Archive for October, 2010

10.18.10 A growing problem: Fresh out of foster care and homeless

Monday, October 18th, 2010

By CAROL SMITH
INVESTIGATEWEST

Fueled by high unemployment and high housing costs, shelters for young adults in King County are turning people away in record numbers.

The legacy of a failing foster care system and young people stranded by the crack epidemic of the late 1980s, the record demand experienced by these shelters illustrates a new face of homelessness, and comes even as the number of beds for young adults has been expanding. 

Homeless families are overwhelmingly headed by young women with young children. Yet the group driving this trend — young adults ages 18-24 — is generally under-counted and under-represented when solutions are envisioned. Relatively few resources are being directed to prevent them from producing new generations of homeless families. 

Casi Jackson is part of the problem, and part of the solution. At work at a homeless outreach center on King County’s Eastside, she shifts her daughter, Tiana, who was then 7 months old, on her hip and juggles a cell phone in her other hand while she fields a call from a scared-sounding mom with no place to sleep. 

Slender, with long curly hair, and an unflinching manner, Jackson is matter-of-fact on the phone, and sounds older than her 22 years. She knows what it’s like to be staring down a night without shelter.. Jackson was homeless at 20. She had borne three children by 21. One died. One is now living with a grandparent. One lives with her. She has another on the way as she struggles to make for them what she never had — a stable home with a family under one roof. 

Jackson clicks off the call in the bare cubicle that serves as a makeshift office for Vets Edge, the grass-roots homeless outreach service run by her friend and mentor Joe Ingram out of the front lobby of the Together Center, a campus of 16 nonprofits in downtown Redmond. Tiana clambers to get down, and Jackson holds her daughter’s hands while the baby wobbles to her feet. 

Good counts are hard to come by, but some estimate up to 2 million young people become homeless nationwide each year. In King County, an estimated 1,000 young people are homeless on any given night. 

At ROOTS, a University District shelter, the number of young people it has helped has risen from 359 in 2005 to 443 in 2009. It expects to help 542 this year. 

It’s a group driven by two large converging forces — an economy that has been especially brutal on young people, and the large numbers currently “aging out” or growing to adulthood in foster care. 

While King County’s one-night count showed an overall decrease of 5 percent in the total numbers of homeless, shelters for young adults are turning people away in record numbers, said Kristine Cunningham, executive director of ROOTS — Rising out of the Shadows — in Seattle, one of the pioneering young adult shelters in the country. 

For some of those young people, getting pregnant is perceived as a way out of homelessness. There’s a perception on the street that if you’re about to give birth, you can get housing, said Cunningham. “We’ve incentivized becoming pregnant.” 

Children born to homeless mothers, or who experience multiple episodes of housing instability — couch surfing, staying in motels, or shuttling between households when they are young — often mirror that in their own adulthoods. 

Jackson’s own trajectory shows how homelessness can pass from generation to generation. She was born in a California jail. Her military father was deployed when his baby daughter was discharged from the jail medical ward. 

She spent her childhood knocking between relatives, most often with a grandmother, a foster parent who was also raising many of Jackson’s cousins. 

“If I had to characterize my childhood in one word, it would be chaos,” she said. 

Priced out

 

Families make up one of the fastest-growing segments of the homeless population. Young people age 18 to 24 make up 26 percent of homeless families. 

Yet, of all segments of the homeless population, young adults probably receive the least attention, have the fewest resources applied to help them and have the least amount of policy advocacy on their behalf, said Mark Putnam, a lead consultant for Building Changes, a nonprofit focused on ending homelessness. 

“There’s not a coalition for them in Washington state,” he said. 

At the national level, it’s barely on the radar of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a powerful advocacy group that provides information the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

“Being homeless is like a picture of someone screaming, and no one coming to help,” said Tony Torres, 22, a former foster kid who spent the last four years on the street, in and out of shelters and has just now gotten a temporary bed in a transitional home. There’s a cultural bias that these young people are able-bodied, and should be working, Putnam said. “People prejudge they made a choice to be on the street.” 

For most, it’s not a choice. 

Making it on your own at age 18 may have been possible for their parents’ generation, said Rachel Antrobus, director of San-Francisco based Transitional Age Youth Initiative, an agency that works to coordinate services for 18 to 24-year-olds. “But that’s not actually a reality anymore.” 

Unemployment rates are higher for young adults than the national average, and reached 19 percent in July, its highest rate since 1948. 

“The 30-year-olds are taking jobs from 20-year-olds, because the 40-year-olds are taking the 30-year-old’s jobs,” said Putnam. “These guys are truly employment victims of the recession. ” 

Those that used to get by sharing a studio with someone else, or moving back in with their folks, can’t even make that happen anymore. 

Nationally, a wage-earner in a family with children has to make almost $18 an hour to afford the average two-bedroom apartment. In King County, families must earn 2-1/2 times the minimum wage of $8.55 an hour, or $21.40, to afford even a modest two-bedroom apartment. 

That’s out of reach for many young adults, especially those with limited education and training. 

Curtis, 24, who didn’t want his last name used, wound up staying at The Landing, a young adult shelter in Bellevue, after the place he was renting went into foreclosure. 

He hasn’t been able to scrape together enough money to find a new place on his wages parking cars for a local hotel. “Some places are asking like $1,500 to 2 grand for deposit,” he said. “The whole situation just really sucks.” 

From foster care to the streets

 

The economy, however, only compounds an even larger underlying problem: The largest driver of the young adult homeless population is the foster care system. 

“Once you hit 18, you get dumped from the system and forgotten about,” said Torres, who lived in multiple foster homes from the age of 12 until he was 18. He suffers from kidney failure, and has had to juggle difficult medical treatments with life on the streets. 

At age 18, states stop providing money for support of foster children. 

The Mockingbird Society, a foster youth advocacy group based in Seattle, lobbied successfully to get federal legislation passed to extend support until age 21. The Fostering Connections to Success Act passed in 2008 provides federal matching funds for extending foster support. But the fight now is to get states to put up their part of the money, said spokeswoman Rose Berg. There’s a law, but so far, few states have financed programs that would qualify to get the match.. 

Shut out of jobs for lack of training, priced out of housing for lack of jobs, they also lack family support that can bridge the tough times. 

Half their peers live at home and two-third receive economic support from their parents, according to a national survey done before the recession. For former foster kids, there’s no one to co-sign a lease. No one to let them move back in. 

About 80 percent of those staying at The Landing, the Bellevue shelter, have been in foster care, said Denise Wallace, mental health counselor at shelter. 

Nationally, a report by Pew Charitable Trusts showed while the number of kids in foster care has been declining, the number of those aging out is on the rise, increasing by 41 percent between 1998 and 2005. About 20,000 young people a year age out of foster care. 

This is the legacy of the crack epidemic of the 1980s, said Antrobus. Many of the kids who have been aging out went into the system as a byproduct of that era of rampant drug use by their parents. “We’ve been in a peak for a few years, and we will be for a few more.” 

Studies, including those done by Pew, also show that one in five of those who age out will be homeless within two years of leaving foster care. Half won’t have a high school degree. Fewer than 3 percent graduate college. A 2004 study by Casey Family Programs in conjunction with Washington’s Department Social and Health Services showed 13 percent of those leaving foster care in this state became homeless within a year and more than half were unemployed. 

By the time they age out of foster care at age 18, 20 percent of young women are already parents themselves. Another 40 percent are pregnant. 

“We’re seeing a lot of kids who have been in foster care, their kids are now in foster care,” said Julie Jacobson, director of the Center for Young Adults at the Seattle YMCA. 

Broken families

 

Jackson first got pregnant when she was 18. She moved to Seattle, and was living with her boyfriend and his mother when, she says, the relationship turned violent. 

Her boyfriend hit her when she was pregnant with their second, she said. That baby was born prematurely at 25 weeks, not quite 2 pounds. He died of pneumonia just a few weeks after coming home. Scared and deeply depressed, she fled through a bedroom window in the middle of the night. 

Homeless with her 18-month-old daughter in tow, she couldn’t immediately find a shelter that would take her with a baby. Friends helped, but she eventually wound up at Harborview Medical Center in desperation. 

Harborview called Child Protective Services, and Jackson agreed to give temporary custody of her daughter to the child’s paternal grandmother, a crisis decision she says she now regrets. 

That episode of homelessness broke apart her family. A lawyer working for free who specializes in helping former foster children is helping her try to reunify. But it’s moving slowly. And she’s acutely aware of the potential effects on her daughter. 

“I moved around as a kid from home to home. I know it’s hard to do,” she said. “I don’t want to do that to her.” 

Garbage bag kids

 

Homelessness begets homelessness. 

People who don’t grow up with stable homes don’t develop many of the coping strategies that let them transition into stable home lives as adults, said Cunningham of Roots. 

Some lack practical life skills as well. Many don’t drive because the state restricts foster parents from teaching them. Many don’t have conflict-resolution skills that it takes to survive in a workplace. 

Their coping strategies are for surviving the street. People on the street use drugs the same way people with houses use TV, said Torres, the former foster child who became homeless. “To escape.” 

They fight and steal when they have to. They do what they need to do to stay alive. 

“And when something happens,” Cunningham said, “it’s easier to just run.” 

Cunningham, who formerly worked for the state Department of Social and Health Services, used to drive the “garbage bag” car on the day multiple foster children played musical houses. 

“All their possessions would be in that garbage bag,” she said. 

But those kids carry other baggage as well. Educational delays, shame and a pervasive sense of being unwanted. Many have been abused. 

“There’s a lot of trauma, said Wallace, the counselor who works at The Landing. A University of Washington study found that foster youth have nearly twice the rate of PTSD as veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq wars. 

Many have also absorbed negative impressions about their own potential and capabilities. 

“There’s a stigma attached to being 17 and in the 10th grade, said Jacobson. “No one sits with them and says, ‘What are your hopes and dreams?’ ” 

Losing everything

 

Jackson does have hopes and dreams. And they came with getting a roof over her head. 

She wants, first, to get her daughter back. She wants to get her degree in social work from the University of Washington. She wants to work as a peer counselor for other women who have lost children as a result of domestic violence. 

For Jackson, and others like her, getting housing is like winning a lottery.It is, in fact, a lottery. Jackson was on three waiting lists for subsidized transitional housing when she lucked out and got a Section 8 voucher. 

That voucher enabled her to move to her apartment and start to straighten out her life without the typical two-year wait. Maintaining housing, however, is also something of a lottery. 

“Honestly, it’s something I think about all the time — when am I going to be homeless again? I’m scared of losing it all.” 

The last time she saw her older daughter was two months ago. Regular visits are difficult to arrange. It takes three buses and three hours to reach the city where she lives. And she’s not able to see her at the grandparent’s home because she has a no-contact order against the child’s father, and there’s always a possibility he will be there. 

“I’m sick of not seeing my daughter,” she said. “I’m just trying to do this the right way.” 

Solutions

 

The young adult segment of the homeless population has unique needs and challenges that so far have not been well addressed, say those who work with this population. 

Seattle and San Francisco are ahead of the curve in providing specialized emergency shelter for this population. In many other cities, young people have to go to general adult shelters, or sleep outside. 

“Even though it’s not age appropriate to be with older shelter population, at this time, we don’t have a separate option,” said Josephine Pufpaff, director of Youth Link in Minneapolis, which tries to help young people transitioning to adulthood. 

While other programs that aid homeless families focus on preventing evictions or foreclosures, for example, the issue facing many young homeless adults is getting into housing in the first place. 

Ruth Blaw, director of the Orion Center, a drop-in center for young adults in downtown Seattle, said there are long wait lists for housing. “It could be six months,” she said. “Or it could be forever.” 

And when the lucky few do get housing, they sometimes lose it because they aren’t prepared to fit into it. 

“The approaches we’ve tried are not working,” said Cunningham. 

Young people who have been on the street often don’t fit well into existing models of group housing where many young people share small common areas and are required to live under strict rules. She suggests a model that allows them more independence, while still providing support service, such as job training and counseling, would be more successful. 

There’s also a need for more job training geared at getting real, living wage jobs, said Putnam. 

More than half of foster youth remain unemployed within a year of turning 19, more than double their rate of their peers overall. And of the remaining foster youth who do-work, half were working at sub-poverty or minimum-wage jobs. 

In fact, many of the young people using both The Landing and ROOTS have minimum wage jobs working at fast-food restaurants and other places, but still can’t make enough to get into places of their own. 

The Landing as 16 beds and wants to expand. Orion started allowing youths to spend the night in December. It has 15 beds. Roots has 27 and plans to add 10 more. 

Two doors

 

Jackson’s baby is due any day now, and she’s excited. She’s been paring the clutter in her apartment, clearing the living room so her baby and friends’ children can play. This new baby will be a boy. A social worker from Healthy Start, who has been working with her since Tiana was born, has been helping her prepare. 

She’s seeking financial aid to complete her associate’s degree at Bellevue College. She’s making new friends — friends who aren’t homeless. She and the baby’s father, who is in her life, are trying to make plans for the future. 

Jackson perches Tiana on the shelf of her belly while she tends to her friend’s crying 2-year-old. 

“You want to play with this?” she asks them. She zips open a pop-up house, a nylon, tent-like contraption that springs into shape taking up most of the small living room. 

Both children crow with glee and tumble in. 

The phone rings. It’s Ingram, her outreach director. Another new family is asking for help. The two of them have handled twice as many calls this year as last. In this economy, young families who are housed one moment, can be homeless the next. It never gets easier to find them help. 

Jackson puts the phone down and watches the children. They giggle and roll on the floor of the toy house. They stretch to try to touch the ceiling. 

“They love this thing,” she says. “It has two doors. They can go in and out, either side.” 

InvestigateWest reporters Cassandra Little and Emily Holt contributed to this report. InvestigateWest is a nonprofit investigative journalism center based in Seattle. For information on how you can support independent investigative reporting for the common good, go to www.invw.org
 

10.18.10 Meeting the Needs of Immigrant Children and Youth

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Today, approximately a quarter of all U.S. children and youth are either the children of immigrants or are immigrants themselves. In response to the growing number of immigrant children and youth, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) released Meeting the Needs of Immigrant Children and Youth in Child Welfare, an online Practice Update that discusses the challenges faced by members of the immigrant community and the child welfare system and caseworkers who serve them.

Immigrant families come to the attention of child welfare for many of the same reasons as other children and youth. However, immigrants also face language and cultural barriers, limited resources, and an illegal or temporary immigration status, all of which makes involvement in the child welfare system especially challenging. Additionally, issues related to immigration law, language, and culture make working with these families a time consuming and often complicated endeavor for caseworkers.

According to author Roxana Torrico, child welfare caseworkers can do the following to ensure that immigrant families and children receive the services and assistance they need:

  • Participate in cultural competency trainings
  • Participate in trainings focused on immigrant issues
  • Develop professional relationships with local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency staff
  • Establish partnerships with community-based agencies that have experience working with the immigrant community
  • Access an array of social services, such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Medicaid
  • Participate in task forces and collaborations dedicated to immigrant issues

This publication is available on the NASW website:

www.socialworkers.org/assets/secured/documents/practice/clinical/WKF-MISC-45510.ChildrenPU.pdf (74.5 KB)

read the original article at: http://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=120&sectionid=5&articleid=3003&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ChildrensBureauExpressContent+%28CBX+RSS+Feed%29

10.18.10 Grief and Loss for Foster Parents

Monday, October 18th, 2010

A new factsheet from the Children’s Administration of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is designed to provide foster parents with coping strategies for handling grief and loss. The factsheet explains that grief is a natural response to a loss and that everyone experiences grief at some point in their lives, including foster parents, children in out-of-home care, and parents whose children have been placed in out-of-home care.

The factsheet provides practical information on the following topics:

  • Losses that may cause grief
  • The five stages of grief and how individuals may experience those stages
  • Common symptoms of grief
  • Ways to practice self-care during periods of grief

Download Grief and Loss Coping Strategies for Foster Parents from the Washington State DSHS website:

www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/ca/FACTSHEETGriefLoss.pdf (303 KB)

Additional foster parenting resources from DSHS can also be found on the website:

www.dshs.wa.gov/ca/fosterparents/healthsafety.asp

read original article at: http://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=120&sectionid=5&articleid=3001&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ChildrensBureauExpressContent+%28CBX+RSS+Feed%29

10.18.10 Health Secretary Sebelius talks health reform in Portland

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Joe Rojas-Burke, The Oregonian

While some states vigorously resist the federal health reform law, Oregon officials and health industry leaders offered mostly praise of the plan to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who swung through Portland on Tuesday.

Sebelius is reaching out to governors and state officials, whose cooperation is crucial in implementing the federal health reform law passed in March. The law makes states responsible for accomplishing much of the overhaul work.

“You may be further ahead than other parts of the country,” Sebelius told Oregon health care leaders at a forum organized by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.

Some states aren’t exactly cooperating. Attorneys general in 14 states—including Washington—have filed lawsuits to overturn the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance or pay a financial penalty. Missouri voters earlier this month passed a ballot initiative to exempt residents from the mandate to obtain insurance. Similar initiatives go before voters in Arizona and Oklahoma in November.

n Portland, Sebelius joined Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Tuesday at Cleveland High School to announce a new effort to inform parents, coaches and schools about the Oregon Healthy Kids Program for uninsured children. Nearly 54,000 of Oregon’s 80,000 uninsured children have enrolled since the program began last year. Oregon expects $5 billion in new federal funding over the next decade to help pay for expanding Medicaid coverage for low-income children and adults.

At the forum, health care leaders, business owners and insurance executives told Sebelius how Oregon has moved to implement the federal law. Among other steps, the law calls for state-run insurance exchanges intended to create a more affordable market for people to buy health insurance starting in 2014. Individuals earning less than about $43,000 (or less than $88,000 for a family of four) will be eligible for subsidies. Insurers no longer will be able to charge more because of illness or deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Mark Ganz, president and chief executive of the Regence BlueCross and BlueShield companies, highlighted an “unsung” virtue of the health reform law: provisions to start changing Medicare payment rules that for years have rewarded wasteful spending and punished thrifty, low-spending states such as Oregon.

George Brown, president and chief executive of Legacy Health System, told Sebelius how the federal reforms dovetail with efforts in Oregon to expand and improve primary care. The federal law includes funding for developing the so-called “medical home” concept, in which nurses, doctors and others work more closely to coordinate care so that people don’t go without needed care—and are less likely to undergo wasteful, unnecessary treatment.

Eileen Brady, co-owner of New Seasons Market and a member of Oregon Health Policy Board, told Sebelius that Oregon should be ready to start a health insurance exchange in 2013—a year ahead of schedule. Oregon lawmakers, health officials, business executives, consumer advocates and others began planning an insurance exchange months before passage of the federal reform law.

Brady also made some pointed requests. She asked Sebelius to consider giving states more flexibility in the design of health plans offered through exchanges. Brady said states need relief from rigid Medicaid eligibility criteria that make administration overly complex and expensive.

“We’ve got to simplify the system,” Brady said.

Despite the warm greeting in Portland, national polls show widespread unhappiness with the health reform plan. In a June Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 44 percent of Americans called the law a bad idea, while 40 percent called it a good idea. Many Republicans have seized on concerns to rally support in the November elections.

Democrats are hoping that health reform provisions taking effect before November will sway opinion. Sebelius noted that nearly 70,000 small businesses in Oregon are eligible for tax credits to help pay for employees’ health coverage, up to 50,000 Oregonians will be eligible for $250 checks to help close the “doughnut hole” gap in Medicare prescription coverage and 15,000 young adults in the state will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance coverage until age 26.

read the original article: http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2010/08/post_36.html

10.13.10 Supreme Court to Decide if Warrants Needed for Some Abuse Cases

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010
(October 12, 2010)

by Nancy Lewis

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear two Oregon cases on whether a warrant is needed for a social workers or a police officer to interview a suspected child abuse victim at school. No date for arguments has been set.

The cases – Camreta v. Greene and Alford v. Greene, which involve the same family – arise from a 9th  U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in December that an Oregon social worker and police officer violated the constitutional rights of a child abuse victim when they interviewed the girl at school without parental or court approval. That ruling is explained here.

Although such interviews are a common practice in some states and it was not the 9th Circuit’s first ruling that a warrant was required, the court’s strongly worded opinion made it clear that anyone who doesn’t abide by the law in the future forfeits his or her right to immunity from possible damages.

“We hasten to note that government officials investigating allegations of child abuse should cease operating on the assumption that a ‘special need’ automatically justifies dispensing with traditional Fourth Amendment protections in this context,” Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel.

The “special need” or exigent circumstances exception for warrantless searches has generally been applied in most suspected child abuse cases, although by law it only applies if the child might suffer serious harm during the time needed to acquire a warrant.

Berzon noted that there were no exigent circumstances in this case, because the officials waited three days to interview the child after hearing the abuse allegations.

Under the ruling, officials will no longer be allowed to question possible victims at school or any other place without either parental or judicial permission.

Bill Grimm, senior counsel for the National Center for Youth Law in Oakland, Calif., who also teaches child welfare law at the University of California-Berkeley’s Boalt Hall Law School, said at the time of the decision that applying Fourth Amendment standards would require changes not only in the 9th Circuit (which includes Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Arizona) but across much of the country.

Several other circuits have heard similar parental rights cases involving the questioning of possible child abuse victims at school, but the rulings in those cases have been split. The 5th and 10th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals have ruled that the Fourth Amendment standards apply; the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals applied a lesser standard for allowing children to be questioned at school; and the 7th Circuit ruled that warrants are needed for students at private schools but not for those attending public schools.

this article can be found at http://www.youthtoday.org/publication/article.cfm?article_id=4379

10.13.10 The Lisa Project: Experience life through the eyes of an abused child

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010
October 08, 2010 4:44 PM
THE PORTERVILE RECORDER (

VISALIA — Powerful, heart-wrenching and at times, hard to watch — that is what The Lisa Project — a multi-media program that allows visitors to experience the life of abuse from a child’s perspective, is.

“Everything you thought you knew about child abuse is about to change,” the self-guided audio tells people going through the exhibit.

“I’m going to tell you of a world that is foreign to you, but very familiar to me,” the presentation begins as Lisa, the narrator, shares her story and the story of other abused children.

The unique mobile project, designed to raise the community’s awareness of child abuse, is presented by the Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council through the month of October.

Through audio narration, and told through a child’s perspective, visitors are guided from room to room with scenarios depicting abuse. The PG-13 exhibit is not meant to shock visitors but is intended to educate the community about the very real threat to children, said marketing chair Patricia Pullen of Synchrony of Visalia, a nonprofit mental health agency that also provides parent education.

“This is an incredible way to educate the community about the different forms of child abuse,” Pullen said. “Abuse is not just physical, but can be emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect — which is the No. 1 aspect in Tulare County. Neglect in Tulare County is most prominent.”

During the 25-minute tour, visitors are guided through several rooms and hear the stories of five children — Lisa, Evan, Michael, Maria and Ashley.

The stories began with the playing of a 9-1-1 call from 6-year-old Lisa, who is crying and asking for help. Her step-father is hitting her mother, who is bleeding. Her sister, 4, lays listless and the girl pleads for help to stop her step-father from taking her newborn baby brother.

Lisa then guides listeners through several rooms — each one focusing on a different child and what that child lives through — mental abuse, neglect, sexual abuse and physical abuse.
In Michael’s case, the fifth-grader is portrayed as being emotionally abused by his mother as she repeatedly tells him he is useless and that she wishes she had aborted him.

And so the stories continue. Maria’s story deals with sexual abuse by her father. Ashley’s story is about physical abuse. And Evan’s story is about neglect. Along the way, the children’s abused, neglected and frightened faces are shown.

The rooms range from a filthy kitchen where Evan sleeps on the floor and cries himself to sleep from hunger every night because his drug-addicted mother does not take care of him, to Ashley’s room filled with beautiful things — a vanity filled with perfumes and makeup, an iPod, a cell phone, beautiful gowns, shopping bags from Macy’s and designer purses. Photos on the wall show a beautiful Ashley, wearing her cheerleader outfit, riding a horse, and vacationing in Hawaii. But there is an unseen story — and Ashley shares it. She is physically abused, by her father, and her boyfriend.

“The truth is, I’d do anything to get out of this house,” Ashley says on the audio presentation.

The stories and statistics are not made up.

“This is real,” it says on the walls of the statistics’ room. “In 2009, more than 9,000 calls were made to child welfare services alleging abuse.”

As visitors enter the statistics room, they can take a few minutes to read some of the devastating figures about child abuse, said Billie Shawl, president of the Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council.

“Our goal is to get as many people as we can to see this,” Shawl said. “But we also give people a chance to have a positive response. We have it hopeful.”

Abuse is suffered by children of all ages, socio-economic backgrounds and from all cultures.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to do something,” Pullen said. “We all can do something to protect them. We can volunteer at school, read a book to a child, and watch at a grocery store. And if you see someone having a hard time, don’t judge. Go up to them and ask the parent if you can help. You’re not there criticizing. You’re there offering a solution.”

Before visitors leave the exhibit, they are asked to take a few minutes to share their thoughts and reflect on what they have just experienced. Counselors are also on hand to answer questions and talk to visitors if the exhibit triggers unpleasant childhood memories.
With 198 volunteers from 20 different agencies, organizers want people to know that resources exist and can help families and children who are suffering, Shawl said.

The Lisa Project was created by Lindy Turner-Hardin, executive director of the San Joaquin County Child Abuse Prevention Council, with help from her husband, Gene Hardin.
After visiting a King Tut exhibit in San Francisco, where the couple followed an audio-visual tour of Tut’s life, Gene Hardin thought of the idea of creating a tour that showcased the lives of abused children.

The original exhibit was created in a building in Stockton, but because of its success, the Child Abuse Prevention Council decided to rebuild the project as a mobile exhibit that can make stops through the state, and someday, through the country. The Visalia visit will run through the month of October.

Visitors are encouraged to go beyond the headlines and the statistics and visit the exhibit to experience the life of an abused child.

The Lisa Project is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays from Oct. 1 to 29.
The mobile unit is located at 200 S. Court St. in Visalia. For more information, call 735-0456.

Because of the nature of the exhibit, children younger than 13, are not allowed to listen to the audio track.

Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045 or eavila@portervillerecorder.com

this article can be found at: http://www.recorderonline.com/news/visalia-46783-eyes-life.html

10.8.10 Health Secretary Sebelius talks health reform in Portland

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Joe Rojas-Burke, The Oregonian

While some states vigorously resist the federal health reform law, Oregon officials and health industry leaders offered mostly praise of the plan to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who swung through Portland on Tuesday.

Sebelius is reaching out to governors and state officials, whose cooperation is crucial in implementing the federal health reform law passed in March. The law makes states responsible for accomplishing much of the overhaul work.

“You may be further ahead than other parts of the country,” Sebelius told Oregon health care leaders at a forum organized by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.

Some states aren’t exactly cooperating. Attorneys general in 14 states—including Washington—have filed lawsuits to overturn the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance or pay a financial penalty. Missouri voters earlier this month passed a ballot initiative to exempt residents from the mandate to obtain insurance. Similar initiatives go before voters in Arizona and Oklahoma in November.

n Portland, Sebelius joined Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Tuesday at Cleveland High School to announce a new effort to inform parents, coaches and schools about the Oregon Healthy Kids Program for uninsured children. Nearly 54,000 of Oregon’s 80,000 uninsured children have enrolled since the program began last year. Oregon expects $5 billion in new federal funding over the next decade to help pay for expanding Medicaid coverage for low-income children and adults.

At the forum, health care leaders, business owners and insurance executives told Sebelius how Oregon has moved to implement the federal law. Among other steps, the law calls for state-run insurance exchanges intended to create a more affordable market for people to buy health insurance starting in 2014. Individuals earning less than about $43,000 (or less than $88,000 for a family of four) will be eligible for subsidies. Insurers no longer will be able to charge more because of illness or deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Mark Ganz, president and chief executive of the Regence BlueCross and BlueShield companies, highlighted an “unsung” virtue of the health reform law: provisions to start changing Medicare payment rules that for years have rewarded wasteful spending and punished thrifty, low-spending states such as Oregon.

George Brown, president and chief executive of Legacy Health System, told Sebelius how the federal reforms dovetail with efforts in Oregon to expand and improve primary care. The federal law includes funding for developing the so-called “medical home” concept, in which nurses, doctors and others work more closely to coordinate care so that people don’t go without needed care—and are less likely to undergo wasteful, unnecessary treatment.

Eileen Brady, co-owner of New Seasons Market and a member of Oregon Health Policy Board, told Sebelius that Oregon should be ready to start a health insurance exchange in 2013—a year ahead of schedule. Oregon lawmakers, health officials, business executives, consumer advocates and others began planning an insurance exchange months before passage of the federal reform law.

Brady also made some pointed requests. She asked Sebelius to consider giving states more flexibility in the design of health plans offered through exchanges. Brady said states need relief from rigid Medicaid eligibility criteria that make administration overly complex and expensive.

“We’ve got to simplify the system,” Brady said.

Despite the warm greeting in Portland, national polls show widespread unhappiness with the health reform plan. In a June Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 44 percent of Americans called the law a bad idea, while 40 percent called it a good idea. Many Republicans have seized on concerns to rally support in the November elections.

Democrats are hoping that health reform provisions taking effect before November will sway opinion. Sebelius noted that nearly 70,000 small businesses in Oregon are eligible for tax credits to help pay for employees’ health coverage, up to 50,000 Oregonians will be eligible for $250 checks to help close the “doughnut hole” gap in Medicare prescription coverage and 15,000 young adults in the state will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance coverage until age 26.

the original article can be found at: http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2010/08/post_36.html

10.6.10 Five Early Childhood Programs Making a Difference for Oregon’s At-Risk Children

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Oregon’s Starting Five
The Children’s Institute
Report published March 2010

Many Oregon children are growing up in adverse environments that jeopardize their ability to be successful in school and later life.

  • 20% of Oregon’s children under the age of 5 are growing up in poverty.
  • 42% are exposed to one or more serious risk factors associated with failure in school.
  • 49% of substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in Oregon involve children under age 6.

STRONG FOUNDATIONS
Science confirms what common sense tells us: the social, emotional, physical and cognitive development of infants, toddlers and preschoolers provides the foundation for healthy development in later childhood and adolescence. Yet in Oregon, far too many children grow up in environments that jeopardize their ability to be successful in school and later life. The stresses of poverty, parental depression and social isolation, for example, can impede the healthy development of young children.

Power to the Parents
The strength of the relationship between parents and their children is the most vital and basic ingredient for building strong social, emotional and cognitive skills. Nonetheless, many parents want and need help making sure their children achieve their full potential.

Five Programs Making a Difference
The five research-based programs profiled here serve young at-risk children and their families. Each program has a significant presence in Oregon, but collectively they do not have the resources to fully meet the needs of the populations they serve. The programs use age-specific and risk-specific strategies, directing resources to meet the particular needs of individual children and families.

More is Needed
Make no mistake — these five programs alone cannot ensure the positive development of young children. Early screening and identification of children who are at risk should be more widely available. Families need access to affordable, high-quality child care, proper nutrition and appropriate health care. A quality education, paired with age-appropriate youth programs, is needed to build on the gains made in the early years.

Make it Your Business
As good as these five programs are, they serve far too few children, and the consequences of not meeting the developmental needs of children are everybody’s business. Pick your issue — economic competitiveness, poverty, crime or Oregon’s growing achievement gap and staggering high school dropout rate — the most effective and least expensive answer to address each of these problems is comprehensive early childhood development programs for all children, starting with those most in need.

Statistics on front cover: Oregon Department of Education, National Center for Children in Povertyand NPC Research

10.6.10 Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4) Report to Congress

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

This executive summary descrives the Fourth National Incidence Study of Cild Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4). It discusses the NIS-4 background and objectives, reports on the design and methods, and presents the key findings and implications.

This report presents the findings of the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4). It includes nontechnical descriptions of the study design and methodology and provices national estimates of the incidence of abused and neglected children, the nature and severity of their maltreatment, the relation between incidence rates and various demographic factors, characteristics of the perpetrators, the sources who recognized the maltreated children, and the percentages of these children investigated by child protective service (CPS) agencies.

The NIS-4 meets several mandates in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, as amended by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003 (PM 108-36). Specifically, the NIS-4:

*provides current estimates of the incidence of child abuse and neglect in the United States;
*measure changes in these estimates from earlier studies; and
*examines the distribution of child maltreatment in relation to various demographic factors.

to read this report: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/abuse_neglect/natl_incid/nis4_report_congress_full_pdf_jan2010.pdf

10.6.10 Early Spankings Make for Aggressive Toddlers, Study Shows

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

September 21st, 2009
By Jennifer Thomas
HealthDay Reporter by Jennifer Thomas
healthday Reporter – Tue Sep 15, 7:04 pm ET

TUESDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDay News) — Children who are spanked as 1-year-olds are more likely to behave aggressively and perform worse on cognitive tests as toddlers than children who are spared the punishment, new research shows. Though the negative effects of spanking were “modest,” the study adds to a growing body of literature that’s finding spanking isn’t good for children.

“Age 1 is a key time for establishing the quality of the parenting and the relationship between parent and the child,” said study author Lisa J. Berlin, a research scientist at the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University. “Spanking at age 1 reflects a negative dynamic, and increases children’s aggression at age 2.” The study is published in the September/October issue of Child Development. Berlin and her colleagues looked at data on 2,500 white, Mexican American and black children from low-income families. The data included parents’ reports about their children’s behavior, their use of spanking, as well as home visits by trained observers to document parent-child interactions at ages 1, 2 and 3.
About one-third of mothers of 1-year-olds reported they or someone in their household had spanked their child in the last week, while about half of the mothers of 2- and 3-year-olds reported that their child had been spanked.

The average number of spankings for 1-year-olds was 2.6 per week, while the average for 2-year-olds was nearly three. The study found that children who were spanked at age 1 had more aggressive behaviors at age 2 and performed worse on measures of thinking abilities at age 3. Being spanked at age 2, however, did not predict more aggressive behaviors at age 3, possibly because the spanking had begun at age 1 and by age 2 the kids were already more aggressive, Berlin said.

Researchers also looked at the effects of verbal punishment, defined as yelling, scolding or making derogatory comments. Verbal punishment was not associated with negative effects if the mother was otherwise attentive, loving and supportive. Researchers controlled for family characteristics such as race, ethnicity, mother’s age, education, family income and the child’s gender.

Previous research has shown spanking is more common among low-income households than high-income households. Researchers chose a sample of low-income families because some child behavior experts have argued that when spanking is “cultural normative” — that is, it’s expected for parents to use physical discipline — the detrimental effects of spanking may be lessened. “We did not find that,” Berlin said. “Even in a sample of low-income people where presumably it’s more normative to spank your kids, we found negative effects.”
The study also found that mothers who said their children were “fussy” babies were more likely to spank them at ages 1, 2 and 3. But children who were more aggressive at 2 were not more likely to get spanked.

“The implication or the suggestion in past arguments is that some kids who are more aggressive or difficult to control might elicit more spanking, but that’s not what we found,” Berlin said. Researchers found that black children were spanked and verbally punished the most, possibly because of cultural beliefs about the importance of respecting elders and in the value of physical discipline, or because parents feel they have to prepare their children for a racist and potentially dangerous world.

Of all the debates over child-rearing, spanking “definitely touches a nerve,” Berlin said.
“It’s a parenting practice that has been around for a long time, and that’s also in transition,” Berlin said. “In general, the use of spanking is going down. But there is also a contingent of people who really believe in it, who say that’s how they were raised and it’s a tradition they want to continue.”

Elizabeth T. Gershoff, an associate professor in the department of human development and family sciences at University of Texas at Austin, said the study adds to a growing body of research showing negative effects of spanking. “Almost all the studies point to negative effects of spanking,” Gershoff said. “It makes kids more aggressive, more likely to be delinquent and to have mental health problems. The more kids are spanked, the more they are likely to be physically abused by their parents. This does not mean everyone who spanks physically abuses, but that risk is there.”

Because children tend to mimic parental behaviors, it’s possible spanking “creates a model for using aggression,” Gershoff said. “Spanking is just hitting.” Less is known why spanking could inhibit cognitive development. One possibility is that parents who spank are less likely to use reasoning with their children, something that’s good for development, Gershoff said.

More information
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on strategies of disciplining children without spanking.

this article can be found at: http://www.childabuseprevention.org/blog/?p=39