Children's Voice July/August 2007

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Bulletin Board

U.S. Child Welfare Ranks Low on International Survey

A United Nations survey released in February ranks the United States and Britain the lowest among 21 wealthy countries for child welfare.

The study by UNICEF ranked the countries in six categories based on national statistics--material well-being, health and safety, education, peer and family relationships, behaviors and risks, and young people's own subjective sense of well-being. The United States and Britain were in the bottom two-thirds of five of the six categories, according to an Associated Press story about the survey.

The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland came out on top in the survey, whereas the United States was 20th and Britain 21st.

Despite overall levels of national wealth, children fared worse in the United States and Britain because of greater economic inequality and poor levels of public support for families, according to Jonathan Bradshaw, one of the study's researchers and a professor of social policy at the University of York in Britain.

"What they have in common are very high levels of inequality, very high levels of child poverty, which is also associated with inequality, and in rather different ways poorly developed ser vices to families and children," the Associated Press quoted Bradshaw.

Both countries also ranked low for their higher incidences of single-parent families and risky behaviors among children, including drinking alcohol and sexual activity. On average, 80% of children living in the wealthy countries surveyed live with both parents, but there were wide variations, from more than 90% in Greece and Italy, to less than 70% in Britain, and 60% in the United States.

Adoptive Parents Tend to Dote

A study published earlier this year in the American Sociological Review finds that couples who adopt spend more money on their children and invest more time in activities such as reading to them, eating together, and talking with them about their problems.

"One of the reasons adoptive parents invest more is that they really want children, and they go to extraordinary means to have them," the Associated Press quoted Indiana University Sociologist Brian Powell, one of the study's three coauthors. "Adoptive parents face a culture where, to many other people, adoption is not real parenthood. They recognize the barriers they face, and it sets the stage for them to be better parents."

For the study, Powell and his colleagues turned to information contained in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies. They examined data from 13,000 households--161 of which were headed by two adoptive parents--with first graders in the family. The adoptive families rated better overall than families with biological parents on several criteria, including help with homework, parental involvement in school, and exposure to cultural activities.

According to the Associated Press, the researchers said their findings call into question the longstanding argument that children are best off with their biological parents, including such arguments made in state Supreme Court rulings in New York and Washington that upheld laws against same-sex marriage.

Thumbs Down to Youth Jail Time, Polls Finds

A poll conducted by Zogby International for the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) finds the public overwhelmingly supports rehabilitation and treatment for young people in trouble, rather than prosecution in the adult court or incarceration in adult jails or prisons.

Major findings from the survey include:
  • Nine out of 10 people polled believed rehabilitation and treatment for incarcerated youth can help prevent future crime, and 8 out of 10 thought spending money on rehabilitative services and treatment for youth will save money in the long run.

  • Seven out of 10 surveyed felt putting young people younger than 18 in adult correctional facilities make them more likely to commit future crime. More than two-thirds (68%) disagreed that incarcerating youth in adult facilities "teaches them a lesson and deters them from committing future crimes."

  • By more than a 15 to 1 margin (92% to 6%), those polled believed the decision to transfer youth to adult court should be made on a case-by-case basis.

  • Sixty-six percent of those polled said it was "unacceptable" that a criminal conviction should negatively affect a youth's future opportunities for jobs and education.
Conducted in January 2007, the survey used a national sample of likely voters and followed methodology approved by the American Association for Public Opinion Research. Likely voters were polled about their views on whether prosecuting youth in adult court and placing youth in adult jails and prison are effective ways to deter crime, as well as their views on other public safety approaches.

According to NCCD, a number of states, including Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, are considering proposals to reduce the number of youth automatically tried as adults.


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