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Department of Labor Helps At-Risk Youth ‘STRIVE for the Future’

STRIVE, a New York City-based organization with 21 affiliates throughout the United States, was recently awarded a three-year, $5 million grant from the United States Department of Labor for a new, nationwide initiative called STRIVE for the Future.

The program is centered on providing services and assistance to formerly incarcerated youth, with the grant expected to benefit about 400 teens.

A recent press release from the organization said the initiative will focus on juveniles ages 14 and older who primarily come from high-poverty and high-crime communities and were involved in the juvenile justice system, but not the adult criminal system, within the last 12 months.

The organization says it will provide numerous tools and services such as career development assistance and various forms of training and education for at-risk youth.

Additionally, STRIVE plans on developing several community service projects, as well as mentoring and violence reduction programs, as part of the STRIVE for the Future initiative, with all 21 affiliates having the opportunity to apply for local community services.

East Harlem Employment Services, Inc., STRIVE’s parent organization, was one of 25 community-based organizations recently allotted grant money by the Department of Labor earlier this month. The Department of Labor handed out $50 million in funding to organizations across the country that provide job training and support services to youth that have been involved in the nation’s juvenile justice system.

"The federal grants announced today will help vulnerable youth receive the training and support they need to gain valuable job skills and improve their long-term employment prospects,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in an official announcement issued last week.

"These young people deserve a chance to turn their lives around,” she said.

Photo courtesy STRIVE

NYC’S Homeless Teens at Risk Due to Budget Cuts, Says LGBT Advocate

lgbt homeless youthNew York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recently released executive budget could cut $7 million in funding to the city’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Services, effectively eliminating 160 beds from youth shelters across the city.

According to a representative from the Ali Forney Center  - the city’s largest LGBT youth shelter - the need for shelter beds has increased dramatically in recent years, with the waiting list for the Center growing by 40 percent last year.

The Ali Forney Center claims that there are only 250 shelter beds available in New York - despite an estimated homeless youth population of almost 4,000. Carl Siciliano, the Center’s executive director, told The Advocate he considered Bloomberg’s budget cuts to be “cruel, reckless and contemptible.”

“These cuts create an even bigger crisis for the LGBT teens who are thrown out of their homes and forced to endure homelessness on the streets of our city,” he said. “The Ali Forney Center and all those who work with and care about LGBT homeless youth will not be silent in the face of this decision, which offends us as a community and needlessly puts our young people in harm’s way.”

A New York City Independent Budget Office report from March predicted (on page 35) homeless shelter budget cuts, with the investigation identifying an increase in average shelter stay durations as well as the cessation of subsidy programs, such as Advantage, as the primary factors for budget shortfalls.

While Bloomberg’s tentative executive budget entails cuts to the city’s youth shelter programs, the proposal for the 2013 fiscal year also involves more than $13 million in renovations to family shelters, and almost $15 million for the combined rehabilitation of the city’s Help 1 and adult shelters.

An official final budget will be announced by Bloomberg and the City Council in late June.

In 2010, Bloomberg’s administration released a report recognizing the perils that homeless LGBT youth faced in the city, including an increased risk of violent assault and a greater likelihood of AIDS infection - concluding the city should create an additional 100 beds for its at-risk youth populations.

To advocate for funding the new beds, the Ali Forney Center, alongside several other allied LGBT organizations, launched the Campaign for Youth Shelter and is urging state officials to put up $3 million annually.

Photo via ProjectSpeak OutLoud

Join the Fun, Help Ensure a Future for Juvenile Justice Coverage

Dear Patrons of JJIE.org:

Lenoard Witt, Executive Director and Publisher, JJIE.org

Over the past year, professional journalists at the JJIE have told hundreds of stories that shine a spotlight on juvenile safety and justice issues.

Here are two ways you can help us continue to shine that spotlight.

First, help support and join the fun by bidding on some fantastic Silent Auction items. You might find your dream vacation, a house at the beach or lovely meals at fantastic restaurants. The bidding ends Feb. 3 and proceeds support the JJIE.org work we do.

Second, if you are in the area, come out and meet John Fleming, our JJIE.org editor, columnists like Judge Steve Teske, myself and rest of our staff at our Brews and News Fun-Raiser on Friday night, February 3 at the SweetWater Brewery in Atlanta. Lots of food and drink, plus let us introduce you to folks in person who you should know.

So it is a perfect formula: you get bargains, you get to network, you have fun and from our side we get to meet and talk to you. And you help us keep the JJIE.org spotlight shining on youth issues.

Thanks, I’ll see you online at the auction and/or on Friday, Feb. 3.

Please register now, and bring your friends and colleagues too.

Leonard Witt
Publisher, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

RMYF Grants to Evaluative Innovative Programs for At-Risk Youth

The Ruddie Memorial Youth Foundation | RMYF logoThe Ruddie Memorial Youth Foundation (RMYF) offers Evaluation Grants for first time applicants to assess the successfulness of innovative programs or innovative components of programs that serve disadvantaged youth.

This is the only grant available to first-time applicants with RMYF. Grants range between $5,000-$25,000 and MUST focus on evaluating an innovative program. Successful completion of the grant terms opens the possibility of future funding.

Grant applications are reviewed annually. Deadline is July 18, 2012. Grant recipients will be announced in November 2012.

The Whitefoord Approach to Community, Health and Education

A Whitefoord Community Program Child Development Classroom

Whitefoord Community Program - "This is a Lottery-funded pre-K program"At a glance it can be hard to see the impact of the breadth of services offered by the Whitefoord Community Program (WCP) on the cluster of Atlanta neighborhoods they serve. The non-profit runs four health clinics in nearby schools, offers child development and pre-K services, after school programs, digital media training, summer reading and math workshops and even a Bike Rite health initiative.

In a time of tight city and state budget, more and more municipalities are looking for ways to deliver services to the communities that need them. In Atlanta, one such program, the WCP, has been in place for years and could prove to be a model for the nation. Through grants and other funding the project has proven sustainable. Through community involvement it has proven useful and effective.

Look a little closer at the project and you’ll see the evolution of a community support system that weaves together family, health and education. What stated with a one-square mile area and a single health clinic in Whitefoord Elementary School on the east side of Atlanta more than 15 years ago has evolved into a system that reaches into a number of communities in that area of the city.

All of these services work in tandem from just about the time the child leaves the womb until he or she graduates high school with one goal in mind: providing the children of this inner-city community with the tools they need to complete their education.

Whitefoord Community Program's Beyond School Hours Director Clarence Jones
Clarence Jones, director of the WCP's Beyond School Hours program, has been with the organization since shortly after it's founding.

At nine weeks, infants can enroll, space provided, in the WCP’s Child Development program and start gearing up for their formal education. Unlike traditional daycare, this nationally accredited child development program employs HighScope Curriculum, a style of early childhood teaching and learning focused on active participation and educational development.

From there the kids can move on to the organization's pre-K programs, then once in grade school on into the Beyond School Hours program, summer math and reading workshops and others.

 

The WCP takes the community aspect of their title very seriously. When getting its footing back in the early 1990s the founders went door-to-door in the one-square mile area surrounding Whitefoord Elementary to survey the families and find out what services they needed most.

“I think our success, the success of the organization, was contributed to by the fact that we had one square mile that was focused on,” said Clarence Jones, Beyond School Hours Director with the WCP. “So two things that happened that cause our success, in my opinion, is one that we focused on a small area, and two is that we went to the community to determine what the community’s needs were. As a result we had a greater buy-in from the community.“

And the community really seems to have "bought in." More than half of the non-profit’s board members come from the community itself. Principals from the local schools that now house the four health clinics and a variety of the youth programs are asked to participate. The idea, Jones said, was to create a link between the schools and the households, between the educational environment and the community it educates.

Whitfoord Community Health Center, Whitfoord Elementary School, Atlanta, Ga.
An adult community member receives services in one of WCP's school-based health centers.

Even the organization’s campus was built with the community in mind. After a lengthy drive around the neighborhood you’d probably still be hard pressed to find the buildings. Situated in a number of refurbished and renovated houses just across the street from Whitefoord Elementary, the WCP has made it a point to blend in.

 

The theory is that health is linked to education -- a theory much research supports. What started with that one clinic and a one-mile radius has blossomed to included two elementary schools, a middle and high school, taking the WCP well beyond their single mile.

What started with the simple premise of promoting health among inner-city youth has gone well beyond that, too. The clinics, while housed inside the schools, are full-service and open to members of the public regardless of age. The organization offers GED programs and parent counseling. Staff social workers pay home visits and actively connect those in need with the services available.

One of the most important aspects contributing to the success of the kids, Jones said, was involvement from the parents.

“The parent has to realize the impact that they have on their child. Without a true realization of the impact that they have on their children then there will be issues,” said Jones. “Now, parents don’t go to school to learn how to parent, so how do you get parents to understand what their impact is? You get them to understand what their impact is through involvement, through participation. “

And these programs and functions were all based on what the communities said they needed.

 

When the late George Brumley, an Emory pediatrician, started the initiative with the help of former student Veda Johnson the plan wasn’t to be in the community forever. The goal was to make the project self-sufficient and community run within a decade, but as things progressed the staff began to realize it would take “more like a generation,” according to Jones, before the necessary support structures would be in place.

Brumley has passed, but his impact lives on in the community he was dedicated to supporting. The street outside the Whitefoord Community Program's office is marked Georgia W. Brumley Way.

The word of the week for Whitefoord students of the Intel Computer Club is "innovate."

One Agency’s Budget Struggles Typical of Nation

Opening slide to DCANP Sustainability MeetingsAlabama’s only agency designated to prevent child abuse and neglect, among the many juvenile justice departments around the nation grappling with a smaller budget, will serve nearly half the number of kids in 2012 as they did in 2011.

The Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention (DCANP) is preparing to cut 74 community-based programs around the state when the new budget takes effect October 1. The cuts bring the total number of programs to just 101 for FY 2012, compared to 227 funded in FY 2005.

The reduction in services represents roughly 14,000 kids that will no longer have access to community-based prevention programs.

“I’m really concerned with the burden of the system as a whole,” says Kelley Parris-Barnes, director of the DCANP. “When you take the community-level programs out you don’t have the capacity in the state to do it.”

The DCANP doesn’t deliver services directly. Rather, the department funds a variety of community-based prevention and education programs. According to Barnes, community members have the capacity and cultural relationship to identify at-risk children long before state-level agencies are able to.

The financial challenges facing the department and the state as a whole are not much different than those facing local governments throughout the United States. Texas, Idaho, Louisiana and many others have witnessed a reduction in juvenile related services.

“There’s not a state, county or city not making the same evaluation with the current budget situation we’re in,” says state Rep. Jack Williams, the Republican chair of Alabama’s Children and Senior Advocacy Committee, adding the committee plans to look at the effectiveness of existing programs and set benchmarks for the future.

“If an agency is serving children in need and doing an effective job I want to do everything I can to support them in the greatest capacity the state has, but we’re going to have to set some benchmarks,” Williams says. “At some point there is going to have to be a line and if you fall below it, the state is not going to be helping [with funding] anymore.”

The DCANP has already seen some steep state-level cuts in writing. When the budget takes effect at the beginning of October the agency will lose nearly 75 percent of its funding from the state’s General Fund and almost a third from Alabama’s Education Trust Fund.

click to download
A letter 'for prevention' to Sue Bell Cobb. Click to download.

Also gone completely is $1.5 million in federal money to fund the Mentoring Children of Prisoners program, and roughly $200,000 from other federal funding.

“The Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention should be the last thing cut in the state budget because of the far-reaching consequences for the safety of children,” says Sue Bell Cobb, former Alabama Chief Justice and long-time child advocate.

In a letter to Cobb, DCANP director Parris-Barnes outlined the effectiveness of community-based prevention programs, citing the fact that every dollar spent on child preventative services represents a minimum of $5.68 in state savings.

In the interim, the department and other child advocacy groups in the state are looking to keep programs afloat through a variety of measures. The DCANP has been holding sustainability meetings with program leaders from around the state to outline the impact of specific cuts to each district. Among the topics were tactics for pursuing outside funding and getting children into alternative programs.

click for budget cut's impact by district
Click for budget cut's impact by district

Alabama’s Children First Foundation is drawing plans to advocate for an increased tobacco tax in an effort to drum up additional funding for child services in the state.

“All child advocates in Alabama are extremely concerned about the reduction in funding to the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention and other child services,” Cobb said. “There’s still so much to be done because we’ve really never had the adequate funding or appropriate priority put on these [prevention] programs.”

In 2009, the last year data was available, Alabama ranked 46th among the states of children living in poverty, according to the Census Bureau.

Alabama's governor's office was unavailable for comment prior to deadline.

Georgia Youth Workers Celebrate GJSA’s 40th Training Summit

GJSA logo

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Professionals from every major youth-oriented field in the state of Georgia, governmental and non-profit, converge on Savannah this week for the Georgia Juvenile Service Association’s (GJSA) 40th Training Summit.

The three-day event, Aug. 23-25, will host a long-list of speakers, workshops and society happenings. Members can choose from a spread of workshops covering everything from Georgia’s Cybersafety Initiative to tactics for reintegrating juvenile offenders upon their release.

A few speaker highlights include:

  • Amy Howell – Commissioner, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice
  • Victor M. Woods – National Speaker & Author, "A Breed Apart: A Journey to Redemption"
  • Clark Flatt – President, The Jason Foundation, Inc.
  • Keith Parkhouse – Compliance Monitor, Georgia Governor’s Office of Children and Families
  • And our own Pete Colbenson – Network Weaver, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Founded in 1969, the GJSA holds an annual conference to facilitate the organization’s goal of creating networking opportunities for professionals working in the juvenile justice space through advocacy, education, information sharing and training.

The week of continued education kicks off Monday night with the ‘Blast from the Past’ GJSA Life Member social for long-term members. Ever wonder what has changed since the organization’s founding in 1969? Take a peek at the event flier and put those curiosities to rest.

GJSA board members will also present awards to outstanding individuals in the field. In addition to continued education and workshops, GJSA members will have a chance to vote on organizational bylaws, network with juvenile professionals from around the state and experience the quant, humid charm Savannah is known for.

Stay tuned to JJIE.org for updates throughout the week. For the complete agenda visit the GJSA website.

Beyond Scared Straight Producers Make Donation to Program Featured in Recent Episode

Sheriff Chipp Bailey

Sheriff Chipp Bailey, of Mecklenburg County, N.C., has confirmed to JJIE his office received a $10,000 donation from the producers of “Beyond Scared Straight” following the appearance of the county’s “Reality Program” on the controversial A&E television show.

Bailey said the money, provided by Arnold Shapiro Productions, would be used to offset the costs of the food and field trips that are part of the aftercare portion of the “Reality Program." It is unclear whether the producers have made similar payments to other programs filmed for “Beyond Scared Straight”.

The “Reality Program” is designed, according to Bailey, to educate at-risk youth on the realities of prison life and help them avoid making decisions that would land them in jail. In the initial portion of the program, teens are brought to the county jail, and dressed in prison uniforms while deputies intimidate, yell at and berate them. They are shown the jail, placed in cells and eventually meet real inmates who talk about their own lives and the mistakes they’ve made.

scared_straight_seriesA month later, the teens return for the aftercare portion of the program where they can follow up with deputies and talk about the changes in their lives. Bailey says this part of the program is essential to its success.

“You’ve got to break them down first,” Bailey said, “then you can build them back up.”

Bailey said he believes Scared Straight-style programs that do no involve an aftercare program “wouldn’t be worth anything.” It’s the combination of the initial boot camp atmosphere followed by the counseling and relationship building that makes the program so effective, he said.

If it all seems harsh it’s because, “we don’t want to make jail somewhere they want to come,” Bailey said.

KIDS COUNT: Significant Decline in Children’s Economic Well Being Over Past Decade

There has been a significant decline in economic well being for low-income children and families in the last decade, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS COUNT Data Book.

Among the findings, the official child poverty rate, a conservative measure of economic hardship according to the report, increased 18 percent between 2000 and 2009. The increase represents 2.4 million more children now living below the federal poverty line, returning to roughly the same levels as the early 1990’s.

“In 2009, 42 percent of our nation’s children, or 31 million, lived in families with incomes below twice the federal poverty line or $43,512/year for a family of four, a minimum needed for most families to make ends meet,” Laura Speer, associate director for Policy Reform and Data at the Casey Foundation, said in a press release. “The recent recession has wiped out many of the economic gains for children that occurred in the late 1990’s.”

In the past two decades, since the Casey Foundation started the KIDS COUNT report, significant gains have been recorded in the overall health and safety of children.

Since 2000, five of the ten key indicators of child well being examined by the Foundation improved, three areas worsened and two were not comparable to earlier data, but show a negative trend since 2007, the earliest year comparable data is available.

Areas that showed improvement since 2000:

• Infant mortality rate (-1 percent)
• Child death rate (-14 percent)
• Teen death rate (-7 percent)
• Teen birth rate (-15 percent)
• Teens not in school and not high school graduates (-45 percent)

Areas that worsened since 2000:

• Babies born with low birthweight (+8 percent)
• Child poverty rate (+18 percent)
• Children living in single-parent families (+10 percent)

Areas not comparable to 2000:

• Percentage of teens not in school and not working
• Percentage of children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment

The 2011 report also includes two additional indicators: parental unemployment and foreclosure. Last year, 11 percent of children had at least one unemployed parent and 4 percent have been affected by foreclosure since 2007.

Within each indicator, however, individual state performances vary widely.

Nationally, the number of children living in a single-parent household increased by 10 percent since 2000. Only Utah, Oregon and the District of Columbia showed a decrease, while 45 states reported an increase.

Texas, with single-family households at roughly the national average of 34 percent, witnessed a similar trend with a 7 percent increase.

“I don’t think these findings are surprising,” said Mark Levin, director of Right on Crime, a Texas-based think tank that deals in part with juvenile issues, adding that only about 20 percent of incarcerated youth in the state have a father in the household. “The role of government isn’t to force people to get married or stay married, but in our public schools we can look at filling the gap and try to provide the support and guidance they’re [children] not getting at home.”

Mississippi showed improvements in infant mortality and low birth weights, but has consistently ranked 50th throughout the past decade in overall performance. In 2011, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama ranked the lowest in the nation overall.

“[Alabama] has always had a higher poverty rate than the rest of the nation,” said Linda Tilley, executive director of Voices for Alabama’s Children. “We see so many children already behind when they enter kindergarten and the gaps don’t narrow, they widen. Education and particularly early care and education are the key to breaking the generational cycle of poverty.”

“Every child can succeed given the right education and support,” Levin added. “It’s important to note many youths from single family houses go on to be successful."

The complete report, mapping tools, and other resources are available on the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s website.

Beyond Scared Straight Renewed for Second Season

Screen-shot-2011-01-12-at-11.12.17-PMThe controversial reality television program “Beyond Scared Straight” will return for a second season on the A&E cable network. The show follows a small group of at-risk kids as they are taken inside prison where inmates try to scare them away from lives of crime by yelling at them and describing the brutal reality of prison life.

Juvenile justice experts have derided the show for advocating a program that many studies have shown to be not only ineffective, but also counter-effective, increasing the likelihood that kids will commit crimes in the future.

John Wilson, a juvenile crime expert said at the time of the show's premier last January, “The research is clear that Scared Straight is a failed program that does more harm than good.”

The show’s producer Arnold Shapiro contends the studies don’t provide an accurate depiction of Scared Straight’s success. He says the best tool to assess the programs is follow-up with the kids. Shapiro produced the original documentary “Scared Straight!” along with a number of sequels that checked in with the kids from the first film.

scared_straight_seriesSadly, not all of the kids from the original film avoided prison. As JJIE reported in February, Angelo Speziale was recently convicted of murder despite his claims that “Scared Straight!” changed his life for the better.

“Beyond Scared Straight” debuted to 3.7 million viewers in January making it A&E’s most watched debut of all time.