Children's Voice May/June 2008

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End Notes

Ready Resources

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy offers a series of television and online public service announcements (PSAs) around the theme "Sex Has Consequences." The 12 available PSAs were winning entries in a national contest for young filmmakers and run 15 to 30 seconds. The National Campaign will provide copies on DVD, Beta SP, or CD-ROM to interested individuals and organizations, as well as customize them with an organization's name and logo. Last year, organizations posted the PSAs on their websites and used them to facilitate discussions at youth events. They also procured local airtime to run the PSAs during prom season and to promote the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which took place on May 7 this year. For more information, visit www.teenpregnancy.org/psa.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has launched its Knowledge Bank, a virtual index to the knowledge, skills, and products of the network and other professionals. Users have access to hundreds of resources related to child trauma by browsing organized categories or searching for specific resources. For more information, visit www.kb.nctsn.org.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT online database has a whole new look and feel. The tool--featuring child well-being measures for the 50 largest U.S. cities--can be used to create customized maps, charts, and graphs by topic or geographic area. For more information, visit www.kidscount.org/datacenter.

On the Campaign Trail

The Human Rights Campaign recently launched a new initiative, All Children, All Families, to help children in foster care find permanent families. The project is aimed at educating the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community about foster and adoptive parenting and helping adoption and foster care agencies promote policies that welcome LGBT prospective parents.

So far, the initiative has produced the Promising Practices Guide, which offers examples of effective practices for working with LGBT foster and adoptive parents. Topics include leadership and governance, staff training, recruitment strategies, preadoption services, home study practices, placement, services for foster parents, postpermanency support for adoptive families, and retention of foster families. The guide also features sample policies and materials and an assessment tool that allows organizations to understand and document their level of cultural competence in welcoming LGBT-headed families.

Learn more at www.hrc.org. Learn more about CWLA's work on behalf of LGBT youth.

Dispatch from Abroad

Toddlers taken from orphanages and placed in good foster homes scored much higher on IQ tests later on in life than the children who remained in the orphanages, according to a research project done in Romania.

The Associated Press reports that children in the study who were removed from the orphanages before age 2 exhibited the biggest improvement and, in some cases, the boost in IQ meant the difference between borderline retardation and average intelligence.

"What we're really talking about is the importance of getting kids out of bad environments and put into good environments," the AP quoted Charles Nelson, of the Harvard Medical School, who led the study published in Science last December.

The research is credited with influencing child care changes in Romania, and UNICEF has started using data to push other countries to shift from depending on state-run orphanages to developing foster care-like systems, according to the AP.

Health Beat

The number of visits to a doctor's office that resulted in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents increased by 40 times over the past decade, according to a study published in the September 2007 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. Over the same period, the number of visits by adults resulting in a bipolar disorder diagnosis almost doubled.

The cause of these increases is unclear, according to a press release about the study from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). NIMH provided some funding to the researchers who conducted the study. While the increase in bipolar diagnosis in youth far outpaces the increase in diagnosis among adults, the researchers are cautious about interpreting these data as an actual rise in the number of people who have the illness or the number of new cases each year.

"It is likely that this impressive increase reflects a recent tendency to overdiagnose bipolar disorder in young people, a correction of historical under-recognition, or a combination of these trends," NIMH quoted one of the researchers, Mark Olfson, of the New York State Psychiatric Institute of Columbia University. "Clearly we need to learn more about what criteria physicians in the community are actually using to diagnose bipolar disorder in children and adolescents and how physicians are arriving at decisions concerning clinical management."

Did You Know?

A 23-city survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that four out of five cities saw requests for food aid rise an average of 12% from the previous year during the period covering November 2006 through October 2007. Also, 10 of 14 cities with data on homeless families said more families with children sought emergency shelter and transitional housing. About half of the cities said their overall homeless problem increased.

Research Report

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute issued a policy paper last fall suggesting all states change their laws so that adopted people, once they become adults, have access to their original birth information.

The paper, For the Records: Restoring a Right to Adult Adoptees, by Madelyn Freundlich, reviews and analyzes past and current state laws, legislative history in the states, decades of experience on relevant issues, and the research relating to sealed and open records on the affected parties.

Among the report's findings are:
  • Prohibiting adopted people from obtaining personal information raises significant civil rights concerns and potentially negative consequences for their physical and mental health.

  • In states that now allow access, no evidence exists that the legal changes have caused problematic behavior by adopted persons or damage to birth mothers' lives.

  • Another assertion by critics of changing these laws--that abortion rates will rise and adoption rates will fall--is not supported by the evidence; in fact, it appears just the opposite occurs.
Based on its research and an analysis of its findings, the institute's recommendations include:
  • Every state should amend its laws to restore unrestricted access for adult adoptees to their original birth certificates, which, historically, had been their right nationwide.

  • Within three years of enactment, revisit state laws that create a "sandwich" situation in which some adult adopted people get access to their documents while others do not.

  • Conduct research to expand the understanding of the experiences of adopted people, birth parents, and adoptive parents in relation to the issue of access to records.



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