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Australia: New figures reveal alarming rates of self-harm in WA

Girls are five times more likely than boys to be admitted to hospital with self-harm injuries, shock new figures reveal. More than 3000 WA children were admitted to hospital due to self-harm in the five years to 2017, with 2485 of these cases girls – a staggering 82.3 per cent. They included 67 pre-teens aged between nine and 12, the WA Health Department said. Hospital admissions included 198 13-year-olds, 426 14-year-olds, 688 15-year-olds, 822 16-year-olds and 817 17-year-olds. The number reached a five-year high of 693 in 2017 – a rate of almost two every day – with the average length of hospital stay four days. Mental health experts warned they were increasingly helping children with higher levels of anxiety and depression. Girls were also more likely to respond to social pressures, such as online bullying and other relationship crises, through serious acts of self-harm. Dr Pradeep Rao, department head of community child and adolescent mental health services, said the higher rate of female self-harm cases compared with males could be attributed to the different emotional response to social pressures. “Girls and women may be more likely to admit to negative emotions and seek help for it, whereas males are not as willing to admit there is a problem,” he said. Though there were increasing cases of adolescents reporting social media and associated peer pressure, Dr Rao said more research was needed to better understand the high rate of self-harm by girls.

Canada: B.C. promotes breastfeeding for infants in government care after court ruling

The British Columbia government has outlined a five-point plan to promote breastfeeding and stronger mother-child bonds for infants who are in provincial care. The plan based on a report from the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the representative for children and youth is intended to support vulnerable women and their infants. Resources for the plan will be allocated as needed, said a statement from the ministry, which described it as a priority that the government will address in its budget next year and beyond. The province developed the plan after a B.C. Supreme Court ruling in February, which gave a mother daily access to her newborn, who was taken away three days after birth. “It’s a ruling we took seriously,” Katrine Conroy, the minister of children and family development, said on Wednesday. “We needed to take a closer look, not at an isolated incident, but as a matter of ministry policy.” The plan outlines guidelines for social workers to promote breastfeeding when infants are separated from their birth mothers, find ways to make breastmilk available to infants and address breastfeeding within the context of substance use. Over a four-year period starting in 2013-14, the report found that on an average, more than 500 infants who were under one year old entered government care and nearly 70 per cent of these infants were Indigenous. Bernard Richard, the representative for children and youth, described the number as significant. “A lot of very young lives are starting out away from their families, generally missing out on the proven lifelong health benefits of breastfeeding and bonding with parents,” he said. The report says the statistics highlight that the over-representation of Indigenous children and youth in care begins in infancy. 

India: Inspection by ministry of women and child development reveals sorry state of child adoption agencies

An inspection of 15 specialised adoption agencies (SAAs) by the ministry of women and child development (WCD) and the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), carried out in January and February, has discovered glaring irregularities, including premature deaths, unhygienic conditions, and even children not being accounted for in some cases. SAAs house orphaned and abandoned children below the age of six meant for adoption. There are 460 of them around India. The homes inspected were in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, West Bengal, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Under the Juvenile Justice Act (JJ Act), SAAs, which are run by private agencies or NGOs in most cases, have to be registered with the government’s Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System (CARINGS) for intra- and inter-country adoptions and provide details of each child admitted to the agency. The portal is run by CARA, the government’s nodal agency monitoring adoption in the country. “We were getting complaints that the credentials of some of the SAAs are not of required standard. So the WCD ministry ordered an inspection,” said Deepak Kumar, CEO, CARA. "To start with, we decided to inspect 15 against whom there were the most complaints.” The team was taken aback when it visited Jodhpur’s Navjeevan Sansthan, said a CARA official involved in drafting the inspection report who asked not to be identified. “The register showed that 14 children had died between December 2016 and January 2018. We are now seeking an explanation as to how these children had died,” said the official. The team also found that of the 325 children who were admitted to this SAA from 2008 to 2018 and registered with CARINGS, the details of 97 children were not available. Rajendra Parihar, owner of Navjeevan Sansthan, confirmed the deaths but said that they were mostly children born prematurely. “These children were underweight; we took them to the hospital and tried our best but could not save them.” He also denied that there were children whose details were missing. “There is no irregularity. We provided all details to the inspection team. They checked records of 15 years and found everything in order.”
The inspection report, a copy of which has been seen by Hindustan Times, comes in the backdrop of the Jharkhand incident in July, when four newborns were allegedly sold by two sisters from a centre of Nirmal Hriday, a shelter home for destitute women run by the Missionaries of Charity. 

Finland: Ombudsman calls for end to “cage beds” at centres for disabled youth

An unannounced inspection of facilities in eastern Finland found four cases of children or youths sleeping in beds that are widely considered inhumane. In a report issued Wednesday, Finland’s Parliamentary Ombudsman called on social and health care services in North Karelia, eastern Finland, to immediately halt the use of so-called caged beds at facilities for developmentally disabled children and youth. Director of services for the developmentally disabled at Siun Sote (the joint municipal authority of social and health services in North Karelia), Tarja Hallikainen, said that the beds in question were taken out of use immediately after the ombudsman’s report was issued. She said that officials are looking for alternatives that will work for their clients. The Ombudsman suggested the use of beds that are closer to the floor, or wider, than ones usually used. The authority also recommended the use of electrically-adjustable beds that can be lowered or raised. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has said that the use of the enclosed beds can be considered offensive to human dignity and has called for an end to the practice. Decades ago, cage beds were broadly used in institutional settings in Finland and Europe, but their use has sharply declined over the years. The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s office called on the municipalities to stop using the beds, saying that Siun Sote needs to announce by the end of September which actions have been taken in response to the report’s findings.



South Africa

A home for pregnant teenage girls

JOBURG – Our home has provided a valuable service to the community for many years and maintains its uniqueness in the care of pregnant teenage girls. August 25, 2018 Uitkoms Home for Girls was established in 1944.

Uitkoms Home for Girls in Observatory, established in 1944, is a place of love for girls who have not received love.

The home provides residential accommodation and care for pregnant teenage girls and vulnerable girls who have been referred by the courts.

It is a registered child and youth care centre that offers non-discriminatory service and protection to pregnant girls.

“The home gives residential care which includes provision and protection, nutrition, clothing, housing, school supplies, developmental programmes and therapeutic programmes,” said the home’s administration officer Yolanda Erasmus.

The developmental programme includes schooling at local schools and in the case of girls who cannot attend due to pregnancy or short-term care, Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) classes.

“Life skills programmes, which are facilitated by the residential social worker, are provided as well as recreational activities to enhance social functioning and spiritual support as Uitkoms is a faith-based organisation.

“The therapeutic programme is facilitated by the internal social worker and it includes an individual development plan, counselling of each girl on a regular basis, statutory reports for each girl and tailor-made exit plans for each girl,” she said.

The home is subsidised by the Department of Social Development.

“The balance of the funding needs to be obtained from other sources.
“From an administrative point of view, it is possible to redirect funds to unavoidable costs such as utilities and rent if donations of the following goods are received:

• A commitment of 30 loaves of bread per week.
• Fresh fruit and vegetables.
• Non-perishable foods such as maize meal, maize rice and pasta.
• Toiletries such as bath soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes and shampoo.
• Cleaning materials.

“Our home has provided a valuable service to the community for many years and maintains its uniqueness in the care of pregnant teenage girls. We would like to continue well into the future, being available to assist vulnerable teenage girls to take back their lives and become productive self-sustaining future citizens,” she said.
Those who would like to assist the home can contact Yolanda Erasmus on 011 487 0357 or

Sheffield youth charity expands sexual exploitation work to vulnerable adults

A Sheffield youth charity which works on child sexual exploitation has received funding to continue its work with vulnerable adults.

Research conducted in Sheffield over the last year found a lack of support for survivors of child sexual exploitation (CSE), and for adults who are at risk of exploitation.

As a result, Sheffield Futures - who run the Sheffield Sexual Exploitation Service - have now been given money to expand their services to 18 to 25-year-olds.

Jane Fidler, Sheffield Sexual Exploitation Service manager, said: “The lack of service provision for these vulnerable adults placed them at an increased risk of on-going sexual abuse. We are pleased to have received funding to support vulnerable adults.

“Some of the adults we are supporting have previously been seen by our service which supports young people up to the age of 18 who are survivors of child sexual exploitation.”

The research in to young victims of CSE and continuing adult exploitation was conducted by an adult social worker hosted by the Sheffield Sexual Exploitation Service at Sheffield Futures.

It found 'significant unmet needs' of both survivors of CSE and those at high risk of being sexual exploited as adults.

Work will now focus on the recommendations of the research including mental capacity assessments, publicising the signs of sexual exploitation and research into experiences of adult services.

The Sheffield Sexual Exploitation Service aims to prevent sexual exploitation, protect young people and offer support throughout Sheffield.

The confidential service is made up of youth workers, CSE specialists, healthcare professionals, social care, parent support workers, police and specialist trainers.


Vulnerable youth stress the importance of influential adults in their school lives

Kids who faced daunting barriers to success in the classroom had a clear message for University at Buffalo researchers who asked them as young adults to look back on their experiences with maltreatment, homelessness and their time in school: Adults can do better.

"It's as though they're asking us as adults not to give up on them, to stick with them," says Annette Semanchin Jones, an assistant professor in UB's School of Social Work (SSW) and lead author of the paper with colleagues Elizabeth Bowen and Annahita Ball, who are also assistant professors in UB's SSW.

In a novel study that explored the youths' experiences at the intersection of the systems intended to address multiple stressors and adverse experiences, the research team's findings suggest that even the most vulnerable kids could point to specific adults who made a difference in their lives.

"Whatever our roles might be -- teacher, social worker or child welfare worker -- we have to take that role seriously and understand its importance."

Semanchin Jones says the study's participants spoke often about professional service providers, family members and other adults who fulfilled those important roles and had a positive impact on youth.

"There is room for these systems to identify and mobilize that support in a structured way so adult providers can be there for youth," says Semanchin Jones.
Communication is critical in these cases.

"It wasn't stated explicitly but in the analysis it was obvious that we also need to work better not only within these systems, but across these systems," she says. "We need to find better ways to ensure youth don't fall through the cracks. Improving communication would allow different systems to share goals and data and create teams that include the youths among their members."

The team's study, published in the journal Children and Youth Services Review, began as an informal discussion about various projects involving each of the researchers' work. Semanchin Jones' research focus is child welfare. Bowen is an expert on homelessness and homeless youth. Ball's expertise is in school social work services and positive youth development.

"We realized that in many cases we were talking about the same group of youth," says Semanchin Jones.

Although existing research has frequently examined educational outcomes for youth who experience homelessness and there is a separate body of literature looking at educational outcomes for youth in foster care or who have been maltreated, few studies have examined how all of these obstacles affect school performance.

Since vulnerable youth often interact with multiple systems at once, the researchers combined their areas of expertise and used a cross-systems framework to explore possible protective factors and interventions as well as other elements that might hinder educational outcomes.

They interviewed 20 participants between the ages of 18 and 24. The group was diverse in terms of race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Researchers asked them to recall and describe as much as possible their experiences with these various systems.

"Interviewing the participants as young adults provided a unique perspective," explained Bowen. "They were not very far removed from childhood, but they were also able to reflect on their education and earlier experiences in insightful ways as emerging adults."

They noted several key factors as barriers to a good education.

Participants said they often felt completely on their own, as if they had raised themselves.

They felt a lack of control and that the various systems made decisions about them, not with them, like where they could live and go to school.

Instability and mobility across all aspects of their life, including residential, school and placement instability, often caused problematic absenteeism and disrupted social networks.
There was a general lack of trust. Youth stressed the need to have a safe person to discuss maltreatment at home or in a foster home, bullying and other behaviors, but often didn't know what to disclose and with whom they should share the information.

Semanchin Jones says the research team is building knowledge with this initial work. Different areas contributed to the problem's complexity. By combining their different areas of research, the researchers can search for effective ways to address that complexity and work to improve educational outcomes.

In a second paper recently published in the journal Youth & Society, the team explored the participants' transition to adulthood, a crucial time period for seeking stability and pursuing educational, career and relationship goals. The team is also exploring the ways in which schools' existing student support services may be able to intervene differently or earlier to better address youths' needs.

The research team is completing another study examining many of the same questions from the perspective of service providers. They also hope to do larger quantitative studies, but the rich data offered from the youths' perspective is providing concrete strategies and recommendations that can serve as important information for service providers.

"We need to hear from youth who tell us, 'We've been through this and here's how you could have been more helpful,'" Semanchin Jones says.

'End the silent crisis of looked-after children'

 More than 70,000 children are in care across England. A new Social Market Foundation (SMF) report shines a light on how much better we need to do for them.

At Learning and Work Institute we do a lot of work relating to looked-after children (LAC) and care leavers. So we’re familiar with many of the statistics about their outcomes. Even so, they remain truly shocking. Only 14 per cent of care leavers get five "good" GCSEs; 40 per cent of care leavers between the ages of 17 and 19 are not in education, employment or training (Neet); and LACs are four times more likely to be involved in the youth criminal justice system.

Those statistics – and, of course, there is a person behind every one – are shameful and we really need to do far, far better as a country. Importantly, though, the SMF does state that the outcomes that LAC achieve are better than they would otherwise get. The question is how can we do better and close the gaps?

The 'silent crisis'

To aid this, the SMF report shows how variable the support that looked-after children get is across the country. While there are many excellent examples, 65 per cent of all LAC (47,000 children) are in local authority provision rated as "requiring improvement" or "inadequate".

Imagine the headlines is that were true of schools. You can see why the SMF call it the "silent crisis".
If it were easy to tackle this, someone would have done it by now. Nonetheless, there are steps we can take. This includes learning from what’s happening in the local authorities where outcomes are better. I’ve heard from care leavers who got vastly different support compared with their friends from just across an administrative boundary – a postcode lottery of support.

Listening is crucial

Of course, this isn’t just about local authorities – employment and learning outcomes depend on a wide range of services and support. At Learning and Work Institute we think listening to care leavers themselves is crucial. We developed an app, Inspire Me, allowing care leavers to share their stories with each other. We’ve also put together a website bringing together a wide range of resources and links on the learning and skills options for care leavers. We’ve also produced guides to supporting care leavers for employerscolleges and learning providers.

A lot of this has been about making the existing system work as best as it can for care leavers. Beyond this, we need a system that works better.
We need a national mission to do better for looked-after children. The recent announcement of a £1,000 bursary for care leavers starting an apprenticeship (paid after three months in an apprenticeship) is a welcome start. So too the Care Leavers Covenant, asking employers and others to commit to providing opportunities for care leavers (for example, we have pledged work experience placements).

Better data needed

The SMF report also suggests better data and monitoring and targeting effort on the areas of policy with the greatest challenges. All told, we need as many people as possible shining a light on what is and isn’t working. Perhaps it is a topic for Robert Halfon’s Commons Education Select Committee, a follow-on from the previous committee’s 2016 report on the mental health and wellbeing of looked-after children.

There was controversy recently when it was suggested that Number 10 was trying to drop the prime minister’s previous rhetoric around tackling "burning injustices" in place of different language. Whatever the label, we need to do better for looked-after children.

Stephen Evans is chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute 

‘Teens get a bad rap’: the neuroscientist championing moody adolescents

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s studies of the adolescent brain have won her awards. So when she says GCSEs are damaging to teens’ health, perhaps we should listen

Annual media coverage of August’s exam results has traditionally conformed to an unwritten rule that all photos must show euphoric teenagers celebrating multiple A*s. This year, the images may tell a different story. Radical reforms to GCSEs are widely predicted to produce disappointment, and many teenagers are bracing themselves for the worst.

Parents may be unsympathetic, however, if their 15- or 16-year-old spent the exam year ignoring all their wise advice to revise, and instead lay in bed until lunchtime and partied all night with friends. Even if the exam results turn out to be good, many will wonder why their teenager took so many risks with their future.

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore looks barely older than a teenager herself. The award-winning professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London is, in fact, 44 and has made the study of the adolescent brain her life’s work. She has been critical of the very existence of GCSEs, arguing that they impose “enormous stress” on teenagers at a time when their brains are going through huge change.

“Until about 15 or 20 years ago,” she says, “we just didn’t know that the brain develops at all within the teenage years.” Until then, it was assumed that teenage behaviour was almost entirely down to hormonal changes in puberty, but brain scans and psychological experiments have now found that adolescence is a critical period of neurological change, much of which is responsible for the unique characteristics of adolescent behaviour. Far from being a defective or inferior version of an adult brain, the adolescent mind is both unique and – to Blakemore – beautiful. “Teenagers,” she says tenderly, “are brilliant.”

I had always assumed that what we think of as teenage behaviour is largely an invention of contemporary western society. I hadn’t imagined, for example, that 15-year-olds in the Kalahari desert also complain about having to get up early. “But,” Blakemore grins, “actually, they do.” Our ignorance inspired her to write Inventing Ourselves, a fascinating book that explains the science of everything from why teenagers can’t get out of bed in the morning to why they can sometimes appear to be irresponsible narcissists.

“Teenagers get a really bad rap and we mock them and demonise them more than we do any other section of society. And it’s not right. They’re going through an important stage of their development that they need to go through. Most parents don’t know that their teenagers are undergoing such a transformation.”

Blakemore likes to talk about her work by beginning with a quote from a teenager’s diary dated 20 July 1969: “I went to arts centre (by myself!) in yellow cords and blouse. Ian there but didn’t speak to me. Got rhyme put in my handbag from someone who’s apparently got a crush on me. It’s Nicholas I think. UGH. Man Landed on moon.”

What may look to us like jaw-dropping self-absorption is, she explains, in fact essential neurological development, because the biological function of adolescence is the creation of a sense of self. Teens achieve this through creating new allegiances, independent of their parents – which is why their friendships suddenly become so viscerally important. What is known on social media as Fomo – fear of missing out – may look like an irrational sense of priorities, if it means skipping revision to attend a bog-standard party. But when nothing matters more than the approval of their peers, “That brings with it a hypersensitivity to being excluded by friends”.

Blakemore proved this hypersensitivity with an experiment in which adolescents were asked to play an online game of catch, with what they believed to be two other players of their own age. In fact, the game was with a computer programmed to exclude the participants, who found themselves watching the ball being passed between two players on the screen who chose not to include them. She repeated the experiment with adults, and found that while the game lowered the mood and increased the anxiety levels of all participants, the effect was dramatically greater for the teenagers.

It is this hypersensitivity to social exclusion that chiefly, she says, explains adolescent risk-taking. Contrary to popular opinion, teenagers are neither poor at assessing risk, nor prone to believing themselves invincible. “They’re not. Studies consistently show that they get it. They’re really indoctrinated about risks like smoking and drinking and drugs and unsafe sex. But in the heat of the moment, when they’re with their friends, and their friends are smoking or drinking or whatever, it’s incredibly hard for them to resist.” She cites a video game devised by a psychologist, in which the player drives a car and must decide what risks to take at traffic lights. When watched by their friends, adolescents took almost three times as many risks as when alone; in adults, the presence of friends had no impact on risk-taking. Teens’ susceptibility to peer pressure is not, in other words, a character flaw, but a neurological drive.
Acute self-consciousness is another consequence of teens’ preoccupation with peer approval. The term “imaginary audience” was coined by a psychologist in the 1960s to describe the phenomenon whereby adolescents imagine others are constantly observing and judging them. Parents fret about their teenagers’ obsession with social media and selfies, but Blakemore says it is only the logical consequence of technology making their imaginary audience real. “So I don’t think there’s much point in trying to eradicate it. It’s not going to stop.”
Likewise, we should stop worrying about teenagers wanting to sleep in all morning. Our circadian rhythms are determined by a part of the brain that regulates the synthesis of melatonin, but, after puberty, melatonin begins to be produced later at night, which explains why adolescents feel wide awake until late in the evening and find it so hard to get up in the morning. To regard them as lazy is as illogical and unfair as it would be to consider a two-year-old workshy for needing a midday nap. And yet, unlike toddlers’ sleep patterns, the particular needs of teenagers’ are largely ignored.

I am curious about the public policy implications of Blakemore’s work. Were she in charge of the country, what would she change? For a start, she says, we could harness the “pro-social” potential of adolescent peer pressure. “There’s a lot of evidence that teenagers value other teenagers’ views more than adults’ views. There have been studies on bullying – and smoking – showing that if you get the young people themselves to run campaigns, they have a much bigger affect on attitudes than if the same campaigns are carried out by teachers.”

She is also interested in the decision some countries have made to ban young drivers from carrying passengers. “Over the age of 25, people drive more carefully when carrying passengers, whereas dangerous driving in young people is most likely to happen when they have got their friends with them.” She mentions, too, a London secondary school that has altered its hours to accommodate its pupils’ sleep patterns. “Which is interesting. We should probably pay attention to that.”

Blakemore is reluctant, however, to stray too far from science into polemic, even at a personal – let alone policy – level. Parents are forever asking her for advice. “But I’m not a parenting expert!” she protests. “I’m really not, so I just can’t do it. My eldest son is now a teenager, but he wasn’t when I wrote the book, so really I have no idea.”

She will concede, though, that her work does inform the parenting of her two sons. When her eldest has a classically adolescent outburst, for example, instead of reacting to it, she tries to picture the inside of his brain. “And I find that useful. A bit like the way you read those parenting manuals when you have toddlers, and they’re all like: ‘Toddlers are just testing boundaries, and their thoughts are more sophisticated than their ability to articulate.’ That does help a bit, doesn’t it, when you’re dealing with a toddler on the floor of Boots.” When she recently made a visit to her eldest’s school, he asked her to pretend not to know him. “I could have been so offended by that; I could have felt really disowned by him. But I didn’t. I thought: ‘That’s absolutely normal, and that’s exactly right.’”

Teenagers’ limitless propensity for embarrassment may sometimes seem bizarre, she acknowledges, but it makes perfect sense. Like most adults thrust on to a stage, teenagers who believe in their imaginary audience want nothing more than to blend into the wings – and Blakemore’s work has helped her make sense of her own blushing teenage self.

She is the daughter of Colin Blakemore, an Oxford university neurobiologist famously targeted by violent animal rights activists in the 80s for his experimentation on animals. “They were hanging around outside our house, threatening to kidnap us, sending us bombs.” The terrifying onslaught against the family and their home endured for more than a decade – and yet, smiles Blakemore ruefully, “The biggest emotion I had was, I was so embarrassed. At school there would be bomb scares Everybody would know it was possibly targeted towards us, and that was just devastatingly embarrassing. And with other teenagers at the time, I was like: ‘Oh God, maybe they’re animal rights, and that’s so embarrassing, because they might be judging me because of this.’ It was just a whole litany of mortification and embarrassment. That was my main feeling about it all.”

What makes Blakemore’s affection and admiration for teenagers so striking, I realise, is its rarity. “I’m a champion of them, I totally am, yes,” she agrees. “I’m a real advocate for teenagers.” Why does she think so many other adults feel differently? She looks suddenly pensive.

“I do often think about why it is that we find it hilarious to mock teenagers, and why there are whole comedy shows laughing at teenage behaviour. I wonder whether it’s because, as a society, we find it really hard that our little children stop wanting to be with us all the time, and wanting to hold our hand in public, and doing more or less what we say.
“That’s not what teenagers do. And it’s really important that they don’t, because they have to become independent from us – so there has to be a lot of rebellion, and embarrassment in front of us, and it’s all part of what’s important for teenagers to do. But that’s really hard for parents to take. And I think that’s reflected in society this sneering we do about teenagers.”
It is our way of coping with their rejection? “Yes.” She smiles sadly. “It’s a way to deal with it, isn’t it? By taking the piss out of them.”



Why Not Separate Ministry for Child Development, asks Madras HC

In the 2015 order, the high court had suggested that the ministry should consider castration of those abusing or raping children, in addition to punishment under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the IPC and the Juvenile Justice Act.

The Madras High Court on Friday said it is high time the Ministry for Women and Child Development is bifurcated to create another ministry in view of increasing incidents of child abuse.

Justice N Kirubakaran asked the assistant solicitor general to get instructions from the Centre on why there cannot be separate ministries for women development and child development.

He observed that single parenting can be dangerous for society as a child needs the affection of both the mother and the father. One cannot compensate the other and lack of such affection and love might cause behavioural changes in the child which may turn against the society, he observed.

Justice Kirubakaran made the observation while hearing a contempt petition filed by Girija Raghavan against the Ministry for Women and Child Development for not obeying the court's September 16, 2015, order.

In the 2015 order, the high court had suggested that the ministry should consider castration of those abusing or raping children, in addition to punishment under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the IPC and the Juvenile Justice Act.

In the order, Justice Kirubakaran had also directed the Union government to instruct all state governments to conduct massive awareness programmes on crimes against children that come under the POCSO Act.

The present contempt plea was moved after the Centre failed to implement the directions.

Referring to a recent case of sexual abuse of a minor girl by several men in the city, which came to light after she shared her ordeal with her sister, the court asked, "What kind of parents are they to be unaware of what is happening to their child?"

Justice Kirubakaran also asked the Assistant Solicitor General to get instructions from the Union ministry on whether it has issued any guidelines for spending the Nirbhaya fund being allotted to the state governments.

The court posted the plea to August 17

Youth groups call for social action ‘national service’

Prime minister urged to launch full-time civic duty scheme for those under 30

Theresa May is facing calls to imbue a new generation with a sense of civic duty with a programme that would see the young pitch in to help struggling students, care homes, charities and hospitals.

Almost 60 years since national service was brought to an end, a group of 18 charities, businesses and youth organisations has proposed a new programme of voluntary “full-time social action” for those under 30 as a way of preparing them for work and helping public services.

In a letter to the prime minister, the group – which includes the Scout Association – calls for the government to test the idea to see if it would boost the employment chances of young people and help knit together an increasingly divided society.

The group says that governments in Germany, France and the US have already created such programmes, with some attracting more than 100,000 participants each year.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has unveiled a plan to bring back national service for 16-year-olds. It will see teenagers choose to spend time teaching or working with charities, as well as the more traditional option of military preparation.

Among the organisations supporting the call for a UK programme are the Association of Colleges, the charity Depaul UK, vInspired, the Wildlife Trusts and City Year UK, which co-ordinates opportunities for full-time volunteering within English schools. The group says that a pilot programme could show that such a scheme would have a major impact on “social mobility, integration, mental health, employability and public service provision”.

“Full-time volunteers aged 18-30 already devote up to 35 hours a week for between three to 12 months to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in our society,” it writes. “Volunteering for charities, they support children to get better grades at school, help people sleeping rough, speed up the recovery of hospital patients and support environmental action.
“Equally, youth fulltime social action is about preparing a young person to enter the labour market. The frontline work experience and careers advice they receive give them the skills and confidence to launch a successful career.”

Former prime minister David Cameron championed the “big society” but some of his initiatives designed to encourage volunteering have run into difficulties. Last year, a Commons committee warned that the National Citizen Service, which backs shorter programmes designed to encourage personal and social development, may no longer justify the money spent on it unless costs could be brought down.

Only 12% of eligible teenagers took part in it in 2016, according to the Local Government Association.

“[Piloting a government-backed scheme] would test our firm belief that a national programme of youth full-time social action would create a much-needed pool of work-ready young talent demanded by employers and educational institutions, as well as benefit the life chances of participants, beneficiaries and, ultimately, the economy. This initiative would also better recognise, support and champion the efforts of young adults leading the way in tackling the great social challenges our country faces.”

The idea of a full-time social action programme for the young was examined earlier this year. However, a report by Steve Holliday, the former chief executive of National Grid, found that “more evidence” was needed before such a government-backed programme could be approved.

Supporters of the idea of a national programme believe that government funding could allow groups to house volunteers and provide more generous support. However, there are unanswered questions about how to fund the scheme sufficiently to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to take part.

Kevin Munday, chief executive of City Year UK, said: “We need 21st-century answers to 21st-century challenges. That’s why we are calling for a new type of national service, fit for the future.

“We know from evidence at home and abroad that full-time social action can play a significant role in tackling issues such as educational inequality, homelessness, loneliness, the social care crisis and climate change. It also provides a platform to give our young people the skills and experience they need to shape and launch their careers.”

Schemes for mandatory community service have been suggested in the past. In the wake of the 2011 riots, David Blunkett, the former home secretary, said such a service should become an “integral part of growing up in Britain, a rite of passage into adulthood, just as national service used to be for the 1950s generation”.

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokeswoman said: “We have received the letter and will respond in due course.”

Be the one to show you care

Since 2004, over 1,700 lives have been lost due to suicide in South Dakota. Those numbers have increased each year, with nearly one in six high school students in South Dakota having suicidal thoughts or tendencies, according to the 2015 South Dakota Youth Risk Behavior Survey. In 2017, 20 percent of Watertown students in grades 7-12 reported they seriously considered suicide in the last 12 months and 14 precent made a plan about how to die by suicide.

Read the full story by clicking on the article headline above.



Six steps to improve the lives of foster carers and vulnerable children

Inquiries are like buses: you wait for ages and two come along at once. Fostering has been ignored by officialdom for so long that when separate reviews were launched by MPs and the Department for Education, it was inevitable that expectations would run high. Not so much among foster carers, who have learned through bitter experience that not much ever changes. But children’s services, fostering agencies, social workers and care leavers all saw this as a golden opportunity to press for changes they felt were urgently needed.

Fast forward a few months: the reviews have come and gone and the government has responded. Foster carers, it seems, were right to be wary. Nadhim Zahawi, the children’s minister, broadly welcomed both reviews and made recommendations to embed best existing practice across the whole system. It is difficult to disagree with any of it, but those expecting major reform, such as giving employment status to foster carers, were left disappointed. There is no extra money, of course. The charity Fostering Network described it as “a huge disappointment and a wasted opportunity”.

Where does fostering go from here? There is no doubt that it faces significant challenges. Some are rooted in the crisis facing social care generally after years of austerity. Others are specific to fostering, including the recruitment and retention of carers for record numbers of children and young people removed from birth families. But foster care also has great strengths, safeguarding children at risk and transforming many lives. As a foster carer, I see the profound difference we make every day.

There are steps that can be taken to improve the lives of carers and support their work with vulnerable children. These are my suggestions:

Minimum weekly allowances must be mandatory
The government sets minimum allowances, reviewed every year. But fostering providers are not required to pay them. A significant number of foster carers receive less than the cost of supporting a child at home. This is unacceptable. Our response to this practice should be as robust as it is against employers who fail to pay the national living wage.

Allow foster carers to accept placements with other providers
Foster carers are self-employed but with a big difference: they can only work with one provider at a time. They might be approved to foster on behalf of their local authority, but can go many weeks without a placement. But they can’t offer their services to a fostering agency, and seeking alternative temporary employment is impractical. This feels like a restraint of trade that would not be tolerated in any other sector. It is also inefficient use of a valuable resource.

Foster carers should be exempt from council tax
Local authorities are seeking innovative ways to recruit more fostering families. Some offer discounts or exemptions for council tax. This is a valuable benefit for foster carers and a meaningful contribution to those who maintain a larger home than they would otherwise need. Exemptions should be standard across all local authorities.

Sort out Staying Put
Since May 2014, fostered young people in England have the right to stay with their foster families when they reach 18, if both parties agree. But the scheme is a bit of a mess. The young person is no longer in foster care, and the family are no longer foster carers. Foster care regulations do not apply. A local authority pays about half of what the foster carer previously received. The young person is expected to make up the difference, either from wages or from housing benefit. Unsurprisingly, the number of young people staying with their foster family has fallen to its lowest level since the scheme was introduced in 2014, according to Ofsted.
Offer special deals and discounts
Councils should use their clout to encourage local businesses to offer special deals and discounts to foster carers. Foster children have a right to enjoy the same experiences enjoyed by others. Their development has often been curtailed by a lack of opportunity. But fostering allowances, funded by council tax payers, only go so far. Free or discounted tickets to farm parks, the cinema, bowling alleys and so on for foster children would make a huge difference to foster families without involving significant cost to businesses.

Provide respite care
It has become increasingly difficult for foster carers to get time off. Regular families can turn to family or close friends for help, but this is unlikely to be an option for foster carers. At certain times – weddings, funerals, hospital visits, graduation ceremonies – young children need to stay behind, just as they might if they lived with their birth families. Asking for help should not feel like an imposition.

As an extension of this, it should be possible to continue allowances after a child moves on, to recognise that a foster carer’s work continues for a time after each placement (for example, completing paperwork such as diary notes, liaising with schools and other organisations that had contact with the child or preparing the home for the next placement). Emotionally, the end of a longer placement can be tough and it takes time to bounce back. Having a small number of days still remunerated by the fostering provider feels fair.

In the spirit of the government’s response, none of these suggestions represents radical change, nor will they solve all fostering’s problems. But they address day-to-day challenges and go some way towards acknowledging that fostering families are also entitled to care and respect. And they won’t cost the earth.

Martin Barrow is a journalist and foster carer 

Treating Teen Depression Helps Parents' Mental Health, Too: Study

New U.S. research suggests that the bond between parents and children could affect their symptoms of depression, finding that when adolescents' symptoms improved with treatment, parents' symptoms also showed improvement.

The long-term study by researchers at Northwestern University looked at 325 teens who had been diagnosed with depression, and 325 of their parents or caregivers.

The teens were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups for a one-year period — those who received cognitive behavioural therapy, which helps patients identify and resolve negative thoughts and behaviour, those who took an antidepressant, and those who used a combination of both. The treatments were not family-based, although some parts did include the parent.

Before the treatment began, a quarter of the parents reported moderate to severe levels of depression.

When the teens had completed the treatment, and after an additional year of follow-up visits, the researchers found that despite the treatment process focusing on the children and not the parents, when the severity of an adolescent's depression lessened, so did similar symptoms in the parent, regardless of what treatment was used.

"Depression is a massive public health concern that will take a variety of approaches to better manage. We believe our study is among the first to evaluate how the emotional health of a child can impact that of the parent," said study co-author Mark A. Reinecke, PhD.

Study co-author Kelsey R. Howard also noted that the new findings could be useful for healthcare providers, as they could consider assessing a parent's level of depression when treating their child.

"More young people today are reporting persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness and suicidal thoughts," said Howard. "At the same time, suicide rates have climbed in nearly all U.S. states. This research may help health care providers as we grapple as a nation with how to address these alarming trends."

"The concept of emotions being 'contagious' and spreading from person to person is well-known by psychologists," she added. "This work opens up a range of possibilities for future research on the family-wide effects of treatment for adolescent depression."

The findings were presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, which ran August 9-12 in San Francisco.

Huffington Post, Canada

The young people of today . . . are the leaders of tomorrow

“The young people of today . . . ” is a sentence that rarely ends well.

It usually signals a rant about teenagers’ obsession with technology, abuse of alcohol, lack of respect, sense of entitlement or all-round fecklessness.

Greying adults may complain about “ageism” in society, but stereotyping by years lived also infuriates teenagers. The so-called “upcoming generation” wants to be heard too.
Just how to go about changing the world through influencing others was the focus of a recent week-long “Leadership for Life” conference for 15-18-year-olds, organised by the 50,000-strong youth organisation Foróige as part of its year-long leadership programme. While about 3,000 people take part in that programme, only 250 of them are nominated to attend the annual conference.

Recognised leaders – including former rugby star Paul O’Connell, former Rose of Tralee, broadcaster Maria Walsh, and Kingspan’s digital and brand director Louise Foody – were among those who addressed the gathering at Maynooth University, Co Kildare. Here, some of those aspiring to follow in their footsteps, talk about what leadership means to them.

Read their stories at the headline link.



India WCD ministry mulls monetary incentives for child care institutions promoting adoption

The Women and Child Development Ministry is planning to introduce monetary incentives for child care institutions if they promote adoption of children under their care, a senior ministry official said.

Child care institutions are currently getting Rs 2,000 per child per month for their maintenance which makes them reluctant to give the child up for adoption as their income would reduce, according to Rakesh Srivastava, Secretary at the WCD Ministry. The proposed scheme comes amid less number of children available for adoptions because of reluctance of child care institutions to register themselves under the Juvenile Justice Act 2015.

There are just 1,991 children available for adoption for about 20,000 prospective parents in the country, according to an RTI, while there are a total of 261566 children living in over 9000 child care institutions across the country.

Srivastava said the main reason for availability for less number of children is because many of them are with child care institutions which have not been registered with the Central Adoption Resource Authority, the apex adoption body in the country. “Our purpose is to give a child a home, we don’t want them to live in institutions forever and for that the ministry is planning such a scheme,” he said.

According to the Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System (CARINGS), there is just one child available for every nine adoptive parents in India waiting to take a child home. The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 recognises the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) as the nodal agency for promoting and regulating in-country and inter-country adoptions, which is being facilitated through an online portal (CARINGS).

Another Women and Child Development official said the other reason behind reluctance by child care institutions in registering themselves is because then they cannot directly admit the children and they would also be subjected to regular inspections. “The registration would also mean that children in need of care would be first put in front of a child welfare committee before admitted in orphanage,” the official said.

The ministry had renewed its call for registration of all child care institutions under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, after cases of alleged selling of babies was reported in a Missionaries of Charity home following which a nun along with a woman employee from the Jharkhand branch of the charity were arrested. The child care home, allegedly involved in selling three children and giving away another one, was also sealed by the authorities.

Following the incident, the ministry last month directed all the registered child care institutions, whether run by a state government or by voluntary or NGOs, to link to specialised adoption agencies so that children living in these institutions are reflected in the online portal CARINGS.

Sampurna Behura, director (programmes) at Bachpan Bachao Andolan, said it is time for the state governments and WCD Ministry to penalise all the institutions which have not registered themselves under the JJ Act.

“The JJ Act, 2015, attracts stringent punishment for illegally running child care institutions in the country. All child care institutions, whether run by a state government or NGOs, should have been registered within a period of six months of the law coming into force, failing which, they can be punished with imprisonment up to one year and fine of Rs 1 lakh,” he said.
“According to the Supreme Court orders, the registration process of child care institutions should have been completed by December 2017, therefore, it is contempt of court as well,” he added.

USA - Local case highlights dilemma of tackling juvenile crime

“You have not done work, you need to drill tonight” someone told Phillip Hairston Jr. before handing him a .38-caliber pistol. Hairston, 14 years old at the time, took it and used it.

The teenager now awaits sentencing as an adult and could serve as many as 23 years in a combination of juvenile and adult prisons, Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Newman said in an email. Some involved in the shooting have yet to stand trial, but the court’s gloomy outlook on Hairston stands apart.

The court system’s current diagnosis of Hairston touches on a larger issue borne out by nonprofits, experts and studies compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice: what to do with severe juvenile offenders when the options are therapy or incarceration.

He is one of three arrested in connection to the gang-related attempted shooting that took place on Sept. 28, 2017. The coterie of accused “Rollin 60s” Crips were goaded on by a member of a rival gang, court documents state, who sent them threatening text messages.

That’s when 19-year-old Stevie Jermaine Johnson Jr. – sentenced last month to 13 consecutive years in prison for leading what prosecutors called a “gang mission” with the help of minors – decided to act.

The group found a random man on the street and asked him who he was and where he was from. He felt threatened and ran. At least two people shot after him, court documents state, but missed. Suspects in the shooting were rounded up shortly thereafter.

Hairston pleaded guilty to three shooting-relating charges in Danville Circuit Court on March 28. Prosecutors dropped the gang-participation charge filed against him as a result of the plea deal.

In moving the case from juvenile to circuit court, however, court officials decided they had to view someone with his criminal charges as an adult.

“The juvenile cannot receive any further services from the juvenile court system,” one court order read.

Hairston had been given a long-term suspension from school in 2016 for fighting and was held in a state-run facility in Lynchburg on charges of robbery and gang participation shortly thereafter. Virginia held 1,071 juvenile offenders in 41 centers across the state in 2016, according to data from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Approximately two months after leaving that detention facility on parole in 2017, Hairston shot at the stranger on the street and was back in the system.

“If he is found guilty of the current charges,” one court report read, “Phillip Hairston will be a repeat offender, both in violent crime and as a gang participant.”
A psychological evaluation documented in court reports summarized that “[Hairston] cares about very little, and is attracted to a lifestyle that can and will continue to get him in trouble.”
Juvenile crime and recidivism are on the decline, but the treatment for juvenile delinquency is still being worked out, James Hodgson of Averett University’s Criminal Justice Department said.

Hodgson said that, for most juveniles not convicted of serious crimes, therapy is the best solution to their criminal behavior.

“In detention centers, typically, kids have access to those therapeutic type programs,” he said. “The idea of detention itself is the last straw.”
Particularly for those juveniles tried as adults, Hodgson said, long-term sentences characteristic of adult prisons do not often work to correct behavior. Kids who spend extended periods of time locked away – without treatment, education or training – often learn little to prepare them for reintroduction to the world outside prison.

“You warehouse a person for 20 years or so and you kick them out and say ‘oh good,’ they go back to their old neighborhood” Hodgson said. “They’re going to scuffle to make a living”
Much of Virginia’s juvenile justice system relies on diverting kids away from juvenile holding facilities and incentivizing them to stay out, Hodgson said. The rub comes when issues of public safety need to be reconciled with the possibility of rehabilitation, Melissa Sickmund, Director of the National Center for Juvenile Justice said.

“There is a pretty strong advocacy community in juvenile justice that would say kids should never be locked up,” Sickmund said. “But that has to be weighed realistically against community protection”

Because adult prisons, typically, focus less on rehabilitation than juvenile incarceration centers, juveniles who serve whopping, multi-year sentences spend long stretches of time around other violent offenders, Hodgson said. The same is true of some juvenile detention centers – though the effects of incarceration depend greatly on the reformative programs available to detainees.

“Being a therapeutic-based system, when you have a violent offender, particularly a violent offender that has utilized gang activities, the question becomes then what are the rehabilitative opportunities,” Hodgson said. “Typically there is not a lot of therapy at the adult level.”

That detention can be necessary, Sickmund said, but placement around other violent offenders can, sometimes, influence a juvenile.
“[A juvenile] is going to spend those years being molded in a prison,” she said. “As someone in that community, do I feel better having him grow up with a bunch of adult inmates…or do I feel better letting the juvenile justice system have another shot at him?”

But that seems to be changing. The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice closed one of its larger juvenile holding facilities in Beaumont, located just west of Richmond, in 2017. The commonwealth, Sickmund said, seems to be moving away from the idea of state-run holding facilities in favor of smaller, reform-focused campuses, which Hodgson said provably reduce juvenile recidivism.

Newman estimated that, since being elected as commonwealth’s attorney in 2009, his office has certified five to 10 juveniles to circuit court each year – chiefly for violent crimes.
“Unfortunately it is becoming more commonplace as juveniles 14 to 17 years of age commit more violent offenses over the last few years,” Newman wrote in an email.

Two Hackney children attend schools run by firm at centre of ‘disturbing’ care home allegations

Hackney Council says it is not aware of any concerns about schools attended by two local children with special needs after the private firm that runs them was hit with “deeply disturbing” allegations of poor conditions at its care homes.

Cambian Group, Britain’s largest private child care home provider, last month strongly denied a litany of accusations from former and current employees, detailed in a report by Buzzfeed News.

The allegations, which relate only to Cambian care homes and not its schools, include unhygienic rooms, vomit on walls, assaults, drugs, broken furniture and poorly trained staff – caused, according to a former staff member, by the firm’s relentless cost-cutting in pursuit of profit.

A response from Hackney Council in November last year to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request contained a list of “independent and non-maintained SEND provisions at which Hackney resident pupils are currently placed”, and how much funding the Town Hall puts towards them.

It shows the council, in 2016/17, made payments totalling over £600,000 to two Cambian schools – Grateley House in Hampshire, for children with Asperger’s Syndrome, and Purbeck View in Dorset, which is for kids with autism.

A Town Hall spokesperson later told the Citizen that these payments were to fund the education of two day students who live in Hackney with their parents.

They said the Hackney Learning Trust, the council’s education arm, carries out an annual review of both schools alongside the parents.

The spokesperson added: “We are not aware of any significant concerns of the nature highlighted in the report in respect of either of the schools where we have children placed.”
The next review will take place in the autumn as scheduled, after the council confirmed it has no plans to bring it forward in light of the BuzzFeed report.

Hackney Green Party spokesman Samir Jeraj, who spotted the payments in the 2017 FoI response, said: “The allegations uncovered by Buzzfeed are deeply disturbing.
“Hackney Council need to investigate and ensure the care provided to children is the best it can be.”

He added: “The widespread privatisation of children’s care homes means profit is being put above some of the most vulnerable children in our community.”

A Town Hall spokesperson said: “Hackney does not have any children placed in residential care homes provided by Cambian nor any children placed with their fostering agency.
“The Hackney Learning Trust provides funding for children with special educational needs attending the two schools referred to in the FoI request cited.”

The spokesperson revealed the schools received funding from Hackney in 2017/18 which totals more than £460,000.

A spokesperson for Hackney Independent Forum for Parents/Carers of Children with Disabilities (HiP) said: “We were shocked and concerned to read the BuzzFeed report on the experiences of very vulnerable children in Cambian care homes.

“We are aware of a very small number of Hackney children with special educational needs placed in Cambian specialist residential autism schools (as distinct from Cambian care homes) in recent years.

“Pupils have typically been placed in these schools because local mainstream and special schools in Hackney and in neighbouring boroughs are unable to meet their special educational needs.”

They added: “No families have told us of any significant problems with either school, but in light of the BuzzFeed article, we will be asking families if they have concerns.”
The spokesperson for Hackney Council said: “Children are placed in special educational provision following an assessment of their needs.

“The choice of an individual school is made partly on the basis of the recommendations arising out of the assessment but also taking into account the views of the parent and child.
“A proposed placement would be regularly visited by the parents and special educational needs staff from Hackney Learning Trust before any placement is made; all special education schools are registered with Ofsted and regularly inspected.

“Hackney Learning Trust would expect to see the school make progress against any recommendations made by Ofsted.

“There is also an annual review of each placement undertaken by Hackney Learning Trust to consider whether or not the school is continuing to meet the needs of the child concerned.”



State Launches Efforts to Extend Foster Care to Age 21

BATON ROUGE - Gov. John Bel Edwards joined Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Marketa Garner Walters, legislative leaders, former foster youth and child advocates today in launching efforts to extend foster care in Louisiana to age 21.

The issue gained momentum this spring when the Legislature passed two bills on the topic – Sen. Regina Barrow's SCR 10 (part of the Governor's Legislative Agenda) to form a task force to study extending foster care to age 21, and Sen. Ryan Gatti's SB 129 (Act 649), which extended the age of foster care through high school graduation or until the age of 21, whichever occurs first.

The SCR 10 Panel on Extending the Age of Foster Care kicked off its work today. The panel will review work underway in other states and design a program to best benefit the approximately 175 Louisiana youth each year who "age out" of the foster care system when they turn 18. The task force will issue its first report to the Legislature in February.
"Today's launch is an important statement about our commitment to the children in our care," said Gov. Edwards. "We have a responsibility to ensure they have the foundations they need to gain the best possible start in life. That means connecting them with housing and other resources, helping them form permanent relationships with caring, competent adults and providing access to the education and skills development necessary to becoming productive citizens. We're grateful to have the support of so many diverse stakeholders, because it will take all of us working together to build an effective plan. We're also fortunate to benefit from the guidance and expertise of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, our partner in this critical work."

'I want assaults to stop': Attacked nurse blames youth justice system

Rosalinda Martino was taken to hospital after being hit by an inmate at Parkville’s youth justice centre last month.

But the agency nurse doesn’t blame the young offender for her assault – she blames the juvenile detention system. “We expect that it’s a safe place for these children to be, but it’s not,” she said.

“The violence, the lack of warmth in the place, the sometimes poor relationships with staff – it’s no wonder so many of them end up worse.”

Miss Martino was called to Parkville to assess the injuries of a teenage boy who had been bashed by two other inmates.

The teen was “completely dazed and disoriented” by the time she arrived, she said. Without warning, he lashed out and hit her on her forehead with such force she ended up concussed.

A group of guards then “jumped all over him” aggressively, she said.

“It was awful. You can’t beat ‘good’ into people. Management should be held accountable."

The Justice Department confirmed that an incident took place resulting in a staff member being taken to hospital. But it refused to comment on any of the nurse’s claims, or the broader questions of whether proper process was followed.

“Violent behaviour or assaults by young people in custody is absolutely unacceptable, and the safety of our staff, young people and the community is of utmost importance,” a spokeswoman said.

State government figures show there were 315 “category one” critical incidents in Victoria’s youth justice centres between January 2017 and June this year, including 174 assaults or alleged assaults. But it is rare for any of the details to be made public, particularly by someone who has worked within the system.

However, Miss Martino wants to shine a light on the problems and hopes that others might do the same.  “I just want the assaults to stop,” she says.

The latest incident comes as an Auditor-General’s report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday found the youth detention system lacking in its efforts to rehabilitate teenagers or reduce reoffending.

“Young people in detention have not been receiving the rehabilitation services they are entitled to and that are necessary to meet their needs,” the report said. “As a result, youth detention has not been effectively promoting reduced reoffending.”

At any given time in Victoria, there are about 200 young people incarcerated in the youth justice system, which has two centres: one in Parkville, the other in Malmsbury. Both facilities and their staff have been under strain in recent years, partly due to a series of riots by inmates and the increasingly complex nature of offenders, many of them recidivists.

Part of the government’s solution is to build a new “fit for purpose” youth centre at Cherry Creek in Melbourne’s west. It will include high, high-to-medium, and low-security units; incentives for good behaviour; 12 mental-health beds; and an orientation unit for new admissions.

Such reforms, according to the Auditor-General's report, “present an important opportunity” to “better meet the needs of young people and contribute to reduced reoffending”.
The audit examined the files of 40 young people incarcerated between January 1 and June 30 last year and found that more than half did not have a case plan. Other problems identified included inadequate facilities, the fact that youths were not being properly assessed when they arrived to determine what services they needed, and a “focus on security that impairs access to education and health services”.

Youth Affairs Minister Jenny Mikakos said the Auditor-General’s report “confirms what we knew all along – that the Liberals left the youth justice system a total mess by underfunding vital services, such as education, health and rehabilitation, as well as leaving buildings in disrepair.”
But opposition spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said the government was in denial, and that the latest assault was yet another example of a system in crisis.

Early Child Development on a Global Scale

A tool developed by Assistant Professor Dana McCoy and her colleagues will help to more accurately measure early development across diverse cultures.

A new tool that allows for large-scale monitoring of children’s early development across diverse cultures could have broad implications in research and policy around the globe, according to its co-creator, Assistant Professor Dana McCoy. The tool, whose promising early uses were recently summarized in the Early Childhood Research Quarterly, provides scalable, comparable data on the motor, language, cognitive, and social-emotional skills of young children (ages 0 to 3) around the world. McCoy worked with Günther Fink, associate professor at the Swiss TPH in Basel and adjunct professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and HGSE doctoral candidate Marcus Waldman to develop and validate the first-of-its-kind measure, an open-source platform called the Caregiver Reported Early Development Instruments (CREDI).

“The CREDI has filled a gap — not only from a policy perspective but also a research perspective, to have tools to use in program evaluation globally,” McCoy says. “Early childhood has increasingly been recognized by governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as a window of opportunity for improving not only the developmental outcomes of individual children, but also the social and economic wellbeing of society as a whole.”

The CREDI helps provide policymakers and NGOs a snapshot of how children are developing globally, and can inform conversations about how best to allocate resources or make decisions in policies and programming related to children.

McCoy first realized there was almost no evidence-based, large-scale literature on child development beyond high-income countries five years ago, when she was trying to understand major risk factors for children in Tanzania. Part of the many challenges in researching early childhood development globally is a lack of measurement tools that work in a non-Western cultural setting, she says. To date, most research and evaluation tools have been developed for children living in high-income countries such as the United States, then applied to research on children living in low- and middle-income countries with minimal success.

“Sometimes that works, but sometimes that really doesn’t work,” McCoy says. “What we are likely doing by administering U.S.-based assessments is underestimating the actual ability levels of kids in low-resourced communities because we are using the wrong tools, the wrong questions. You really need tools and solutions developed locally. You can’t ask a child in Tanzania to describe a picture of a snowman. She’s bound to get that wrong.” The need is important, McCoy says, considering that 90 percent of children under the age of 5 live in developing countries.

McCoy, Fink, and Waldman developed the CREDI in order to find a better way to understand and measure child development on a global scale. The tool is unique in that it is both open source and based on caregiver reports that are focused on milestones and behaviors that are common across cultures, rather than objects or resources that may be culturally specific.
Researchers and policymakers can access CREDI in two versions: a short form, which has exactly 20 questions for each child and is geared toward large scale surveys and monitoring effects, and a more detailed long form, which has up to 100 questions per child and can be beneficial for research and evaluation projects.
The CREDI is already being used in 20 countries by local researchers and the nonprofit, Save the Children. Parts of it are also being considered for use by organizations like WHO and UNICEF, where, if incorporated into data collection efforts, it has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of children, McCoy says.
“It’s an exciting time for the field. Early childhood has had a lot of momentum in the United States for a long time but it’s starting to pick up steam internationally,” McCoy says. “There’s a ton of work to be done and a ton of need. Children in low- and middle-income countries face stress and adversity that is substantially more challenging and dramatic than what kids in high-income countries are experiencing, and we need to do more.” 



The Crowd: 44 Women raise scholarship money for adults exiting foster care

Since 2004, a dedicated organization known as 44 Women for Orangewood has focused its fundraising on much-needed scholarships for youths emancipated from the foster care system who wish to attend college but lack the financial and emotional support.

Susan Samueli, activist, philanthropist and co-owner of the Anaheim Ducks, founded the group. She discovered this very real need, frankly a failure of the social services system in terms of helping foster youth transition to independent and successful lives when they turn 18. She rallied the troops, enlisting her close girlfriends, and 44 Women for Children was created.

In recent years the organization has evolved into 44 Women for Orangewood as it has always been under the auspices of the organization’s foundation.
In the early years, Samueli invited her friends to an annual summer luncheon on the oceanfront lawn of her residence in Corona del Mar. The setting was spectacular, the program meaningful, yet the gathering was never glitzy, its serious message paramount.

Shirley Pepys and Christine D'Ambrosio take part in festivities at 44 Women for Orangewood's 14th annual scholarship luncheon. (Courtesy of Ann Chatillon)  
Samueli is direct and practical. Big money was never spent on a fancy luncheon; she served simple, one-course salads. Money raised went right into the scholarship fund.
Then, as now, the number of former foster youth needing college assistance was extreme. But that never got in the way of helping young men and women, one at a time, evaluating each need separately with care and concern.

As the years have progressed, so has the scope and reach of the organization. The annual luncheon now requires a major hotel ballroom.

Recently, the 14th annual scholarship luncheon unfolded at the Fashion Island Hotel. Co-chaired by Jeanne Boyce and Yvette McCarthy, 300 ladies and gentlemen attended.
Organizers invited Steve Pemberton, a corporate executive, youth advocate and author to share his life story. Pemberton had the crowd listening to his every word. His life experience resonated with the 44 Women message. As a boy, Pemberton was abandoned by his biological family and ended up in foster care. He suffered untold neglect.
He told the audience that his foster family, in addition to not providing any love, support or the basic fundamental needs of a child growing up, had no real interest in his education or development. They didn’t even allow him to read books, a pastime in which he was truly interested. Can you imagine the callousness of an adult guardian not allowing a child to read?

Almost half of juvenile offenders in South Tyneside re-offend within a year

More than 40% of youth offenders in South Tyneside committed another crime within a year, according to a Ministry of Justice report.

From October 2015 to September 2016, 151 young offenders either left custody, received a non-custodial conviction or received a caution. Of those, 65 committed a proven re-offence within a year. Each committed an average of 2.9 offences within this period.

The 151 young offenders, aged under 18, also had 418 previous convictions between them. In England and Wales, 42% of juvenile offenders committed another crime within a year, committing an average of 3.9 offences each. The Ministry of Justice has cautioned that, since the figures only measure offences resulting in convictions or cautions, this could be a significant underestimate of the true level of re-offending. Across England and Wales, juveniles are more likely to re-offend than adults.

In South Tyneside 33% of 1,699 adult offenders re-offended over the same period. Nationally, 29% of adults re-offended. Youth justice practitioner on the Law Society criminal law committee, Greg Stewart, said that the way that juvenile crime is handled could be behind high youth re-offending rates.

North Yorkshire is first in social care for “outstanding” Ofsted in all areas

North Yorkshire is the first and only authority nationally to have received an ‘outstanding’ grade in every category under a new and challenging social care inspection framework which focuses on the effectiveness of frontline practice.

Children and families receive a consistent, high-quality service with outstanding practice in all teams, inspectors state.  This “has a demonstrable positive impact on effecting change”.
In their report published today (August 6th) inspectors praise as “ambitious and forward thinking” the children and families leadership team as well as the lead member and county council’s chief executive.  They have “a clear over-sight of practice and know the services well”.

North Yorkshire is a learning organisation which responds effectively to areas for development with innovative projects which have a tangible, positive impact on the lives of young people, Ofsted states.

Leadership is also praised for being responsive to change with plans in place for further developments “to ensure that improvements are maintained”. 
Well-established multi-agency partnerships ensure families receive help in a timely way.  Work is child-centred with a long-standing, “clearly embedded” model of practice based on effective relationships with children and families.

Ofsted describes the local authority as “a committed and effective corporate parent” that enables children and young people in care and on the edge of care to remain close to their home and local community. 

Almost 100 per cent of North Yorkshire’s children in foster care are placed within the county.



UK: Council leaders condemn massive funding of David Cameron’s citizenship scheme, while youth services slashed

Town hall leaders have called for funding to be diverted from David Cameron’s youth citizenship dream in favour of locally-funded services that have been cut to the bone.
Only 12 per cent of eligible teenagers signed up to the National Citizen Service (NCS) in 2016, despite the government ploughing 95 per cent of its youth services budget – or £634m – into the scheme between 2014-15 and 2017-18, according to official figures.

Launched in 2011 as part of the then Tory prime minister’s “Big Society” agenda, the four-week scheme seeks to empower 15 to 17-year-olds through a series of community projects.

Critics have raised questions over the scheme’s value for money in the face of swingeing government cuts to youth provision, as councils have been forced to slash spending by 40 per cent, from £650m in 2010-11 to just £390m in 2016-17.

More than 600 youth centres closed and nearly 139,000 youth service places were lost between 2012 and 2016.

It comes as Tory-run Northamptonshire County Council held crisis talks over whether it could sustain services for vulnerable children and adult social care after the cash-strapped local authority was forced to impose emergency spending controls for the second time in six months.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, said NCS funds would be better spent on all-year-round provision for young people, rather than short programmes for a small age group with low uptake.

Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “A time limited programme of work cannot provide the trusted, longer-term relationships that are a valued element of youth work, and that are needed by some young people to develop the self-esteem, confidence and skills to take part in such programmes.
“Councils have been forced to cut important services for thousands of young residents in recent years as a result of increasingly squeezed budgets, so it is wrong that nearly all of the government’s funding for youth services is being spent on a very short programme which attracts only a small number of participants.

Children and youth are crucial in the global AIDS response

With 21 million people now receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) and fewer than 1 million AIDS-related deaths per year, the international AIDS response is often lauded for its achievements and collaborative approach engaging civil society, the health-sector, and global governance. However, on July 18, the annual UNAIDS report, this year given the ominous title Miles to go, cautioned that now is not the time for celebration or complacency.

The report notes that, despite overall progress, many vulnerable groups are being left behind, and children and adolescents in low-resource settings are at particular risk. On July 25, UNICEF reported that 3 million children worldwide live with HIV (87% of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa) and in 2017, 430 000 new HIV infections occurred in under-19-year-olds—far from the UNAIDS target of no new paediatric infections by 2018. 41% of these infections occurred in under-5s, primarily from mother-to-child transmission. Because of their developing immune systems, young children are more susceptive to rapid disease progression, and 80% of HIV positive infants who don't receive ART will die before their fifth birthday.

Continued efforts to ensure pregnant women have access to transmission prevention services is vital. Testing should be offered at all routine clinic visits, such as antenatal checks and well-child and vaccination appointments. To ensure those diagnosed receive appropriate treatment, paediatric HIV care needs to be decentralised to local level facilities and practitioners rather than confined to remote tertiary hospitals as frequently happens.

Attorney claims migrant child died as result of stay at Texas immigration facility

A migrant child placed in a South Texas immigration detention center under the president’s “zero-tolerance” policy died after contracting a disease from another detainee, according to a lawyer’s claim, which officials have denied.

Mana Yegani, a Houston-based immigration attorney, posted the claims on Twitter on Wednesday, initially appearing to say that the child had died at the Family Residential Center in Dilley south of San Antonio. The facility is run by a private company on contract for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE immediately rejected the claim, and Dilley police told the San Antonio Express-News that neither they, nor emergency medical services, had responded to any reported deaths at the facility in recent days.

Yegani could not be reached for comment, but posted a clarification later on Twitter: “The child died following her stay at an ICE Detention Center, as a result of possible negligent care and a respiratory illness she contracted from one of the other children. The events took place in Dilley Family Detention Center in South Texas.”



UK: Home Office doubles size of Early Intervention Youth Fund to £22m

The Home Office has doubled the amount of money it intends to hand out to local youth projects that seek to steer young people away from violent crime to £22m. The Early Intervention Youth Fund, which opened for funding applications today, is part of the Serious Violence Strategy published by the government in April. The fund was originally set to distribute £11m over two years but Home Secretary Sajid Javid has now doubled the amount of money available to £22m. "Intervening early in the lives of vulnerable young people can help focus their talents on positive activities and steer them away from the dangers of serious violence," said Javid. "This is why we are doubling our Early Intervention Youth Fund to £22m. The fund will support groups at the heart of communities who educate and interact with youths - and provide them with an alternative to crime." The fund offers police and crime commissioners (PCCs) in England and Wales up to £700,000 of funding over two years for initiatives that use positive activities to keep young people away from crime. These activities are expected to include sports projects, youth work and mentoring schemes. PCCs will be able to use the money to expand existing initiatives and create new schemes. To qualify for funding, PCCs must be working with community safety partnerships or a local equivalent. The money is primarily targeted at initiatives that work with under-18s but projects that work with young adults up to the age of 25 will also be considered. 

South Africa: Centre for Child Law speaks out against assault of juvenile inmates

The assault of juvenile inmates at the at the Bosasa Mogale youth centre in Krugersdorp, which was recently exposed via video footage published by News24, has raised the ire of the Centre for Child Law (CCL). CCL director Ann Skelton told News24 on Tuesday that the centre noted "with grave concern the unacceptable assault of children" at the facility. "When the new government first came to power in 1994, the Cabinet requested a national investigation into facilities housing children. I think we are at that point again," Skelton added. The footage, which was taken on April 3, 2017, shows how the teenagers – both sentenced and awaiting-trial inmates – were forced to take off their clothes and lie on the ground. Security guards could be seen assaulting the boys. Bosasa spokesperson Papa Leshabane previously told News24 that the incident happened after a "hostage situation" at the facility. "It took place at a time when there was a national Nehawu (National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union) strike and we had accepted kids from the Walter Sisulu centre, over and above the ones we had. "It is not like we woke up in the morning and started hitting kids. We were dealing with a very unfortunate situation," Leshabane said at the time. He said about 45 boys stormed into the social workers' offices and held two staff members hostage. In recent years, the CCL had approached the courts requesting that developmental quality assurance processes be carried out at centres where problems had been raised, Skelton added. She said the processes had highlighted worrying issues. "Children concerned were found to be living in poor physical conditions and some were receiving no education or developmental input, and [they had highlighted] that staff were not interested in caring for the children." Skelton pointed out that these problems were found in facilities run by the government. The Bosasa facility is run by a private provider. She also added that the Department of Social Development should strengthen the monitoring and accountability of child and youth care centres (CYCCs). 

Australia: Survey elevates voices of children

Australia’s youngest citizens will have their voices heard in a national survey. National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell is calling on children and young people in Australia to get involved in the 2018 Children’s Rights Poll. The Poll was developed by the University of Melbourne and ABC’s Behind the News program, in consultation with the Australian Human Rights Commission and young Australians. The results will be used to help the Australian Human Rights Commission include the voices of Australian children and young people in an upcoming report to the United Nations. “The results of the 2018 Children’s Rights Poll will provide an invaluable insight into what Australia must do to ensure the rights of all children are being upheld,” Commissioner Mitchell said. “I know many children and young people are really engaged with civil society and want desperately to play a bigger role in our community. “We are listening. I hope all parents and guardians encourage their children to complete the Poll and be heard.” Students at Homebush West Public School and Annandale Public School played an important role helping design the Poll to ensure it reflects how young people want to talk about their rights. The Poll asks all children and young people – aged 17 and under – how they feel about growing up in Australia, what rights are important to them, and how easy it is for them to access necessities like medicine and school. The results will be released at the University of Melbourne’s National Child and Youth Forum, chaired by Commissioner Mitchell, in Melbourne on September 7. Commissioner Mitchell will report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child about Australia’s progress in meeting its international law obligations by 1 November 2018. The Committee monitors Australia’s implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Poll is available here. It closes on August 10.

USA: Baltimore’s pioneering stand against kids’ sugary drinks

Baltimore, the largest city in the US state of Maryland, has become the first major city in the entire country to ban sugary drinks from restaurants’ children’s menus. It’s a measure designed to promote healthy eating and drinking habits in young children and families by making water, milk and 100 per cent fruit juices the default option on kids’ menus. Parents will still have the option, if they wish, to order sugary drinks from the normal menu for their children. Several smaller cities in California already have similar arrangements but Baltimore, which has a population of just over 611,000, is the largest city in the country and first on the east coast to do so. City leaders say that while the country as a whole is struggling with childhood obesity, the problem in Baltimore is particularly pronounced. Dr. Leana Wen, Health Commissioner for Baltimore, told NBC News that one in three high school children in the city was obese, and one in four children drinks one or more sodas a day. “The science is clear that a major contributor to childhood obesity is sugary drinks, and taking out these empty calories is one of the single biggest lifestyle changes that parents and children can make,” she said. The World Health Organisation says that sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is high in many parts of the world and is suggestive of poor dietary quality, as sugar-sweetened beverages contain sugars such as sucrose or fructose, often in large amounts, which contribute to the overall energy density of diets. In addition, the calories provided by these drinks have little nutritional value and may not provide the same feeling of fullness that solid food provides. Total energy intake may then increase, potentially leading to unhealthy weight gain. The WHO’s publication, Sugars intake for adults and children, is available to download here 


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