News Briefs for March 2003

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Child Support Goes Plastic

In another sign of how technology is changing youth services, parents collecting court-ordered child support in Colorado can now access their money with a state-issued debit card.

The state teamed with U.S. Bank and Visa to create the Family Support Registry cards, which child support officials believe recipients will favor over paper checks.

Each month the state will mail the cards to recipients who sign up for the program. They can use cards to make purchases where Visa is accepted, and to withdraw money from automatic teller machines (for free once a month, $1.50 thereafter).

Officials say the change should particularly help recipients who don’t have bank accounts. Colorado offers direct deposit of child support checks, but only 35,000 of the state’s 100,000 child support recipients use that option.

State officials hope the cards and direct deposit will cut down on check fraud and help recipients avoid carrying large amounts of money after cashing checks.

“It’s fair to say that our long-term plan” is to eliminate paper checks from the system, says Craig Goellner, the systems director for the Colorado Child Support Enforcement division.

Goellner says Washington and Minnesota plan to roll out debit card partnerships with U.S. Bank this year.

Contact: U.S. Bank (612) 303-0732; Colorado Child Support Enforcement (720) 947-5060.

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The Convict/Child Bond …
North Carolina is laying the groundwork for a nonprofit that would house certain convicted mothers in correctional facilities with their young children. The program would use a center that can house up to 20 women and 40 children. It would be open to nonviolent offenders with no history of abuse, whose children are under 9.

Good Girls Do Vegas … The National Abstinence Clearinghouse, a Sioux Falls, S.D.-based organization run by Leslee Unruh, announced that its 2003 conference will be held in the heart of the abstinence movement: Las Vegas. “We [are] certain that the abstinence message must be brought to this region,” says the newsletter. Members will stay in a posh golf and spa resort, but will be handing out “good girl cards” in town.

State Budget Woes … Montana may try to make up for a reduction in federal funds by charging a fee to parents who seek help from the child support enforcement division. A bill supported by the director of the state’s department of health and human services would impose a $7 fee for each child support payment processed by the division.

Youth Leaders Party … Young leaders from organizations around the country are forming a web- and media-based political party focusing on youth issues. The party will target the 30 million people under 30 who did not vote in the last presidential election, as well as the 35 million new voters who turn 18 this year. Thomas Bryer, a 24-year-old party leader and founder of nonprofit Reform America, says the initial goals will be to run more young people for office and increase the percentage of young people who vote.

Child Protection on the Web …
A coalition of youth media organizations has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) prevents many disadvantaged youth from accessing non-pornographic health-related material in public areas. The CIPA requires all libraries receiving federal funds to install Internet filters. But even the weakest of these filters make many public health, job search and gay support sites inaccessible to youth, say the members of the Free Expression Policy Project.

Kids Buckling Up …
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that 99 percent of infants, 94 percent of 1- to 3-year-olds and 83 percent of 4- to 7-year-olds are riding with seat belts fastened. The bad news, however, is that 15 percent of infants are riding in the front seat, when they should be in the rear, mostly to be protected from airbags.

U.K. Sex Offense Laws … The Sexual Offences Bill, published by the Home Office governing internal affairs in England and Wales, has overhauled what some saw as an antiquated set of laws on sex offenses. The modernized law “ensures that existing Victorian laws on sex offences … reflect today’s society and attitudes.” The bill includes measures to strengthen the sex offender registry and provide harsher sentences for offenses against children.

No Smokes in France? …
The French Senate took under consideration last month a bill that would ban the sale of tobacco to children under 16. The bill calls for a $4,000 fine for any vendor who sells to minors, a fine that would double on the second offense. The average age to start smoking in France is 14; about 37 percent of people between ages 12 and 25 are smokers.

So Can They Spell ‘Death’? … The Lombardy Public School in Ottawa, Canada, has banned the word “gun” from its first-grade spelling bee. The ban came after a family voiced concern over their child’s spelling list, where the malignant word was accompanied by a picture of a pistol. “The word is synonymous with death,” said complainant Amanda Sousa.

American Youth Policy Forum Turns 10

The American Youth Policy Forum, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that brings youth workers, managers and policy-makers up to speed on youth policy issues, celebrated its 10th anniversary in late January.

The forum arranges policy discussions on Capitol Hill, visits programs in the field and produces several publications annually.

Founded in 1993 by Sam Halperin – who had served on congressional committees, in the old U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and as a study director of “Youth and America’s Future: The William T. Grant Foundation Commission on Work, Family and Citizenship” – the forum initially used several small grants to fund a few events. It now has 11 staffers and spent about $900,000 last year while putting on 40 events.

It is funded primarily by the Carnegie Corp. of New York, the Ford Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, the Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, the General Electric Fund, the McKnight Foundation and the William T. Grant Foundation.

“Our goal is to continue to stay on task and up to speed with what’s hot with youth policy,” said program associate Sarah Pearson. “We want to continue to educate youth policy-makers so they can create better informed policy.”

The anniversary celebration was held in the atrium of the World Bank building, where the AYPF gave awards to other organizations in the youth field.

Contact: (202) 775-9731,