News From the Children's Bureau
- Email Group Focuses on Independent Living
The National Resource Center for Youth Development (NRCYD) has launched an email discussion group devoted to improving services that help adolescents in foster care make the transition to independent living.
NRCYD invites both adults and youths to participate. The group serves as a forum to exchange ideas, promising practices, innovative strategies, and other information that could help youth in foster care move to independent living.
To join, send an email to MaiSer@FS1.nrcys.ou.edu. In the body of the message write SUBSCRIBE INDLIV.
For more information about the group or NRCYS in general, contact:
National Resource Center for Youth Development
University of Oklahoma
College of Continuing Education
4502 E. 41st St.
Tulsa, OK 74135
- Study Examines Online Victimization of Youth
Youth are prey online to sexual solicitations, unwanted pornography, and harassment, according to a new study released by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).
The report, entitled Online Victimization: A Report on the Nation's Youth, was conducted by the Crimes Against Children Research Center of the University of New Hampshire. Telephone interviews were used to gather information from 1,501 regular Internet users, ages 10 to 17. The text of the report is interspersed with actual testimony from youth, describing offensive situations they had encountered while online. Some key conclusions from the survey are:
- A large fraction of young people are encountering offensive experiences on the Internet--19 percent sexually solicited, 25 percent exposed to unwanted sexual material, 6 percent harassed.
- The offenses and offenders are more diverse than previously thought--youthful and female offenders are prevalent; non-sexual threats and harassment are common.
- Most sexual solicitations fail, but their quantity is potentially alarming.
- The primary vulnerable population is teenagers.
- Sexual material is very intrusive on the Internet.
- Most youth brush off these offenses, but some are quite distressed.
- Many teens do not tell anyone.
- Youth and parents do not report these experiences and do not know where to report them.
- Internet friendships between teens and adults are not uncommon and seem to be mostly benign.
- More research is needed to track the growth in the number of children whose Internet contacts turn into off-line sex crimes--almost 800 cases nationally in recent months.
- Survey results should not dampen enthusiasm about the potential of the Internet.
The authors recommend implementing multiple strategies to increase the reporting of offensive Internet behavior, including enlisting the help of Internet service providers and publicizing NCMEC's CyberTipline at: http://www.cybertipline.com. They also recommend that criminal statutes be systematically reviewed to make sure they apply to Internet behavior.
Other recommendations for policy makers and parents include the following:
- Mobilizing teens to "clean up" the standards of Internet behavior and take responsibility for youth-oriented parts of the Internet
- Involving youth in planning Internet protection strategies
- Training mental health, school, and family counselors about Internet hazards, so they can help young people deal with distressing online experiences.
The authors also say that more research is needed to determine why parents don't make full use of filtering and blocking software and to assess the effects of online exposure to sexual material on youth development at different ages.
Online Victimization: A Report on the Nation's Youth is available from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 or online at: http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/ResourceServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=869.
- Report Reveals Domestic Violence as a Global Epidemic
Domestic violence has reached global epidemic proportions, according to findings in a new UNICEF report, Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls.
The study, conducted by the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (IRC) in Florence, Italy, states that domestic violence cuts across cultures, class, education, incomes, ethnicity, and age in every country. In some countries, up to half of all women and girls have experienced physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner or family member. An estimated 60 million women are missing from population statistics globally-killed by their own families deliberately or through neglect, simply because they are female.
In investigating the magnitude of the problem, researchers noted that the data were believed to be both conservative, and unreliable since domestic violence is often under-reported. The report highlights the links between domestic violence and the spread of HIV/AIDS as well as the increasing availability of weapons. The following types of violence are profiled:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse and rape in intimate relationships
- Psychological and emotional abuse
- Femicide--murder of women by their batterers
- Sexual abuse of children and adolescents
- Forced prostitution
- Sex-selective abortions, female infanticide, and differential access to food and medical care
- Traditional and cultural practices affecting the health and lives of women
Inter-related social and cultural factors cause domestic violence. Among them are:
- Socio-economic forces
- The family institution with unequal power relations between men and women
- Fear of and control over female sexuality
- Belief in the inherent superiority of males
- Legislation and cultural sanctions that have traditionally denied women and children an independent legal and social status.
Besides denying fundamental human rights, the report states that domestic violence impacts the physical and emotional health of women and children, threatens their financial security, and undermines self-esteem and the prospects of growing normally. The report also discusses various monetary and non-monetary, socio-economic costs of violence to make policy makers more aware of the importance and effectiveness of prevention.
According to UNICEF, 44 countries to date have adopted specific legislation on domestic violence. While some countries have begun to legislate against marital rape, including Mexico, Namibia, South Africa, and the United States, the report notes that sexual abuse and rape by an intimate partner is not considered a crime in most countries.
Besides legal reform, the report calls for integrated approaches and involvement from many sections of civil society, including community and religious leaders, professional associations, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and academia. It also recommends boosting women's and girls' "security" through legal literacy, education, and employment opportunities. Efforts to train judicial and law enforcement agencies to be gender-sensitive, as well as setting up special women's police stations are cited as particularly successful ways to combat domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls is available online at: http://www.unicef.org/vaw.
- Casey Foundation Report Evaluates the Well-Being of U.S. Children
How are U.S. children doing, educationally, socially, economically, and physically? The 2000 edition of the Kids Count Data Book tries to provide some answers.
The report, published annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, compiles national and State-by-State data on 10 key indicators of child well-being, including infant mortality, poverty, parents' employment, birthweight, and births to teen-age mothers.
This year's report examines vulnerable families through the lens of "connectedness." According to the report, poor families are increasingly "disconnected" from their communities, the economy, and society at large because they lack access to commonplace tools, services, and supports that anchor the lives of more affluent families, such as banks, cars, civic groups, supermarkets, and libraries.
"The absence of these critical links can compound the stress and burden of parenthood, particularly for parents of young children," writes Casey Foundation President Douglas W. Nelson in an essay included in the report. Nelson notes that isolation is strongly correlated with "the high rates of child neglect and abuse that increase out-of-home placements in many poor neighborhoods."
Nelson also observes the increasing importance of being connected electronically, and in this regard, too, poor families lag behind. The report notes, for example, that among poor inner-city households with children, 84 percent do not have a home computer and almost 20 percent don't even have a telephone.
On the national level, during the reporting period of 1990 to 1997, indicators improved in the following areas:
- Infant mortality. The rate of infants who died before their first birthdays fell by 22 percent nationwide. In 1990, 9.2 deaths occurred per 1,000 live births, compared with 7.2 births in 1997.
- Child mortality. The childhood death rate decreased by 19 percent, from 31 to 25 per 100,000 children aged 1 to 14.
- Teen deaths. The death rate for teenagers fell substantially, from 71 to 58 per 100,000 children aged 15 to 19 who died by accident, homicide, and suicide, equalling an 18 percent decline.
- Births to teen-age mothers. The teen birth rate decreased by 14 percent nationwide. For every 1,000 females ages 15 to 17, 32 babies were born in 1997, down from 37 babies in 1990.
- Idle teens. The number of idle teens (those aged 16 to 19 who were not in school or employed) declined by 10 percent.
- Parental employment. The percentage of children living with underemployed parents (parents who did not have full-time, year-round jobs) decreased by 10 percent.
During the same time period, indicators worsened in the following areas:
- Low birthweights. The rate of babies born weighing less than 5.5 pounds rose to 7.5 percent in 1997 from 7.0 percent in 1990.
- Childhood poverty. The rate of children living in poverty increased by 5 percent, with 21 percent of the nation's children living in poverty in 1997.
- Single-parent households. Single-parent households increased by 13 percent, with 27 percent of families with children headed by a single parent in 1997, up from 24 percent in 1990.
The high school dropout rate remained unchanged between 1990 and 1997, with 10 percent of teens aged 16 to 19 dropping out of school at the beginning and the end of the reporting period.
The Data Book ranks States based on the 10 indicators listed above. The Data Book also provides background information on each State, including data on:
- Demographic changes
- Family income
- Child health and education
- Child care
- Juvenile crime
- Access to phones, computers, and the Internet.
The complete 2000 Kids Count Data Book, along with other Kids Count data and publications, is available online at http://www.kidscount.org.
To order a print copy of the 2000 Kids Count Data Book, contact:
The Annie E. Casey Foundation
701 St. Paul Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
- Counties Receive Grant to Support Child Abuse Prevention
The National Association of Counties (NACo) has received a $300,000 grant from the Freddie Mac Foundation to support child abuse prevention programs in at least 200 counties nationwide.
NACo's research foundation will use the funds to establish and enhance Healthy Families America (HFA) programs, which provide home visiting and other support services to families. HFA was started in 1992 by Prevent Child Abuse America and currently operates in more than 400 communities across the country.
In collaboration with Prevent Child Abuse America, NACo's research foundation will work to raise awareness among policy makers about the role played by family support programs in preventing child abuse. According to NACo, 1,000 county officials will receive training through the program. Also, approximately 10 State associations of counties will form partnerships with HFA and Prevent Child Abuse America State chapters to develop statewide campaigns against child abuse.
To read NACo's online press release about the grant, visit http://www.naco.org/pubs/releases/6-7-00.cfm. (Editor's note: this link is no longer available.)
For more information from NACo, contact:
National Association of Counties
For more information about Prevent Child Abuse America, contact:
Prevent Child Abuse America
200 S. Michigan Ave., 17th Floor
Chicago, IL 60604-2404
Phone: 800-CHILDREN or 312-663-3520
- "Megan's Law" May Apply in Cyberspace, College Campuses
The reach of "Megan's Law" might soon extend to the Internet and college campuses.
The 1996 Federal law requires States to disclose information to citizens about convicted sex offenders in their communities. All 50 States have implemented the law.
Measures related to Megan's law being considered in two States and by Congress aim to protect children from online sexual predators. Congress also is considering a bill that would apply Megan's law to college campuses. Another bill before Congress with echoes of Megan's Law would discourage States from paroling individuals convicted of murder, rape, or child molestation.
The New York State Senate has passed a bill requiring convicted sex offenders to report their Internet accounts and screen names to police or face charges. In Texas, Bexar County officials are considering a measure that would require convicted sex offenders to use Internet service providers that filter out pornographic or sexually oriented sites.
At the Federal level, versions of the Cybermolesters Enforcement Act have been introduced in both the House (H.R.4076) and Senate (S.2280). The Act would impose sentences of 5 to 15 years on persons convicted of stalking children on the Internet. Currently, the average sentence imposed is 18 months.
Congress also is considering the Campus Protection Act (H.R.4407), which would require universities to notify parents and students when a convicted sex offender is enrolled or employed at the school. Currently, a Federal privacy law protects the identities of convicted sex offenders on college campuses.
Congress held hearings in May on H.R.894, the "No Second Chances for Murderers, Rapists, or Child Molesters Act of 1999," also known as "Aimee's Law." This bill would encourage States to apply stiffer penalities for individuals convicted of murder, rape, or child molestation--life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, and in the case of murderers, a possible death penalty.
States that parole murderers, rapists, and child molesters who then recommit the same crimes would lose Federal law enforcement funds. The Federal government would use the funds to compensate the additional victims (or their estates). If the new crime occurs in another State, the Federal government also would use the funds to reimburse the other State for costs related to the crime.
The legislation is named in honor of Aimee Williard, a 22-year-old college student who was kidnapped from her car in 1996 in Pennsylvania, raped, and murdered. Arthur J. Bomar Jr., who was sentenced to death for the crime, had been paroled from a Nevada prison where he served a little over 11 years for another murder. Prior to Willard's murder, he had been arrested four times in Pennsylvania but was not returned to Nevada for parole violation.
To learn more about any of these Federal bills, visit Thomas, a service of the Library of Congress, at http://thomas.loc.gov.
In this issue:
- "Would Megan's Law Work Online?"
- "Study Examines Online Victimization of Youth"
In previous issues:
- "Courts Issue Rulings on State Versions of 'Megan's Law'" (May 2000)
- "Pros and Cons of Online Sex Offender Registries" (April 2000)
To track court rulings and other news related to Megan's Law, search APBnews.com (http://www.apbnews.com). (Editor's note: this link is no longer active.)
- Would Megan's Law Work Online?
Proposals to protect children from online sexual predators, have both supporters and opponents. In two States, measures are being considered that would force convicted sex offenders to reveal their online identities or bar them from certain sites. Congress also is considering legislation aimed at deterring "cybermolesters." (For details, "Megan's Law May Apply to Cyberspace, College Campuses" in this issue of CBX.)
Critics of the measures contend that:
- Such legislation is unenforceable because online services offer up to seven different screen names for each account, and adopting new names or switching between names takes seconds
- Internet privacy issues have not been considered
- The laws would impose an unending punishment.
Supporters of the measures contend that:
- Parents could erect protective barriers for their children if they had a list of sex offender screen names through Internet filtering features
- The threat of jail time would serve as a deterrent to online predators.
- Grants Aim to Strengthen Families, Communities
A public/private partnership will bestow more than $8 million in grants to strengthen the families and communities of very young children.
The Free to Grow national demonstration program will award grants through local Head Start agencies. The long-term goal of the Free to Grow program is to reduce children's vulnerability to substance abuse and other high-risk behaviors as they grow older. The program is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the national Head Start program, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Foundation has earmarked $8 million to support the program. Half that sum will fund 4-year matching grants of approximately $200,000 to up to 20 Head Start agencies. The other half will support a national evaluation of the project. The Justice Department also will contribute funds to support the evaluation component.
Communities selected for grants must choose from among four Free to Grow models developed during a 5-year pilot involving five geographically diverse Head Start programs and supported by the foundation, the National Head Start Bureau, and the National Head Start Association.
The Free to Grow models all rest on the development of formal partnerships among local Head Start agencies and other community agencies and institutions. At minimum, sites must establish partnerships with neighborhood schools and local law enforcement agencies. Technical assistance will be provided by the Free to Grow National Technical Assistance Center housed at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.
As the first step in the application process, interested parties must submit letters of intent by August 15. Awards will be made in May 2001. For details on the program, contact:
Free to Grow
Mailman School of Public Health
60 Haven Ave., Apt. 1D
New York, NY 10032
- Study Shows Changing Welfare Can Strengthen Families
Welfare-to-work programs can be designed in ways that strengthen families and improve their overall well-being—that's the big news from a new study of Minnesota's welfare reform program.
The study conducted by Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) focused on the pilot phase of the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), which operated from 1994 to 1998 in seven Minnesota counties. Researchers followed 14,000 families who were randomly assigned to either the pilot MFIP or the then-federally mandated Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. The key elements of MFIP were:
- To ensure that participants who went to work improved their economic standing by continuing to supplement earned income with cash assistance
- To require long-term recipients to participate in employment-related activities.
MDRC found that the program increased employment and earnings and reduced poverty among participants. The study also found that program participants were more likely to get or stay married and less likely to experience domestic violence. Participants' children were more likely to have health insurance and show improvements in school achievement and behavior. More specifically, MDRC found:
- Average quarterly employment among MFIP participants increased by 35 percent over their AFDC counterparts
- The increase in employment was in stable, full-time jobs
- MFIP families averaged a 15 percent higher quarterly income from earnings and welfare combined than AFDC families
- More MFIP families than AFDC families (24.6 percent compared with 14.7 percent) had incomes above the poverty level.
Improvements in families' financial standing corresponded to improvements in other measures of well-being. The study found that among MFIP participants:
- Domestic abuse of women decreased 18 percent
- Marriage rates increased by 7 percent
- By the end of the pilot's third year, 67 percent of MFIP families were headed by a married couple compared with 48.5 percent of the AFDC families.
Minnesota implemented a modified version of MFIP to replace AFDC after Federal welfare reform legislation was passed in 1998.
MDRC published its findings in a report titled Reforming Welfare and Rewarding Work. MDRC evaluated the program under a contract with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, with support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Ford, Charles Stewart Mott, Annie E. Casey, McKnight, and Northwest Area foundations.
To read a summary of the report, visit the MDRC website at http://www.MDRC.org/Reports2000/MFIP/MFIPSummary.htm.
- New Mental Health Guidelines Drafted for Child Victims of Intrafamilial Abuse
Practitioners are encouraged to comment on draft guidelines concerned with the mental health assessment and treatment of child victims of intrafamilial sexual and physical abuse.
The guidelines are intended for use by mental health professionals, victim/witness personnel, family/juvenile court judges, and child welfare personnel. They were developed under a grant from the Office for Victims of Crime of the U.S. Department of Justice by the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center of the Medical University of South Carolina and the Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress at the Harborview Medical Center.
The guidelines are intended to help professionals by:
- Serving as a standard by which to judge practice
- Translating current research into practical recommendations for treatment.
Treatment protocols are described in detail and grouped as follows:
- Child-focused interventions
- Parent, parent-child, and family focused interventions
- Offender focused interventions.
The Office for Victims of Crime welcomes comments on the draft guidelines, which are posted on the website of the Crime Victims Center at the Medical University of South Carolina at: http://www.musc.edu/cvc
For an article on another set of resources for professionals who assess and treat children with sexual behavior problems, read "HHS-Funded Research on Children With Sexual Behavior Problems" in the March issue of the Children's Bureau Express.
- Institute Focuses on Latino Fathers
The Los Angeles-based National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute offers services tailored to Latino fathers and professionals who work with Latino families.
The Institute, a collaborative effort among three Los Angeles family agencies, offers workshops, parenting classes, counseling, tutoring, and job training to Latino males. The Institute also provides research, evaluation, and training on Latino fatherhood issues through its team of experts in the field and maintains a clearinghouse of bilingually/biculturally appropriate materials relevant to father-focused programs.
Founder and Director Jerry Tello discussed the Institute and its concerns in an online interview with LatinoLink, an electronic newsletter sponsored by Latino.com. He talked to interviewer Macarena Hernandez about how the positive role of men has often been ignored in our society and how Latino fathers, in particular, have been left out of national fatherhood movements. Tello says the Institute is trying to counter that trend and bolster the positive community support system of the Latino culture.
The Institute emphasizes the importance of the father, extended family, and community in nurturing, guiding, and educating children. The topics addressed include:
- Child abuse
- Domestic violence
- Gang violence
- School failure
- Teen pregnancy.
For more information, contact:
National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute
5252 East Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90022
For more ideas, research, and online networks related to fathers, visit the Benton Foundation's Connect for Kids Reference Room at: www.connectforkids.org/benton_topics1544/benton_topics_list.htm?attrib_id=268. (Note: this link is no longer available.)
For an article about a new electronic management tool kit for fatherhood projects released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, read "HHS Electronic Management Tool Kit for Fatherhood Projects Now Available" in the June issue of CB Express.
- California Courts Produce Activity Book for Kids
The California Judicial Council has also produced a children's activity book describing the court systems to children coming to court for any reason--whether they are witnesses, visitors, or involved in a case. What's Happening in Court? includes games, pictures to color, connect-the-dots, stickers, and other activities which are interspersed through text describing the courts. Children learn who works at the courts, what the rules are, and how they might be involved in a case.
The activity book is available online in both an interactive and printable version at: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/programs/ children.htm. For a bound copy, send an email to Student.Temp@jud.ca.gov with your name, title, organization, and address. One copy will be sent unless multiple copies are specifically requested.
- California Guides Parents Through Dependency Courts
Two pamphlets issued by the California Judicial Council guide parents through the dependency systems when their child has been taken into protective custody.
Parents receive the first pamphlet, Information for Parents, when their child is removed from their home. The pamphlet describes general reasons for the investigation and removal of a child. The pamphlet also explains the role of the social worker, discusses how the child will be placed in care, and gives parents instructions about what to do next.
The second pamphlet, The Dependency Court: How it Works, is given to parents at the initial hearing. The pamphlet explains what it means if your child becomes a dependent of the court and next steps in the process, including:
- hiring a lawyer to represent the parents
- holding an initial hearing
- developing a case plan for parents and child
- developing a concurrent plan in the event child is not returned
- developing a permanency plan if parental rights are terminated.
These pamphlets can be found on the website of the California Judicial Council at: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms. Select "Juvenile" from the pull-down menu. The relevant forms are JV-050 and JV-055.
In this issue: "California Courts Produce Activity Book for Kids" (Resources)
Find trainings, workshops, webinars, and other opportunities for professionals and families to learn about how to improve the lives of children and youth as well as a listing of upcoming events and conferences.
- Get Ideas About Training From Michigan Site
For a snapshot of the way one State is implementing training for workers in the areas of prevention, CPS, foster care, adoption, and juvenile justice, visit the website of Michigan's Child Welfare Training Institute operated by the Family Independence Agency.
The site describes the Institute, a mandatory 8-week training program required of all newly hired child welfare workers and supervisors, including contract agency staff. Course descriptions, schedules, and other materials are available online.
Michigan also provides cross-disciplinary training to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and child protective services workers, and provides a curriculum on domestic violence for CPS workers.
For information about CPS training and service delivery, visit http://www.michigan.gov/fia/1,1607,7-124-5455_7337---,00.html.