Children's Voice Mar/Apr 2007

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Bulletin Board

Toolkit Focuses on Child Abuse Prevention Messaging

Over the last 30 years, child advocates have worked to bring child abuse and neglect to the forefront of the public's attention. Public education and awareness efforts have paid off by increasing public awareness of the issue by more than 90%, according to the FRIENDS National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention.

But unfortunately, the problem of child abuse is too often sensationalized in the media, and too little attention is paid to understanding the role of prevention. Prevent Child Abuse America has tackled this issue by developing a web-based toolkit and CD-ROM for the FRIENDS National Resource Center that shares research about what the public truly thinks about child abuse and neglect. The toolkit contains practical information, materials, and guidelines on how to best implement this research to increase public understanding of and engagement in child abuse prevention.

The toolkit, Reframing Child Abuse and Neglect, specifically uses "strategic frame analysis" for exploring public perceptions and understanding about child maltreatment. The toolkit explains, "Strategic frame analysis helps discover existing frames of reference for a variety of issues. It gets at the heart of 'how' not just 'what' people think about an issue by looking at how people process new information and their patterns of reasoning."

To download Reframing Child Abuse and Neglect and use it this April during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, or at any other time during the year, visit www.friendsnrc.org.

Caseworkers Reveal Secrets for Engaging Dads

A recent study, What About the Dads? Child Welfare Agencies' Efforts to Identify, Locate, and Involve Nonresident Fathers, explores how child welfare agencies in four states find and engage fathers who aren't living with their children.

Findings from interviews with 1,222 caseworkers included:
  • More than two-thirds of nonresident fathers were identified when their child's case was opened.

  • Family and friends of the child were often unwilling or unable to provide information about unidentified nonresident fathers.

  • Circumstances that made it difficult to locate nonresident fathers included incarceration, homelessness, and being out of the country.

  • Half of nonresident fathers contacted expressed interest in having their children live with them. Issues that sometimes prevented placement included substance abuse, involvement with the criminal justice system, and noncompliance with services.

  • More than half of contacted fathers had visited their children in foster care.

  • Caseworkers who received training on father involvement were more likely to locate fathers, use a variety of methods to find fathers, and make use of more father engagement activities than did workers who had not received specialized training.
The study also examined practices and initiatives that may increase father involvement. Recommendations included:
  • Search for fathers early in the case.
  • Provide caseworker training on finding and engaging fathers.
  • Offer services designed to engage fathers.
  • Address domestic violence concerns and worker safety issues.
  • Use child support data, including data from state or federal parent locator services.
  • Develop models for involving fathers constructively.
What About the Dads? was prepared by the Urban Institute and released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is available online at http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/06/CW-involve-dads/report.pdf.

Bonuses for Higher Adoption Numbers

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $11.6 million in adoption incentive funds to 21 states for increasing the number of children adopted from foster care during fiscal year 2005. Texas received the largest bonus of $4 million, and Wyoming received the smallest, at $30,000.

States receiving incentive payments completed more adoptions in 2005 than in the baseline year--the year with the highest number of adoptions for the period 2002 through 2004. States receive $4,000 for every child adopted beyond their best year's total, plus a payment of $4,000 for every child age 9 and older, and $2,000 for every special-needs child, adopted above the baseline year.

The total number of adoptions with public agency involvement in FY 2005 is estimated at just under 51,500, up from about 50,700 in FY 2004. About 114,000 of the 513,000 children currently in foster care are waiting to be adopted.

Incentive funding, occasionally referred to as adoption bonuses, also went to Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington State.

Improving Coordination Among Federal Programs for Youth

Congress approved and the President signed the new Tom Osborne Federal Youth Coordination Act (FYCA) last fall.

Named for the Republican Representative from Nebraska who advocated strongly for the law, FYCA establishes a national federal advisory council to improve communication among federal agencies serving at-risk youth, assess their needs, set goals for helping them, and establish best practices for improving services.

The act grew out of the recommendations of the 2003 White House Task Force for Disadvantaged Youth, which found about 10 million teens nationwide are at serious risk of not becoming productive adults. The task force concluded, however, that federal youth programs created to address the problems facing these young people are spread across 12 departments, with little communication or coordination among them.

"Our nation's young people deserve high-quality, effective, and meaningful youth development programs," Osborne said in a statement. "This legislation will help address the disconnect evident among federal agencies today and ensure the goals of federal youth programs are consistent and coordinated."

Too Many Parents Leave Loaded Guns Around Teenagers

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston suggests parents with guns in their homes become less vigilant about how they store those guns as their children grow older, according to the Washington Post.

The study looked at data from the National Firearms Study of 2004 and responses from 392 people who had at least one gun in the house and at least one child younger than 18. The study found that 29% of parents whose children were younger than 13 did not lock up guns, compared with 42% of parents of teenagers. Similarly, parents of teenagers were more likely than parents of younger kids to leave their guns loaded.

Such behavior, according to Renee Johnson, the study's lead author, is backward. "Teenagers are exponentially more likely than younger children to die from firearm injury, especially suicide," she says.

Millions Distributed to Prevent Youth Suicide

Nationwide, someone dies by suicide every 17 minutes. In 2005 alone, more than 7% of youth--1.8 million young people--had thoughts about killing themselves during their worst or most recent episodes of major depression. About 900,000 of these youth made plans to commit suicide, and 712,000 acted on those plans by attempting suicide, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

In September, SAMHSA announced 46 grants, totaling $25.7 million, to support initiatives by states and on college campuses to prevent suicide and enhance services for youth depression, other mental health problems, and substance abuse.

Thirty-four colleges and universities received the funding under the Campus Suicide Prevention Grant program, and organizations and agencies in 11 states--Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Washington State, West Virginia, and Wyoming--received grant funding through the State-Sponsored Youth Suicide Prevention and Early Intervention Program.

One million dollars in supplemental grant funds was also awarded to the National Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and $369,000 to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a 24-hour suicide prevention services for anyone in suicidal crisis (800/273-TALK).

SAMSHA also awarded an additional $2.4 million over three years to Louisiana and Mississippi to develop and implement statewide suicide prevention and early intervention activities to benefit youth adversely affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"While most young people quickly rebound from a disaster with the support of a caring adult, some develop serious mental conditions like depression and post-traumatic stress disorders that can contribute to suicidal thoughts and acts," says Assistant Surgeon General Eric Broderick. "These grants will enable two of the hardest hit states to reach out to young people who are still having serious problems coping with the devastating effects of the hurricanes on their lives."

Warning Middle and High Schoolers Against Meth Pays Off

Prevention interventions have been shown to reduce the number of youth who abuse alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana, and evidence is now showing that similar interventions can lower youth methamphetamine abuse.

A paper published in the September 2006 issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine detailed research that shows prevention programs conducted in middle school can reduce methamphetamine abuse among rural adolescents years later. The research was supported in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The research assessed the effects of two randomized, controlled prevention trials on methamphetamine abuse among middle and high school students. In the first study, 667 families of rural Iowa sixth-graders were randomly assigned to participate in one of two family-focused interventions, the Iowa Strengthening Families Project or the Preparing the Drug Free Years program, or to act as controls.

In the second study, 679 families of rural Iowa seventh graders were randomly recruited for the Life Skills Training (LST) program, combined with the Strengthening Family Program for Parents and Youth, the LST program only, or a minimal-contact control group.

"Adolescents who participated in both programs showed a relative reduction in lifetime methamphetamine abuse of 65%, compared with the controls," says the study's lead author, Richard Spoth of Iowa State University. "This means that for every 100 adolescents in the general population who reported methamphetamine abuse, there would be only 35 in the intervention population reporting abuse during the same period."

The Iowa Strengthening Families Project and Strengthening Family Program for Parents and Youth target the enhancement of family protective factors and the reduction of family risk processes. The Preparing for the Drug Free Years program is designed to enhance parent-child interactions and to reduce children's risk for early substance abuse. The Life Skills Training program is a school-based intervention designed to foster general life skills and teach students tactics for resisting pressure to use drugs.


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