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News from the field of Child and Youth Care

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Government unveils plans to improve education for children with additional needs 

A new £4m fund to develop new ways to help children with additional needs move from alternative provision in to mainstream education or special schools has been announced.

The Alternative Provision Innovation Fund will be used to test and develop projects that support children back into mainstream or special schools, as well as encouraging parental and carer involvement in the education of their child.

It will also support schemes that support young people as they move from alternative provision in to training or further education at post-16.

The government has also confirmed that former children's minister Edward Timpson will lead a review into school exclusions, looking at how the use and levels of exclusions vary from school to school focusing on those children who are more likely to be excluded.

Department for Education figures show that within alternative provision, 77 per cent of children are diagnosed with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) - compared with 14.4 per cent in all schools. Data also shows that children in need are at least 10 times more likely to be in alternative provision or pupil referral units than other children, as well as five times more likely to be excluded from school.

The DfE said the review will also build on the government's Race Disparity Audit, seeking to tackle some of the inconsistencies it highlighted including why black Caribbean boys are more than three times as likely to be excluded from school.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: "It's a mark of a strong society how we treat children who are most in need of our support. Every child, whatever their background and no matter what challenges they face, should have access to a world-class education that prepares them for life in the modern world.

"Children only get one chance at their education and they deserve the best. But for too many children – and often those who are most vulnerable – there are inconsistencies when it comes to their experiences of school and too many parents are left worried and concerned.

"That's not good enough which is why we are going to improve our understanding of these important issues and tackle them head on."

Timpson said the review provides a real an opportunity to fully understand what drives the different rates of exclusion in our schools system and the impact it has on the outcomes of children involved.

He said: "I intend to draw from the best possible expertise, knowledge and evidence of what works in the field to ensure the review can help address the clear disparities and variability that still exists in the practice, impact and experience around exclusions, starting with an open 'call for evidence' I am launching today."

By Neil Puffett

16 March 2018 




Too many children still exposed to family violence

New University of Auckland research has found uneven progress has been made in reducing the amount of violence teenagers have been exposed to in their homes.

Academics from the University’s School of Population Health used data from the Youth 2000 series of cross-sectional surveys carried out on New Zealand high school students aged between 12- and 19 year’s old.

They were asked questions about witnessing emotional and physical violence in three computer based surveys, one in 2001, and again in 2007 and 2012, with about 10,000 students interviewed each time.

For emotional violence, the children were asked two questions; During the past 12 months, how many times have you seen adults in your home yelling or swearing at a child (other than you)? And, During the past 12 months how many times have you seen adults in your home yelling or swearing at each other?

For physical violence, they were asked: During the past 12 months, how many times have you seen adults in your home hitting or physically hurting a child (other than you)? And, During the past 12 months how many times have you seen adults in your home hitting or physically hurting another adult?

Exploration of trends in young people’s exposure to violence over the period 2001-2012, showed some changes, but those changes were not shared by all young people.

Four groups were identified in the study sample; these were characterised by the children’s ethnicity, concerns about family relationships, food security and alcohol consumption. For two groups (characterised by food security, positive family relationships and lower exposure to physical violence), there was a reduction in the proportion of respondents who witnessed physical violence (from about 14 percent to about 10 percent) an increase in the proportion who witnessed emotional violence between 2001 and 2012 (from approximately 44 percent to 50 percent, for group two, and 58% to 62% for group one.

For the two groups characterised by poorer food security and higher exposure to physical violence, there were no changes in witnessing physical violence in the home.

Study lead author Dr Janet Fanslow says that while family violence is a global problem, predominantly comprised of intimate partner violence, child abuse and maltreatment, and elder abuse, New Zealand has among the highest reported rates in the developed world for intimate partner violence (IPV), the most frequently reported form of family violence between adults in the home. This is distressing, because international evidence increasingly shows that violence is a preventable problem.

“The young people who came from families with poorer food security and higher exposure to physical violence between adults reported no changes in violence exposure over the decade under review, despite there being some initial national investment in violence prevention over this time,” Dr Fanslow says.

A review of the impact of childhood and adolescent exposure to IPV highlighted that exposure to IPV in childhood is associated with reduced parental attachment, increased risk of antisocial behaviour in adolescence, and increased risk of personal experience of violence.

“To get long-term changes in young people’s exposure to violence, New Zealand needs sustained action and investment in violence prevention,” Dr Fanslow says.

“If we are serious about preventing the adverse effects of violence exposure among young people, we need to invest in prevention long-term, and work to address other social disparities, like financial stress.”

13 March 2018

Press Release: University of Auckland 




ACT government fails to implement systematic response to children traumatised by domestic and family violence

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government needs to implement a systematic approach to trauma support and recovery services for children in families experiencing domestic violence as a matter of priority, advocates warn.

The calls come as the government prepares to take part in an extraordinary meeting on the needs of children affected by family and domestic violence in April.

Convened by the Domestic Violence Prevention Council, the meeting will focus on responses for children witnessing and experiencing violence, interventions to interrupt the intergenerational patterns of violence, considerations of early interventions and the need for programs for those with sexualised behaviours as a result of sexual violence.

ACT commissioner for Children and Young People Jodie Griffiths-Cook said children need to be seen as primary victims of domestic and family violence instead of secondary.

She said research shows traumatic childhood experiences can have serious effects on the developing brain.

"Experiences of family and domestic violence can constitute chronic toxic stress that negatively impacts children's brain development over time, and can affect all domains of their development (physical, psychological, emotional, behavioural, and social)."

Ms Griffiths-Cook said the commission was "actively pursuing" relevant and appropriate supports for children.

According to Women's Legal Centre executive director Elena Rosenman, in the past six months about 85 per cent of the centre's specialised domestic violence program clients had children.

"Many of these women are seeking legal advice in part to protect their children from harm," Ms Rosenman said.

"All of our clients with children express concern about the effect of the violence on their children. The centre does its best to provide wrap-around support to our clients but it is very difficult for us to assist women to access support for their children where those program simply don't exist or aren't resourced to a level that allows them to meet demand and address very complex experiences of trauma. There are also many women who are fearful of seeking support for their kids because they are afraid seeking this support will bring them to the attention of Children and Youth Protection Services."

As part of a recent ACT government study into the design of a Family Safety Hub, the ACT co-ordinator-general for family safety Jo Wood said children were getting lost in the system.

"There is not sufficient focus on the trauma they experience or the impact on them," Ms Wood said. "The exposure to violence as children has potentially intergenerational consequences."

ACT minister for women Yvette Berry said the report identified community concern that "in some instances" children can be lost in the response to family violence.

"There are range of current child-specific responses within the government and community sectors for children who are experiencing or have experienced domestic and family violence, but there is always more work that needs to be done," Ms Berry said.

She said the extraordinary meeting would help identify possibilities to develop and improve the ACT's responses to the needs of children.

By Kimberley Le Lievre

11 March 2018




New magazine fills information gap in social services

A new magazine focused on social services for children, young people and families is to be launched at parliament today, Thursday 8 March, by Hon Tracey Martin, the Minister for Children.

Kia Mauri Ora: Social Service Excellence in Aotearoa reflects the outstanding work carried out daily by social service professionals. It features real-life examples of innovative approaches and the value of research and evidence-based practice.

The magazine is published twice-yearly by Social Service Providers Aotearoa, the organisation representing community-based providers working to improve the lives of children and families.

National manager Brenda Pilott says the magazine builds on SSPA’s commitment to support member organisations through information, policy development, analysis and professional development.

“The magazine is important because it fills an information gap. There is no other New Zealand publication of immediate relevance to all those involved in this sector, from practitioners and managers to support workers and academics.”

“SSPA is delighted that the Minister has agreed to launch the first issue of Kia Mauri Ora. We hope it will quickly grow to be seen as an invaluable contribution to the social services sector,” says Brenda Pilott.

8 March 2018

Press Release: Social Services Providers Aotearoa 



UNICEF: Child marriage numbers drop, but still ‘a long way to go’ to end practice

Progress over the last decade meant 25 million child marriages were prevented, the agency reported. Overall, the proportion of women who became brides before age 18 decreased by 15 per cent during this period: from one in four to approximately one in five.

“When a girl is forced to marry as a child, she faces immediate and lifelong consequences. Her odds of finishing school decrease while her odds of being abused by her husband and suffering complications during pregnancy increase. There are also huge societal consequences, and higher risk of intergenerational cycles of poverty,” said Anju Malhotra, UNICEF’s Principal Gender Advisor.

“Given the life-altering impact child marriage has on a young girl’s life, any reduction is welcome news, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

Worldwide, some 650 million women alive today were married when they were just girls.

UNICEF reported that the largest decline in child marriage in the last 10 years occurred in South Asia. Rates there dropped by roughly a third: from nearly 50 per cent to 30 per cent, largely due to progress in India.

“Increasing rates of girls’ education, proactive government investments in adolescent girls, and strong public messaging around the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes are among the reasons for the shift,” according to a UNICEF press release.

Despite this progress, the UN agency estimates 12 million girls are married off each year.

Eliminating child marriage and other practices harmful to women and girls are among the targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The 17 SDGs focus on people, the planet and prosperity, and have a deadline of 2030.

However, UNICEF said “progress must be significantly accelerated” if the child marriage target is to be achieved by this date, warning that an additional 150 million girls could become brides during this time.

Progress particularly needs to be scaled up in sub-Saharan Africa where the “global burden” of child marriage is now shifting, the UN agency added. The region accounted for close to one in three of the world’s most recently married child brides, compared to one in five a decade ago.

For Ms. Malhotra, the UNICEF gender advisor, every child marriage prevented gives another girl the chance to fulfill her potential.

“But given the world has pledged to end child marriage by 2030, we’re going to have to collectively redouble efforts to prevent millions of girls from having their childhoods stolen through this devastating practice,” she said.

6 March 2018

Source: UNICEF 




Game-changing programme for dyslexic kids

18-year-old develops game-changing programme for dyslexic kids

Tackling one of the most widespread learning difficulties in schools around New Zealand, innovative online learning programme Dyslexia Potential is the new kid on the block.

Founded by Matt Strawbridge, a dyslexic himself, this unique course is far from textbook learning. The course content is highly interactive, with video-based lessons and tactile activities that kids can take offline. Parents can follow their child’s journey through the course, and help them keep track of their progress with a star chart.

Matt never ceases to be astounded at the lack of support for young dyslexics: “An estimated 7-10% of the population suffer from dyslexia, yet from personal experience I know that parents still struggle to find adequate resources to help their kids get through school,” he says. “This is the problem we aim to solve.”

He explains that Dyslexia Potential takes holistic approach, helping kids with more than just reading and writing. “Everything we do and strive to achieve at Dyslexia Potential is to ensure that dyslexic students are able to use dyslexia to have a positive impact on their own life and in the world around them,” explains Matt.

The programme builds kids’ confidence and self-esteem by helping them develop their dyslexic strengths (such as creativity, leadership and compassion). These strengths, called ‘dyslexic superpowers’, are the dyslexic’s toolkit for overcoming challenges in every aspect of life.

Kids will also learn strategies for dealing with stress in the classroom, create their own fun ways for learning how to spell, and discover successful dyslexics – just like them – who they can look up to as role models.

Dyslexia Potential was originally founded as an online club for dyslexic kids in 2013 by Matt, then thirteen. Matt’s vision has always been to ensure no kid ever feels the same way he did at school.

Since its inception, Dyslexia Potential has been tested in dozens of different forms and iterations, including videos, blog posts, workshops and one-on-one tutoring. The team have traveled throughout New Zealand delivering workshops to over 2,000 people, and they have reached a further 70,000 people online. This website is the culmination of everything they have learned so far.

To find out more about Dyslexia Potential, visit the website:

2 March 2018

Press Release: Dyslexia Potential 




Saskatchewan leads country in percentage of teens not working or in school

A new study from Statistics Canada shows Saskatchewan leads the nation in teenagers who aren't employed or in education or training.

Using data from the national Labour Force Survey, Statistics Canada found 8.5 per cent of teens aged 15 to 19 years old were not in school and did not have a job in 2016. At 8.5 per cent, this province's rate is the highest in the country, far above Ontario, which has a rate of 5.2 per cent. The national rate is 6.3 per cent.

The report said teens that fall into the category will have lower rates of education and less educational experience than their peers. It also raises concerns that teens who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) can fall through the cracks.

"(They) may be experiencing difficulties making the transition from school to the labour market and could also be at a higher risk of social exclusion and depression," reads the report.

Youth worker echoes concerns

Tammy Krueckl, who works with youth as part of a community art initiative, echoed the concerns raised in the report.

"Anxiety and depression seem to be at the forefront for a lot of young people transitioning from being a teenager to early adulthood," she said.

When teens come to the drop-in centre, or enrol in Saskatoon's Community Youth Arts Programming, they often struggle with addiction.

One program employs youth for a nine-month term, during which they paint murals and execute art projects across the city.

Many of the young people at the centre start out with weak skills, or very few skills that might be useful in the workforce.

"Enabling people to use art as their tool to learn some skills and confidence and self-esteem goes a long way to helping them feel they can be part of society or part of the workforce," said Krueckl.

Younger teens at greatest risk

According to the report, younger teens aged 15 to 16 are of greatest concern because they most likely have not obtained their high school diploma. The study found 3.8 per cent of teens in that age range in Saskatchewan were not in the education system or employed.

While the study does not break down the numbers further, graduation rates among Indigenous students has been a concern in the province for years. In 2016, high school graduation rates among First Nations students sat at 40 per cent, considerably lower than the provincial average of 70 per cent.

The study did not include youth who lived on reserves.

Mentorship helps youth find confidence

There are some programs in place to help teens avoid becoming part of the 8.5 per cent unemployed, unenrolled youth.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Saskatoon serves many at-risk youth, and connects them to mentors. Executive director Kim Megyesi said the demographics of the teens they help are varied.

"It's a good split across socio-economic backgrounds, and also of varied ethnicity," said Megyesi.

Megyesi and her group attempt to steer youth in a positive direction through healthy relationships based around mentorship.

"They can create a greater sense of confidence, and when you have confidence, you have a greater sense of belonging, self-esteem, social skills."

Nationally, the study found young women were slightly more likely to be enrolled in school, while young men were more likely to have entered the work force.

The study did not include youth who lived on reserves.

27 February 2018

Source: CBC News

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