Children's Voice Dec 2005

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Bulletin Board

Family Violence Falling

Reflecting a general decline in crime during the 1990s, the rate of family violence fell by more than half between 1993 and 2002, from an estimated 5.4 victims to 2.1 victims per 1,000 U.S. residents 12 years and older, according to a recently released Bureau of Justice Statistics report, Family Violence Statistics.

Family violence accounted for 11% of all reported and unreported violence between 1998 and 2002. Of these offenses, 49% were crimes against a spouse, 11% involved a parent attacking a child, and 41% were offenses against another family member.

Additional highlights from the report include:
  • Seventy-three percent of family violence victims were female, and 76% of persons committing family violence were male. Simple assault was the most frequent type of family violence.

  • About one in five people murdered in 2002 were killed by a family member. Of all homicides that year, almost 9% involved killing of a spouse; 6%, the murder of a son or daughter; and 7%, the killing of another family member.

  • Among family murder victims, 58% of were female, and 26% were under age 18; 66% of murdered children under age 13 were killed by a family member.

  • Eighty percent of offspring killed by a parent were younger than 13; the average age was 7.

  • About 4 in 10 family violence incidents did not come to police attention between 1998 and 2002. Thirty-four percent of victims of unreported family violence said they did not tell police because it was private or personal. Another 12% said they did not report it to protect the offender.
The entire report is online.

Head Start Study Examines Progress of 5,000 Children

According to a recent report from the U.S. Administration for Children and Families (ACF), 3- and 4-year-old children in Head Start performed better in prereading, prewriting, and vocal skills during the 2002-2003 school year than did non-Head Start children. The congressionally mandated report, Head Start Impact Study: First Year Findings, also indicates that parents who became involved in Head Start were more likely to read to their children and to access dental care.

The study examined 84 Head Start agencies nationwide and involved some 5,000 3- and 4-year-old children entering Head Start. Although Head Start children had some cognitive gains, the study also found that Head Start had no significant effect on the children's oral comprehension, phonological awareness, or early math skills.

In the area of social and emotional improvement, children who entered the program at age 3 showed improvement in problem behaviors but demonstrated no statistically significant impact in social skills, approaches to learning, or social competencies. Both age groups in Head Start had greater access to health care. Among children who entered Head Start at age 3, parents reported higher uses of educational activities and lower uses of physical discipline.

The study is available on the ACF website.

Judicial Groups Work to Speed Things Up for Kids in Foster Care

Several leading judicial organizations have collaborated to create an innovative plan aimed at decreasing the amount of time children spend in foster care while their cases are pending in court. The National Curriculum for Caseflow Management in Juvenile Dependency Cases Involving Foster Care found court delays to be a leading reason many children are forced to remain in foster care for extended periods. To move children into safe, permanent homes more efficiently, the National Curriculum calls for cooperation between state courts and welfare agencies to pool resources and share responsibility for children's well-being.

Those behind the National Curriculum see it as a method to facilitate increased communication among involved parties and help judges make more informed decisions, while reducing the number of hearing postponements and other common delays in child welfare cases. The curriculum engages judges, attorneys, and child welfare representatives in a series of discussions, workshops, and team-building exercises.

Funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the curriculum was successfully piloted in Arizona in 2004, and California and Ohio have agreed to implement it. The National Curriculum is available from the Judicial Education Reference, Information, and Technical Transfer Projects.

Teen Rx Abuse Triples

The number of Americans who abuse controlled prescription drugs nearly doubled from 7.8 million to 15.1 million from 1992 to 2003, and abuse among teens more than tripled during that time, according to a new report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

The report details the findings of a three-year study of the use of prescription opioids, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, and central nervous system depressants and stimulants, such as Valium, Xanax, and Ritalin. While the U.S. population increased 14% between 1992 and 2003, the number of 12- to 17-years olds who abused controlled prescription drugs jumped 212%, and the number of adults 18 and older abusing such drugs climbed 81%. In 2003, 2.3 million 12- to 17-year olds, nearly 1 in 10, abused at least one controlled prescription drug--for 83%, the drug was opioids.

The report calls for an effort on all fronts to reduce abuse of prescription drugs, including a major education and prevention campaign; better training of physicians, pharmacists, and other health professionals; and new laws and better law enforcement to close rogue Internet sites peddling controlled prescription drugs. The 214-page report, Under the Counter: The Diversion and Abuse of Controlled Prescription Drugs in the U.S., is available online.

States Receive Millions in Adoption Incentives

In September, the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) announced it would release $14.5 million in Adoption Incentive funds to 24 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico for increasing the number of children adopted from state-supervised foster care in fiscal year 2004. The fund was created by the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 and reauthorized by the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003.

The incentive payment plan is based on a state's ability to increase its number of adoptions. Nationwide, 51,000 foster children are adopted from the child welfare system annually. ACF awards a state $4,000 for every foster child placed above its previous annual best rate of foster child placements. States also receive additional bonuses for the adoption of foster children age 9 and older and for the adoption of children with special needs.

Florida received $3.5 million, the largest award. New York, Kentucky, and the District of Columbia were the only other jurisdictions to receive more than $1 million. A complete list of states and their funding awards is available online.

2005 KIDS COUNT Data Book Available at the Stroke of a Key

The 2005 KIDS COUNT Data Book, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is now online, featuring state-level statistical data on the well-being of children, and easy-to-use tools that allow users to generate and download custom reports, including rankings, graphs, and maps. Raw data files are also available. Since 1990, the Data Book has used 10 key measures to track child well-being and create and rank state profiles of child well-being. The 2005 edition includes several background measures related to unemployed parents in each state, as well as an essay by Casey President Douglas W. Nelson, "Helping Our Most Vulnerable Families Overcome Barriers to Work and Achieve Financial Success." Hard copies of the 2005 Data Book can be ordered online or by calling 410/223-2890.


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