Press Watch for May 2002

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After School

"Child centers balk at policy"
The Sacramento Bee
A new regulation issued by Gov. Gray Davis requires childcare providers to inform parents of children in their care about staff who have ever committed a crime. Many care centers claim the policy leaves them vulnerable to privacy lawsuits by childcare staff, who were already required to undergo fingerprinting and background checks when they were hired. The California Department of Social Services allowed 2.8 percent of its childcare staff, nearly 8,000 employees, to work despite having committed nonviolent crimes. CBS-TV won the right to know the names of such employees in a lawsuit last year. The regulation is a precursor to pending legislation that would allow parents access to information about childcare staff. April 4.

Child Welfare

"Case may shape foster child fate"
The Charlotte Observer
The North Carolina Supreme Court will soon decide the state’s authority to terminate birth parents’ rights in order to facilitate adoptions. In recent years, a number of states have passed laws that quicken the process by which children of neglectful, abusive or addicted parents may be permanently placed with an adoptive family, often the one with which they have lived in foster care. But over the last two years the birth parents of more than 80 children have appealed to the courts to reinstate their parental rights. The Supreme Court case concerns a 4-year-old raised by relatives who were given custody after she was born to a now-recovered cocaine addict. Arguments were April 16. March 29.


"To be young and homeless"
The New York Times Magazine
This story follows homeless families in New York City as they endure waiting more than 10 days to have a housing application reviewed. They live in subsidized apartments without heat or hot water, miss jobs so they can be notified of placement, and bus children to schools two hours away. Due partly to increased housing costs, families make up 75 percent of the city’s homeless population, with 13,000 children having slept in nonpermanent or shelter housing most nights last winter. While few families are chronically homeless, homeless children are at increased risk for problems including academic failure and emotional instability. March 24. required).

Juvenile Justice

"Seventeen an awkward age, N.H. juvenile justice finds"
The Washington Post
New Hampshire is one of many states that in recent years have lowered the age at which offenders may be tried as adults, lowering it to 17 in 1996. Now, the state legislature is considering a bill raising the age to 18. Currently, 17-year-old offenders in the state are ineligible for delinquency services and are often released without rehabilitation after serving time with adults. Serious, violent and repeat offenders could still be tried as adults from the age of 13 and would still be eligible for the death penalty. March 26.


"The good news about stepfamilies"
The Christian Science Monitor
Children living in stepfamilies often grow up more tolerant of others’ differences and better able to handle stress. Children can benefit from growing up in “blended” families because of the larger network of familial adults they can turn to in times of need. Some children find stepparents easier to approach with sensitive or difficult issues than biological parents. Although transitioning into a new family can be difficult, stepchildren often emerge more sensitive to the emotions of others and more adept at interpersonal communication. April 3.

Substance Abuse

"State focusing on preteens in crackdown on prison drug trafficking"
The San Francisco Chronicle
Children older than 7 may be required to undergo background checks and to present photo identification while visiting inmates in California prisons, if new proposals by the California Department of Corrections are passed. The proposals (some of which are intended to restrict drug smuggling into prisons) include banning children from sitting on the laps of incarcerated fathers (to protect against molestation) and banning visits by families to fathers who were convicted of manufacturing or selling drugs. Child welfare advocates say the proposals are particularly severe for young children, who would have to register for state-licensed identification and in some cases be denied physical contact with fathers. March 26.

"State law is helping families struggling with teen addiction"
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Half the enrolled addicts at the O.U.R. House drug treatment facility in East Liberty, Pa., are white, suburban youth, largely due to a state law that allows parents to force their children into drug treatment. Teens in supportive, middle- and upper-class families are finding heroin inexpensive and easy to buy, and are increasingly abusing it. Published as part of a continuing series of stories on the juvenile court system, the article warns of the ease with which a casual marijuana smoker can become a cocaine or heroin user. March 24.


"Bill toughens hate crime penalties"
The Juneau Empire
A bill in the Alaska Senate would treat 16-year-olds as adults when they are charged with hate crimes. The bill comes on the heels of an incident last year in which three teens shot Alaskan Natives with paintballs and were not charged with felonies. Alaska state law outlaws media coverage of juvenile cases, and proponents of the bill suggest that media coverage of such cases would prevent future hate crimes. Opponents wonder why the bill does not include offenders in crimes motivated by economic standing or sexual orientation. March 20.