Press Watch for April 2002

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Child Welfare

"Quotas alleged for child-abuse caseworkers"
The Miami Herald
A company hired by the state of Florida to help administer child welfare cases appears to have pushed employees to close a quota of cases and rewarded those who did so. Such a quota system would probably put abused children at risk of further abuse or neglect for the sake of hastily closing cases. The company closed more than 13,000 cases. An internal company memo says the company required nine case closures per week; employees who reached the goal won paid vacation. Mar. 6.   


"Starving in silence"
The Boston Herald
Boys are increasingly concerned with having thin, lean bodies and are showing signs of anorexia and an obsession with copying the media images of sleek male bodies, The Herald found. The youth highlighted in the article, a recovered anorexic, ran 15 miles a day with the school’s cross-country team while allowing himself to eat only bread and salad. Mar. 11.; search for “boys anorexia.”

Sexual Behavior

"Young sexual offenders face up to their demons"
The East Side Journal
This Bellevue, Wash., daily recently published a feature on The Echo Glen Children’s Center in Snoqualmie that includes interviews with teenage boys convicted of sex crimes, who will live with the label of “sex offender” when they leave. Echo Glen is a juvenile detention facility that provides intensive treatment to 200 juvenile offenders, 60 of whom committed sexual crimes. The author details the obstacles the boys will face when they leave and the efforts by the facility to help them succeed after release. Residents spend eight hours a week in counseling and many receive additional treatment for anger management or family issues. Feb. 24.; write headline in the search box.


"Town’s curb on BB guns becomes a clash in values"
The Christian Science Monitor
This story uses Alpharetta, Ga., to explore how far municipalities should go to regulate the behavior of youth. Alpharetta recently passed a law banning youth under 16 from using BB guns and paintball guns without parental supervision. Although 14 states and numerous cities and counties have enacted similar laws, the experience of Alpharetta (which is between Atlanta and rural counties) illustrates how difficult it can be to determine where the line is between parental and governmental responsibility. While some residents identified bb guns as a joy and “rite of childhood,” others saw them as a form of terrorism. Feb. 22.; search for “BB guns” in archives.


"Welfare ban for drug felons harms children"
The Los Angeles Times
An article in The Los Angeles Times contemplates whether the federal government should allow convicted drug felons access to welfare programs in order to benefit their children. An amendment to the current welfare law bans convicted drug users from receiving welfare benefits, thus putting roughly 135,000 children at risk, according to a study cited in the article. Opponents of the amendment, which Congress will review along with the welfare law this spring, feel it unnecessarily punishes children and makes rehabilitation from a drug sentence nearly impossible. Feb. 28.; search for “welfare ban drugs” (fee required).

Youth Development

"Girls just want to be mean"
New York Times Magazine
A cover story examines female “relational aggression” – the tendency among middle- and high-school girls to humiliate and betray each other. The article highlights the work of Empower, a Washington-based nonprofit that helps girls in schools across the country stop gossiping, bad-mouthing and deceiving each other. Although girls have historically been a distant afterthought to boys when addressing problems of aggression, Empower’s class uses methods such as “Apologies Day” to help teens maneuver through adolescent social structures without resorting to cruelty. Feb. 24.  (subscription required).


Awarding-winning stories
Investigative Reporters and Editors, a national journalism association based in Columbia, Mo., last month announced its annual investigative reporting awards. Following are IRE’s descriptions of winners and finalists for youth-related stories:

"The District’s Lost Children"
The Washington Post
This series, the medal winner in the large newspaper category, revealed that 229 children died during a seven-year period after dangers to them came to the attention of government workers. At least 40 of those children died because workers failed to take key preventative action or because the children were placed in unsafe homes or institutions. Sept. 9-12. , search 2001 for “four articles” and “children deaths” (fee required).

"Hale House"
New York Daily News
This investigation discovered that Lorraine Hale, director of the Hale House children’s charity, was keeping more than $1.3 million in donated money for herself. Apr. 1- Nov. 25., search for “1.3m slush fund” (fee required).

"Decades of Abuse"
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
This revelation of 160 sex-related incidents at a state-run school for the deaf led to a review by the governor’s office, reform suggestions and the appointment of a watchdog panel to prevent future abuse. Apr. 25-26; Nov. 27. 

New Times
This examination of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections found widespread abuse of juvenile detainees, including inadequate education and the grotesque misuse of solitary confinement as a punishment. July 5, 12; Aug. 16, Sept. 20, Dec. 13, 20.