Report Roundup for September 2003

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America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2003
Forum on Child and Family Statistics

While most data from this seventh annual report indicate progress, the number of overweight children and babies born to unmarried woman continues to rise. The report measures 46 indicators in five data categories: population, economic security, health, social behavior and education. Data indicated improvements or insignificant changes on nearly all of them. (Most of the current data is from 2000 or 2001.)

The number of overweight children has risen from 6 percent (1976-1980) to 15 percent (1999-2000). Excess weight is particularly prevalent among two groups of youth: black, non-Hispanic girls and Mexican-American boys. On the bright side, 34 percent of high school graduates completed high-level coursework in English in 2000, up from 29 percent in 1998. 142 pages. Free online. Health Resources and Services Administration Information Center, 2070 Chain Bridge Rd., Suite 450, Vienna, VA 22182. (888) 275-4772,

Improving Child Care Quality: A Comparison of Military and Civilian Approaches
Urban Institute

The early childhood care industry could take a lesson from the armed forces, according to this report. After being plagued by criticism and abuse allegations years ago, the military vastly improved its child care system to the point where it’s clearly superior to typical civilian programs. In this comparison, the differences are attributed to strict standards for workers and sites, balanced by improved benefits and wages to back up the standards. 8 pages. Free online. Urban Institute, 2100 M St. NW, Washington, DC 20037. (202) 833-7200,

Physical (In)Activity Among Low-Income Children and Youth
After School Project

This report focuses on health problems associated with the decline in physical activity among youth, particularly those in poor families. The picture is grim for low-income city kids, says author Robert Halpern of the Erikson Institute for Advanced Study in Child Development. A lack of structured, indoor out-of-school time and physically active role models reduce the opportunities and enthusiasm for physical activity. Halpern merely touches the tip of the iceberg here, indicated by the laundry list of questions in his final section, “A Research Agenda.” 25 pages. Free. The After School Project, 180 W. 80th St., Second Fl., New York, NY 10024.

The First Time: Characteristics of Teens’ First Sexual Relationships
Child Trends

This study of the relationships that teens (12 to 18) have with sexual partners found that girls were more likely to report having had longer relationships with sexual partners than boys (6.3 months compared with 5.3 months). Eighty-five percent of teens felt that their first relationships were romantic. On the other hand, 24 percent of teens recalled verbal abuse in the relationships – name-calling, disrespect or insults – and 9 percent reported physical violence, with Hispanic teens more likely to experience physical violence than others. While a majority of teens said they discuss contraception with their partners before they have sex, more than one-fifth did not use contraception in their first sexual relationship. 8 pages. $5 (free online). Child Trends, 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008. (202) 572-6000,

Leave No Child Behind: Opportunities for Congress to Reach Disconnected Youth
Center for Law and Social Policy

This report evaluates six pieces of legislation up for reauthorization by Congress (the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and the Higher Education Act, to name two) and assesses how they affect “disconnected” and “at-risk” youth. More than 5 million youth between the ages of 16 and 24 are out of school and out of work, the report says, and the United States does not have a unified policy to help reintegrate this disconnected population.

The report warns that the nation’s reliance on poorly funded programs without a common mission will trigger a worker crisis complicated by a wage and skills gap. The report calls for a complete revision of federal programs to better ensure that youth enter adulthood educated, prepared for work and ready to integrate into adult society. 114 pages. Free online. Center for Law and Social Policy, 1015 15th St., Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005. (202) 906-8000,

New Hope for Families and Children: Five-Year Results of a Program to Reduce Poverty and Welfare

The New Hope Project was designed to help inner-city Milwaukee residents live above the poverty line. The project subsidized combinations of earnings, health insurance and child care for three years for residents of two Milwaukee areas. Candidates had to be over 18, work 30 hours per week and have a household income below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. The objective was to correct situations where welfare recipients were financially better off than those who left welfare for work.

Researchers noted slight improvements in the financial condition of adults, but some of the effects on their children are noteworthy. More New Hope children attended after-school programs than did youth in a control group. Children of the program participants also fared better on indicators measuring school achievements and positive behavior. 27 pages. Free online. MDRC, 16 E. 34th St., New York, NY 10016. (212) 532-3200,

Preserving Recent Progress on Health Coverage for Children and Families: New Tensions Emerge
Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

The report documents the difficulty of maintaining improvements in health coverage for low-income children while many states grapple with budget deficits and slumping economies. Connecticut, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey and Tennessee, for example, recently reduced access to health coverage for low-income parents. Some states vacillated in their progress toward simplifying enrollment and renewal procedures. Legislative measures in some states, such as Texas, Florida and Maryland, have implemented “reductions in eligibility, reinstatement of administrative obstacles to enrollment and renewal or enrollment freezes.” 81 pages. Free online. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2400 Sand Hill Rd., Menlo Park, CA 94025. (650) 854-9400, .

Police Sexual Abuse of Teenage Girls: A 2003 Update on “Driving While Female”
Police Professionalism Initiative

The report found that among cases of police sexually abusing teenage boys and girls in 2002, almost half of the victims actually worked with the force. Defining “teenager” as youth under 20 and “case” as any media coverage of one situation (it could be more than one officer or teenager), the study found 72 cases nationwide of police officer sexual abuse of teenage girls between 1997 and 2002. Of these cases, 32 involved the abuse of a member of the Boy Scouts Law Enforcement Explorers, which partners youth with police officers. 41 pages. Free online. University of Nebraska-Omaha, 6001 Dodge St., Omaha, NE 68182. (402) 554-3590,

Adolescent Drinking and Sex: Findings From a Daily Diary Study
Alan Guttmacher Institute

Drawing from the daily health diaries of 112 adolescents, this study challenges the view that alcohol precipitates sexual risk taking. Rates of condom use did not differ significantly between sexual events that stemmed from drinking and those that did not. Somewhat contradictory was the finding that condoms were more likely to be used in situations with casual partners, but were also more likely to be used when sex was expected. Seven pages. Free online. 120 Wall St., 21st Fl., New York, NY 10005. (212) 248-1111,

Big Media, Little Kids: Media Consolidation and Children’s Television Programming
Children Now

By comparing the availability and diversity of children’s programming in the Los Angeles market between 1998 and 2003, the authors found that the number of children’s series broadcasts was cut in half. The number of time slots in which children’s programming could be viewed also decreased, by one-third. Many large media companies, the study found, are “repurposing” children’s shows – putting the same show on different stations – rather than developing new programs for each station. The differences were attributed to media company consolidation, which the report says had a serious impact on the children’s programming offered in Los Angeles. The report calls on the Federal Communications Commission to consider the consequences of its recent regulatory reforms on ownership of broadcasting outlets. 16 pages. Free. Children Now, 1212 Broadway, Fifth Fl., Oakland, CA 94612. (510) 763-2444,

Expenditures on Children by Families, 2002
U.S. Department of Agriculture

This annual report estimates the average cost of raising children from birth to age 17. A family making less than $40,000, according to this report, will spend $127,080 raising a child, while a family making more than $67,000 will spend $254,400. The estimates are divided by major budgetary categories, including housing, food and clothing. The authors say these figures should be considered when calculating foster care and child support payments. 33 pages. Free online. USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, 3101 Park Center Dr., Room 1034, Alexandria, VA 22302. (703) 305-7600,

Derailed: The Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track
Advancement Project

Based on an analysis of school districts throughout the country, this report sets out to show that youth placed in the juvenile system are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to appear in court than are their peers. The report also examines the disproportionate application of zero-tolerance policies on children of color and says the uniformed officers and metal detectors that epitomize “secure environments” in schools contribute to low morale and distracting learning environments. 96 pages. Free online. Advancement Project, 1730 M St. NW, Suite 401, Washington, DC 20036. (202) 728-9557,