 130 suspects – including a former police officer and five teachers – were arrested in a recent crackdown on online child sexual abuse offenders over the course of one week in July. Of those arrested, 13 were registered sex offenders and 19 held positions of trust, with a children’s entertainer, an ex-police officer and two special constables also arrested. The NCA said it had received 82,109 referrals for child sexual abuse images from social media companies in 2017 – a 700% increase since 2012. Violations are also becoming more serious, with the abuse of babies and children aged under 10 being more regularly documented, according to the Home Office. Growing trends include the livestreaming of abuse, which comes against the backdrop of increasing internet speeds, smartphone technology and the growing ease of money transfers across borders.

UK: Inspectors hail 'innovative' work with siblings of young offenders

Youth offending services in Derby have been rated as "good" overall with particular praise for work to reduce the risk of children and young people reoffending, including support for siblings. An inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation identified a number of "innovative" areas of work, with children and young people referred to the service found to be provided with an "impressive range" of support and services. Inspectors noted that, unusually in youth offending work, the siblings of young offenders could also access support to prevent them getting involved in antisocial behaviour or crime. "Particular attention had been given to supporting siblings, who were offered help to avoid becoming involved in antisocial behaviour or crime, or to minimise the impact of having a brother or sister who was involved with offending," the report states. "We saw several examples where a referral had been made to the children's services for early help; this was good practice." Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said a new head of Derby Youth Offending Service (YOS) had been appointed in November 2017 and the management team had started to review and change performance and practice.

South Africa: Western Cape Children’s commissioner could prove toothless

The provincial government is edging closer to appointing a provincial children’s commissioner, but child advocacy groups are worried that such a commissioner will have little power to tackle child issues. The Legislature’s standing committee on the premier and constitutional matters was briefed earlier this week by the Department of the Premier on the Western Cape Commissioner for Children Bill responsible for establishing a Commissioner for Children. This comes as police reported in Parliament earlier this week that 279 children were murdered, and 2063 raped in the province in the 2017/18 financial year. In the same period, 370 women were murdered in the province, while in total 3915 women and children were murdered across the country. The chairperson of the committee, Daylin Mitchell, said the commissioner for children must, as per section 78 of the constitution of the Western Cape, assist the provincial government to protect and promote the interests of children in health services, education, welfare services, recreation, amenities and sport. “The commissioner will have the power to monitor, investigate, research, educate, lobby, advise and report on children. They will also have to provide an annual report to the Legislature. We remain committed to creating safe and wholesome communities in which our children are free to play, live and grow,” Mitchell said. But the director of the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence, Valdi van Reenen, said the bill gave little power to the commissioner. “A penalty fine can be issued if there is no reaction on a subpoena, but that is as far as it goes. We made submissions at the very start and we see many adjustments were made in the revised bill. We are resolute that the commissioner should be totally independent, because if there is any sort of interference it will become difficult. My biggest concern is that the commissioner needs much more power than what is made in the current provisions,” she said. 

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