Los Angeles Board Of Supervisors Votes To Launch ‘Historic’ Juvenile Diversion Plan

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt an ambitious plan to divert thousands of the county’s youth away from the juvenile and criminal justice systems, connecting them instead to a comprehensive array of supportive services.

Speakers stepped to the microphones to declare their ardent support for the 78-page report, “A Roadmap for Advancing Youth Diversion in LA County,” which provided the framework for the sweeping strategy proposed.

Dr. Robert Ross, CEO of The California Endowment, speaks to the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.

“This is an historic day in the history of justice reform,” Dr. Robert Ross told the board. Ross is president and CEO of The California Endowment, one of the largest foundations in the U.S.

“We know that 80 percent of the youth now being arrested in the county could be diverted to community-based services if the plan is realized,” he said. The county could “lead the nation.”

The report said that 13,665 arrests and citations were issued to the county’s young in 2015, according to the Department of Justice Statistics. And approximately 11,000 of those 2015 arrests — “including status offenses, misdemeanors, and low-level felonies” — would have been legally eligible for diversion in lieu of arrest or citation under the California Welfare and Institutions Code, had the proposed program been up and running.

Ross also told the board that the Endowment had been supporting restorative justice and diversion programs in California communities such as Long Beach, San Diego and Oakland. And they had promising preliminary data, he said, particularly from Oakland.

In the course of these programs, “young people come face-to-face with the people they have harmed,” and then make a plan for “making it right with the folks they’ve harmed,” he said, plus get health services that address many of the their needs. The programs are “proven to work better than incarceration and cost considerably less,” he said.

Michael Nash, director of the Office of Child Protection, said the program will help ensure that foster youth “have equal access” to the advantages and services of diversion

Another enthusiastic speaker was Michael Nash, the former presiding judge of the Juvenile Court, now the director of the county’s Office of Child Protection.

As a judge, he’d long been supportive of youth diversion, Nash said. And now he was “very concerned” by the numbers of youth crossing over from the child welfare system to the juvenile justice system. “But this program,” he said, will help ensure that foster youth “have equal access” to the advantages and services of diversion.

Several of the speakers described the 18-month process of designing the proposed new strategy as an unusually inclusive one, involving law enforcement leaders, local judges, county officials, health experts, community advocates and young people who had themselves been incarcerated.

The point was emphasized by Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) who, with her young colleagues, had come before the board many times, often to protest a vote, such as previous motions having to do with plans to expand the county’s jail system.

But on Tuesday, McGill talked of the honor she and other YJC members felt to be “a part of the youth diversion work group,” and how they “fully support” the plan moving forward.

She also highlighted some additional areas of focus her group thought “should be robustly included in the implementation.” They believe it is essential to protect youth from the “databases that track arrests.” This was mentioned in the report, she said, but it would require oversight.

Another of McGill’s concerns had to do with California’s Senate Bill 395, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October. The new law guarantees that every young person of age 15 or under will speak to a lawyer before being interrogated by law enforcement. She stressed the necessity of including LA’s Public Defender’s Office and the Alternate Public Defender’s Office as “key partners moving forward,” so that “even young people who are being diverted have an opportunity to speak to counsel.”

Jessica Ellis, the director of Centinela Youth Services, was also on the subcommittee that created the diversion program-to-be. She told the board how “critical” it was to have “system-involved youth” continue to be part of the “implementation phases” of the project. Centinela Youth Service has partnered since 2013 with the Los Angeles Police Department on a successful restorative justice diversion program, which has frequently been cited as evidence that the newly presented countywide strategy is on the right track.

Peter Espinoza, the director of the county’s Office of Diversion and Reentry, had some suggestions along with his praise: the wish that “our menu of services is robust and diverse” and would include “a very serious focus on education and job readiness.” Most of the work he previously did as Superior Court judge, he added, “was aimed at the intersection of educational failure and justice system involvement.” The new diversion

When  it was time for the five board members to vote,  Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the board’s chairman, asked the board’s executive officer to record a unanimous vote.

“Giving youth access to supportive services as an alternative to arrest and incarceration is both morally imperative and fiscally responsible,” he said later, after the vote was finished.

Motion co-author Janice Hahn agreed: “The best juvenile system is one that keeps kids out of it in the first place.”

This story was written for WitnessLA.

The California Endowment funds coverage in California for Youth Today and the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.

Navigating the Path to a Successful Career: The Vitality of Vital Records

Juvenile Law Center

In today’s world, having access to your vital records (birth certificate, Social Security card, state ID card) is, in fact, vital. These records are essential in our day to day lives in a variety of ways including:

  • Securing housing
  • Applying for health insurance
  • Furthering one’s education and getting financial aid
  • Interacting with law enforcement
  • Procuring public benefits
  • Obtaining employment
Essie Lazarus

There is, however, an undocumented population of U.S. citizens among us: system-involved youth. What we mean by this is large numbers of youth leave the child welfare and juvenile justice systems without their vital documents or they are not able to maintain them due to housing instability. Not having these records makes smoothly transitioning to adulthood difficult, if not impossible.

The consequences system-involved youth experience by not having these essential records include potential housing instability, the inability to pursue certain educational opportunities and financial aid, and lack of access to public benefits. Not having identification can also be a barrier to employment. This is the situation Bruce Morgan, Juvenile Law Center’s youth advocate alum, faced.

Bruce, who recently aged out of foster care, struggled to obtain the identification documents necessary to pursue employment. Bruce aged out of foster care before federal law — the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act — required that all youth aging out of the foster care system be provided their vital documents. Bruce was persistent and sought the assistance of the Achieving Independence Center in Philadelphia, which provides aftercare services to foster youth. He obtained his identification documents, but lost them when he became homeless.

Two years ago, Bruce applied for a job with AmeriCorps and realized during the application process that he did have his identification documents. He did not know how to navigate the system and did not have funds to pay any of the fees required to obtain vital documents. Luckily for Bruce, AmeriCorps was willing to work with him and held the position until he could locate his identification. However, for other youth, including many of Bruce’s friends, this flexibility is not always available and job and training opportunities can be lost as youth try to obtain their identification.

While the state of Pennsylvania does require foster youth to receive their vital documents upon discharge, there are many system-involved youth who do not receive these documents or are not able to maintain them when they leave care.

Recently, there have been policies enacted to address securing identification documents for youth in the child welfare system. In Philadelphia, the child welfare agency requires that a caseworker for the private provider agency contracted to serve a youth request a youth’s vital documents at the very moment they enter the system. The agency also requires that youth are provided their identification documents before they leave care at age 18 or older.

According to Bruce, vital records are a lifeline because “everywhere you go you need proof of identity … any job, school or just walking on the street in certain neighborhoods You need a way to identify yourself.” He suggests the following reforms:

  • Require that youth be educated about the importance of obtaining vital records before discharge and maintaining records after discharge.
  • Provide youth training in how to advocate for themselves in court and case planning so that they can report on the status of their identification and whether they have obtained it.

Identity verification has become a necessary and common part of our daily lives. To participate fully in society, and for youth to have a fair shot at making a life for themselves in the adult world, they must have access to their vital documents. To make this possible, our laws, policies, and most importantly practices, must make this a certainty for young people.

This is one in a series of blog posts from the Juvenile Law Center on career pathways and barriers for system-involved youth. It is reposted with permission. See the original and full series here.

Failure of Public, Political Will Threatens Progress on Child Welfare, Casey warns

Amid the charts and tables of this year’s Kids Count Data Book is a stark warning.

The gains in children’s health, education and overall well-being since the last recession may be in jeopardy as “a huge failure of public and political will” saps support for policies that have helped produce those results, the nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation states in its annual compilation of child-welfare statistics.

“Erasing racial inequities, creating pathways to opportunity and making sound investments in our youth will benefit all Americans,” the report states. And with about one in five children still living in poverty, improvement will take time, while policymakers “want expenditures to show immediate returns.”

“Frederick Douglass famously said, ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’ His prescient words need to be taken seriously — and acted upon — in 2017,” the authors add. “The consequences of not investing wisely in children will be higher costs down the road. The Annie E. Casey Foundation urges policymakers to make wise public investments and to take a long view.”

The Baltimore-based Casey Foundation promotes research and programs aimed at improving the lives of children who are facing poor prospects for education, health and jobs. And Laura Speer, the organization’s associate director for policy reform and advocacy and one of the authors of this year’s document, said federal and state programs have been responsible for one of the biggest successes in the report -- near-universal health insurance coverage for children.

Between the Children’s Health Insurance Program enacted in the late 1990s and the expansion of state Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act since 2010, 95 percent of children now have health insurance, the report notes.

“That is the most ever, and it’s something we should recognize as accomplishment of our collective will,” Speer said. Improving health coverage “is a good thing both for the kids and for their families,” and government stepped in when the private sector was pulling back. But a withdrawal of public support for those programs, like the push by congressional Republicans and the Trump administration to roll back the ACA, is likely to weaken efforts to end the widespread disparities that remain, she said.

And though the data shows many families haven’t fully recovered from the steep recession of 2007-2009, there are fewer children living in poverty, more parents have jobs and more families can afford a good place to live. A pair of federal tax breaks – the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit – boosted more than 5 million children above the poverty line, and states like California and South Carolina have added similar measure to their tax codes.

“Those are things that can really make a difference for families,” she said. “Our goal is to really try to lift up where the public sector is stepping in at any level of government.”

Another bright spot documented in the report is that teen birth rates have plummeted since 1990, falling from 60 to 22 births per 1,000 girls between 15 and 19. Teens are taking advantage of more available birth control and putting off sexual activity, bringing that statistic to a historic low. That’s good both for parents and children -- teen moms are less likely to complete their education, while their children are more likely to become teen moms themselves.

[Related: Focus on Graduation Pays Off, but Strong Efforts Still Needed, Nonprofit Leaders Say]

Speer said that ongoing plunge has been surprising, as many observers expected it to level off by now.

“There’s still room for improvement,” she said. “We’re still higher than most other countries in the world that are economically similar to us. But to me, that’s a really important trend that continues to be going in a good direction.”

But at 21 percent, the United States still has one of the highest child poverty rates among developed nations. About one in seven children are living in high-poverty neighborhoods, particularly in the South and Southwest, and 29 percent of parents lacked a stable job. The stubborn persistence of child poverty has been one of the most disappointing trends in this year’s report, Speer said.

“It impacts kids’ well-being on so many different levels for such a long period of time, into adulthood,” she said. Also resisting improvement is the percentage of children living in single-parent households: Though the statistic has come under some scrutiny in an age of changing family structures, kids in single-family homes are more likely to be worse off economically.

“That’s another one that is difficult, that has really stayed very much the same year by year,” Speer said. “It hasn’t gone up a lot in the last decade, but it’s been very flat.”

Nearly two-thirds of fourth-graders aren’t reading at grade level, and nearly 70 percent of eighth-graders can’t do eighth-grade math -- a figure that’s gotten worse since 2009. More than half of 3- and 4-year-olds aren’t in pre-kindergarten programs, which have been shown to narrow the gap between poor children and more affluent peers. And even though high school graduation rates have hit an all-time high, African-American, Latino and native American children still fall behind or drop out at higher rates than their white classmates.

The results can be seen in diminished prosperity, higher medical costs and more money spent on courts and prisons – a tab the Casey Foundation estimated at $500 billion a year.

Geographically, the top-ranked state for children’s well-being was New Hampshire, where the child poverty rate was 11 percent and 96 percent of teens were in school or at least had jobs. Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa and Minnesota rounded out the top five.

The lowest-ranked was Mississippi, one of the country’s poorest states, where child poverty was 31 percent and education and health outcomes were near the bottom of the pile. New Mexico, Louisiana, Nevada and Arizona were ranked just above Mississippi.

“There certainly are a lot of different stories in those rankings,” Speer said. Many of the places that scored the best are not only doing better economically, but have made “really long-term investments in infrastructure that supports kids and families.”

“There’s not really one thing you can point to that tells the whole story, but the economy is part of it, and public investment is part of it.”   

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States May Face Stricter Standards to Prove They Are Protecting Kids in Custody

WASHINGTON — States soon may face stricter rules in order to demonstrate they are protecting juveniles in custody.

Federal officials have proposed new compliance standards for states to show they keep juveniles out of adult facilities; ensure that when juveniles must be in such facilities, they are separated from adult inmates; and do not lock up status offenders.

States would have to clear a numerical threshold, meaning officials won’t have the leeway they’ve traditionally had to show they are meeting the requirements, key components of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

Now, even when states are not 100 percent in compliance, officials can point to recently enacted state laws that should remedy the situation or a plan for improvement.

Under the new threshold, 48 states would be out of compliance with at least one of the three requirements, based on 2013 data, the proposed rule notes. Compliance is tied to receiving federal grants.

While states may risk losing funding in the short term, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention would provide training and technical assistance to states and localities to help them meet the requirements before the changes take effect, according to the proposed rule.

“Ultimately, the desired outcome would be that fewer at-risk youth would be placed or detained in juvenile facilities, resulting in reduced operational costs for the facilities, and redirecting these savings for additional programing and services for youth at their earliest involvement with the juvenile justice system,” officials wrote.

The proposed rule, which was published Monday in the Federal Register, comes with a 60-day comment period. States and other interested parties are likely to weigh in with detailed comments about how the proposal would work in the field.

Naomi Smoot

Naomi Smoot, senior policy associate at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, a group that represents juvenile justice advisory groups in states, said she’s pleased to see movement on long-awaited updates to the JJDPA regulations. During the next two months, the group will develop a clearer picture of how the new standards would affect states, she said.

“Each state has its own needs and its own unique situation, so we want to make sure it’s best for the states and best for the kids,” she said.

More broadly, Smoot said the new proposal could help keep the need for federal action on juvenile justice at the forefront of policymakers’ minds. A reauthorization of JJDPA stalled in the Senate earlier this year, but advocates still are hopeful for action in the limited time left on the legislative calendar this fall.

“We hope this can be a positive sign for JJDPA movement,” she said.

The law was last reauthorized in 2002, and federal funding for juvenile justice has declined since then.

New methodology

The proposed rule sets out a methodology that would set compliance rates based on the highest-performing states. Ultimately, to be in compliance, states would have to report zero instances of noncompliance with the separation requirement but would have some room for error in the status offender and jail removal requirements.

Mark Soler
Mark Soler

Mark Soler, executive director of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, said the proposal strikes the right balance.

“We would like to see 100 percent compliance, but we have to understand things arise. Pegging compliance to the states that do best makes a lot of sense,” he said.

The proposed rule also requires that states report compliance data for 100 percent of facilities. That requirement could prove the tougher hurdle, especially in big states with many jurisdictions and facilities, Soler said.

“I think it can be done, but I think that will be harder for the states to do,” he said.

The proposed rule also would codify a five-step process states are already using to try to root out racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system. The requirement that states track and address what’s known as disproportionate minority contact is the fourth core requirement of the JJDPA.

Soler said states are likely to need the most assistance to go beyond tracking DMC data to actually intervening and monitoring improvements.

“We’re going to need several years of enhanced training and technical assistance to meet the spirit of what OJJDP is going for,” he said.

Give up funding?

One question that accompanies stricter rules from OJJDP is whether any states will choose to opt out of receiving grants, rather than come into compliance.

Marcy Mistrett
Marcy Mistrett

Marcy Mistrett, CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice, said there’s a balance between wanting states to perform well and recognizing how much federal juvenile justice funding has decreased during the last decade.

“We want states to be accountable and in compliance, but that has to be checked against state resources,” she said.

But when states do have the resources they need, they can make major changes, pointing to the need for adequate funding, she added.

The proposed rule outlines how much states have improved on the core requirements, such as reducing the number of detained status offenders by 99.9 percent, the number of juveniles in adult jails or lockup by 99.8 percent, and the number of juveniles who have contact with adult inmates by 99.9 percent.

“When states are given the tools and expectations to treat children like children, they do so with tremendous success,” she said.

Child Well-Being a Mixed-Bag in Still-Rocky Economic Climate, Says Casey Report



The lives of children improved by some measures during recent years, but their opportunities still are constrained by persistent family and neighborhood poverty, says the 2016 Kids Count Data Book.

The annual report by The Annie E. Casey Foundation looks at measures of child well-being at the state and national level in four categories. Broadly, this year’s findings show gains in education and health — but some setbacks in measures of economic well-being and family and community, according to the report.

In recent years, birth rates among teens fell 40 percent, the percentage of children without health insurance dropped from 10 percent to 6 percent, and test scores and graduation rates improved, findings that are promising for the future of children who grew up during the recession and in its wake, according to the report.

But the percentage of children living in poverty remained at 22 percent in 2014, up from 18 percent in 2008 and unchanged since 2013. And the number of children living in high poverty grew from 11 percent from 2006-2010 to 14 percent in 2010-2014, according to the report.

The findings point to a need for lawmakers to pay close attention to the needs of children and families — and to make clear their plans for policy improvements, said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the foundation, in a news release.

[Related: Time to End State-sanctioned Assaults on Our Schoolchildren]

“This generation of teenagers and young adults are coming of age in in the wake of the worst economic climate in nearly 80 years, and yet they are achieving key milestones that are critical for future success,” McCarthy said in the release. “With more young people making smarter decisions, we must fulfill our part of the bargain, by providing them with the educational and economic opportunity that youth deserve.”

He called on state and national candidates to release in-depth proposals to help children reach their potential.


Opportunity gap

The report also highlighted the “opportunity gap” between children in low-income families whose parents lack a college education and children in wealthier families with more education.

Highly educated parents have more money and time to invest in their children, an advantage that accrues as children age. The report stressed that children can and do succeed despite their family backgrounds, but their path is more difficult.

“The point is that declining economic opportunities and the intense stress that economic hardship places on families have stacked the odds against children growing up in low- to moderate-income households. They have fewer opportunities for moving up than the previous two generations,” said the report.

The report also breaks down its findings by state. For the second year, Minnesota was ranked first while Mississippi ranked last. States in New England filled out half of the top 10, while Midwest and Mountain states rank in the middle and the lowest-ranked states are clustered in the Southeast, Southwest and Appalachia.

The report also looked at the persistent racial and ethnic disparities experienced by African-American, American Indian and Latino children, who fared worse on many measures of well-being compared with the national average. For example, African-American children were more likely than average to live in high poverty neighborhoods, while Latino children are the most likely to live in household headed by someone without a high school diploma.

“By the end of the decade, children of color will be the majority of all children in the United States,” said Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy, in a news release. “Our shared future depends on today’s young people fulfilling their potential.”

The report called for policy changes that promote opportunity, responsibility and security. The specific proposals include:

-       expanding access to early childhood education and higher education and training;

-       increased the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers without dependent children; and

-       providing paid family leave.

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Resilience: Our Nation’s Great Social Justice Issue for Kids

christian_niceGrowing up, I didn’t have a lot of the same opportunities as other kids I knew. My parents struggled with mental health issues, and I was considered a “street kid.” I didn’t follow the rules, and no one expected a lot from me.

School was much of the same. With learning differences that made excelling academically virtually impossible, I focused on other things that I thought I was good at. This led me down a path of anger, crime and self-destruction. I was 14 years old, and I had given up on graduating high school.

I didn’t have direction in life until an amazing lady stepped forward. She was my best friend’s mom, and to this day I know her lovingly as “Mama Jackson.” With her help and the incentive of a warm meal, I started doing my homework and aiming for more in life. She was the first person to show me that I needed to hold myself accountable for the decisions I was making.

For more information, visit the JJIE Resource Hub

This relationship paved the way for me to graduate high school. With Mama Jackson’s support, I moved on into higher education and finished graduate school. Since the day Mama Jackson took me off the streets and under her wing, I have never doubted the power of a positive adult relationship.

What gave me these opportunities started with a relationship and became a journey to my own resilience breakthrough. I wanted to help students like me overcome their challenging life circumstances. I wanted to be that positive adult relationship and teach others to do the same.

I founded a program called WhyTry that has been delivered to millions of students worldwide. I wrote the book “The Resilience Breakthrough” to help the adults in these kids’ lives enhance their own resilience. I have worked for more than 20 years to show students they can be resilient, no matter what.

I firmly believe that resilience is not just something you’re born with — it’s something that can be taught to both children and adults. This breakthrough idea comes after years of working directly with students, but current research backs me up.

Ann Masten, Ph.D., directs the Project Competence Studies of Risk and Resilience at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development. Her work essentially shows that we can assume every individual has the capacity for resilience if provided with “assets” (like evidence-based programs and tools) and environments (like positive relationships at school) that help enhance it. This means that even when we can’t take away a child’s problems, we can equip that child to deal with them effectively.

Other studies also show that when students score higher on resilience measures, they have improved social skills, higher grades, a greater love of learning and better decision-making skills.

[Related: Troubled No More, Youths Bring Stories of Their Resilience to Probation Professionals]

If this is true, then how important is it for us as educators, counselors and teachers to provide these life-saving resilience skills through the use of social-emotional learning (SEL) programs. Don’t students deserve a fighting chance to face their struggles head on?

In education, life circumstances get in the way of learning. Children face many adversities that detract from the messages we are trying to send. Difficulties at home, bullying, poverty, depression, negative friendships, hunger, divorced parents, abuse, neglect and gang violence all supersede school and common core lessons.

How can a child learn math when the world around him or her is falling apart? Kids don’t feel connected to the message. They don’t see the relevance to real life.

We have a social justice issue on our hands. During the next 20 years, many students will get access to the evidence-based SEL and resilience tools I’m talking about, but many more will not. According to Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), only three states have developed standards for social emotional learning programs. The skills of resilience should be at everyone’s fingertips. No kid should have to make their way through life without them.

Resilience, as I have come to define it, is the ability to bounce back when you have every reason to shut down — but you fight on! What profound knowledge that we can give this gift to others.

By incorporating social emotional learning programs into our regular lessons — whether that’s in schools, correctional facilities or counseling sessions — we help students receive the tools they need to develop their own resilience. The access to social emotional learning programs is the responsibility of public education influencers — one that we need to focus on 100 percent.

We have an obligation to give students not just the answers to test questions. We must give them the answers to life and how to navigate it successfully. I argue that a kid who has the skills of resilience can have an advantage over a Harvard graduate. If that kid knows how to “flip the switch” and view adversity as a fuel source, the challenges of life won’t affect that kid as deeply as they would for someone who’s lacking resilience, however academically successful.

Children who have not developed important social and emotional skills will break when things get tough. Children who ultimately overcome are those who have been taught how to thrive under any circumstances.

And isn’t that our ultimate goal?

Christian Moore is a licensed clinical social worker and founder of the WhyTry Organization. He is the author of “The Resilience Breakthrough — 27 Tools for Turning Adversity Into Action.” Moore is also a national speaker on the topic of academic and corporate resilience.

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Assessments May Help Prevent Youth in Child Welfare from Involvement in Juvenile Justice

dual-status-youth-hubA simple survey holds promise to help officials identify youth in the child welfare system who are most at risk for delinquency.

Officials in Los Angeles County used a screening assessment developed by the National Council on Crime & Delinquency to identify such young people and direct them into prevention services.

NCCD released what researchers say are encouraging, though preliminary, results from the pilot. Of three cohorts, those who received consistent intervention after the screening were the least likely to be arrested during a six-month period.

The researchers cautioned against reading too much into the early numbers. They cannot show whether the interventions provided to the group were responsible for their outcomes, they said.

However, the findings point to the need for further research about how careful data analysis might be able to keep youth out of the juvenile justice system — and offer lessons to officials eager to try the approach, they said.

Jesse Russell
Jesse Russell

“This is a really good example of how the excitement about predictive analytics can be put to use,” said Jesse Russell, chief program officer at NCCD.

Child welfare officials know youth in their system are more likely to experience negative outcomes, such as lower levels of education and greater contact with the juvenile system, compared with their peers.

Plenty of people want to improve those outcomes, but the pilot from NCCD is the first to see if a screening assessment might be a way to disrupt the slippery slope from child welfare to delinquency, Russell said.

There are several questions about the relationship between child welfare and delinquency, including who is at risk and how to promote better outcomes for them, he said. The data can help answer the first question, but aren’t a silver bullet for how to help.

hub_arrow_2-01“We need to make sure we’re not ignoring the ‘how,’ and we can’t hope those analytics alone answer the question,” he said. Identifying youth who are at risk shouldn’t be an excuse to label them and move along, but an opportunity to find the preventive measures that will lead to their success, he added.

For the pilot, workers used the screening assessment to gather information about a youth’s demographics, background with child protective services, history, education and mental health.

[Related: Reality of Child Crime Often Starts With Child Abuse, Neglect]

The results were then analyzed, and an automated program alerted a child services worker that a child was more likely than average to become involved in the juvenile justice system. They then were provided with targeted services.

Youth in the cohort who did not receive targeted services had the highest rates of arrest, at 9 percent. Youth in a cohort that was tracked during a time when the pilot had implementation issues had the second highest rates, at 7 percent. None of the youth in a third cohort, who were enrolled after a pilot reboot, were arrested.

NCCD said data limitations based on implementation consistency and data collection issues make it hard to draw firm conclusions about the findings.

“While promising, these results should be interpreted carefully given the gaps in information about implementation fidelity at baseline and during the follow-up period. Based on other information collected, it is not clear which youth in any of the cohorts received services as intended and when; therefore, inferences from these data should be made with caution,” the report said.

The report was funded by the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

“CJJR has worked to support Los Angeles County in the implementation and improvement of multi-system reform efforts,“ said Shay Bilchik, founder and director of CJJR, in a news release. “The screening assessment further supports our efforts to enable information sharing across agencies and reduce the number of youth in Los Angeles who are involved in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.”

The researchers, officials and funders will discuss the findings further during a webinar on Jan. 22.

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Aging Out, Stepping Up

Video: Aging Out, Stepping up
Video: Aging Out, Stepping up

James Milan entered foster care at age 4. “My childhood wasn’t the greatest,” he says wryly. “I was trying to figure out why my mother didn’t want me, why my father wasn’t there.” In and out of foster care homes and group homes, he found the Claremont Neighborhood Center in the Bronx, N.Y., — and now works as a senior counselor there with kids ages 5 through 13.

[Related: Community Programs Are Safe Haven for Foster Children]


“He’s a pretty cool guy,” say the kids at Claremont Neighborhood Center, where Milan works as a senior counselor. “If you hang with James, you famous for the rest of the day.”
“He’s a pretty cool guy,” say the kids at Claremont Neighborhood Center, where Milan works as a senior counselor. “If you hang with James, you famous for the rest of the day.”

New York Bureau
Milan describes the neighborhood center as a safe space for kids, with movie nights, late-night gym access, cooking and more. “There’s so much around them that’s not positive … I feel like I’ve gotta be a role model, because if you look around, especially in our neighborhood, there are not a lot of role models.”

“He’s a pretty cool guy,” say the kids at Claremont Neighborhood Center, where Milan works as a senior counselor. “If you hang with James, you famous for the rest of the day.”

James was “a little headstrong," quick to anger, says Patricia Wilkins, Claremont’s office manager and Milan’s “adopted” mother at the center.
James was “a little headstrong," quick to anger, says Patricia Wilkins, Claremont’s office manager and Milan’s “adopted” mother at the center.

“I had seen something that maybe other people didn’t. They might have saw a smart alecky kid, a kid that might not have seemed like he was going anywhere. Maybe a kid that looked like he didn’t have any real dreams. But that’s not what I saw. I saw something that was innate. He said he liked kids ... I have a lot of hopes for him. A lot of plans.” — Abraham Jones, executive director of Claremont Neighborhood Centers, Inc. and James’ father-figure.

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New Toolkit Issued to Help Providers Measure Trauma With ACES Survey


A new toolkit is out that aims to help services providers give a survey about traumatic childhood experiences that are linked to negative effects on health and well-being.

The toolkit, developed by The National Crittenton Foundation, offers recommendations about the Adverse Childhood Experiences survey, including how to talk to children and parents about the survey, track results and use the data for public education and policy advocacy.

The ACES survey grew out of a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente that examined the links between traumatic experiences and well-being. The survey asks about experiences such as abuse, neglect and exposure to mental illness and alcohol or drug addiction.

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The survey has become a popular tool to measure what individuals have experienced and help them get the assistance they need. It also can be used to educate the public and policymakers about the links between trauma and health outcomes, according to the toolkit.

“This can be an important beginning for discussion about ways the community can come together to recognize trauma and contribute to the healing process,” NCTF wrote in the toolkit.

The toolkit traces TNCF’s experiences administering the survey, especially what researchers have learned about the experiences of girls and young women.

hub_arrow_2-01Survey results from within Crittenton’s network of providers showed that 53 percent of girls and 61 percent of young mothers had an ACEs score of 4 or more on a 10-point scale. A score of 4 or more increases the risk of emphysema or chronic bronchitis by nearly 400 percent and suicide by 1,200 percent, according to the original study.

“We now know more than ever of the negative impact that childhood adversity and the trauma that results from exposure can cause. We have also seen firsthand the incredible resiliency and healing that young women are capable of,” TNCF President Jeannette Pai-Espinosa said in a press release.

The toolkit also includes a sample protocol, case studies and testimonials from women who took the survey.

In one, a woman named Cassaundra wrote that her ACES results changed how she thought about her life.

“The ACE information proved to me that I am a survivor and not a damaged person full of blame and shame. Most importantly, I know it is in my power to take actions to protect my children from exposure to adverse experiences — I can stop the cycle that is my family legacy,” she said.

TNCF released the toolkit in partnership with Ascend at the Aspen Institute.

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Facebook App Puts Public Inside Foster Care System

“Trapped: Fighting the Odds of U.S. Foster Care”

Each year, more than half a million children come into contact with the foster care system in the United States. Of those, 80 percent suffer from severe emotional problems, according to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Less than 50 percent receive their high school diploma, and far fewer go into any type of post-secondary education.

Those are some of the statistics, but what’s it’s like to walk in their shoes? What’s it like to face the tough challenges and choices these young men and women deal with on a daily basis?

A recently launched Facebook app aims to answer those questions by offering an interactive, social experience that should help raise awareness about the challenges and outcomes of the system.

Trapped: Fighting the Odds of U.S. Foster Care” allows users to track two fictitious brothers as they make their way through the child welfare system and mature into adulthood, both with extremely different outcomes.

Through the lives of “Jason” and “Jeff,” Children’s Rights, the New York-based non-profit that developed the application, hopes to broaden the public’s understanding of what goes on in a system largely shielded by confidentiality concerns.

“We occasionally read in the press about tragic child deaths or other problems in the child welfare system, but rarely are the public informed on the system-wide issues,” said Ira Lustbader, associate director of Children’s Rights. “’Trapped’ is our initiative to expand public awareness on the issues effecting kids in foster care, and it’s a very exciting concept.”

A typical foster kid is bounced between six to 10 homes, sometimes within a single year, before finding long-term placement, Lustbader said. For those that age out of the system and never find a permanent home – nearly 30,000 youth in 2009 – future outlooks are particularly dim.

“The prospects for kids who age out of the system are bleak,” Lustbader said. “Only 2.5 percent graduate a four-year college, as many as 31 percent spend time homeless and as many as 75 percent of boys spend time in jail.”

These facts are mirrored through the tale of “Jeff,” separated from his brother “Jason” shortly after entering the system.

“Jason” finds his way to a loving and supporting home, ultimately going on to college and landing a successful job. “Jeff,” on the other hand, is bounced between homes for years, eventually aging out of the system. Unable to find work and without any family or other support, he finds himself homeless and without a dime to his name.

The narrative is fictional, but it mirrors a swath of data about outcomes for some foster youth.

Standards and results vary by state. Between 2004-2008, more than half of the children in foster care lived in just nine states – California, Illinois, Florida, Indiana, New York., Michigan, Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania – according to a 2010 report by the Children’s Defense Fund.

At least 25 states failed to meet federal standards for protecting kids in the foster care system, according to FY 2010 data from the Department of Health and Human Services Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.

“These are unacceptable outcomes from a system that uses tax-payer dollars,” Lustbader said. “The more people know about this, the more noise we make about these problems, [the more likely it is] we can hold the system accountable.”

Children’s Rights is a national advocacy group that has worked to bring change to struggling child welfare systems in more than a dozen states. The non-profit currently has class-action lawsuits active in three states related to the child welfare reform.