News Briefs for March 2004

Print More

CEO Pay Rises As Staffs Shrink

Despite the financial woes of the recession, a new report says that while staff sizes at many nonprofits have declined in recent years, the average CEO compensation and overall budgets have increased.

The Alliance for Children and Families says a survey answered by 137 of its member organizations showed an average CEO salary of $103,015 in 2003, up 4.5 percent from 2002. Budgets rose by an average of more than 16 percent. During the same period, the number of full-time staff at the organizations dropped by 8 percent, according to the report, “Human Services Compensation in the United States.”

The alliance’s 300 members are nonprofit child- and family-serving agencies and economic empowerment organizations.

The number of contract employees – many of whom study author Tom Lengyel says are licensed counselors – dropped by 15 percent. Nearly one-quarter of respondents employed five or more contract employees.

Lengyel suggests that stiff competition for contract work may have helped reduce that number. The reduction in full-time employees, he says, might be connected to the 9 percent decline in residential capacity among the groups surveyed. (However, only 25 percent of the 137 respondents provide beds.)

The number of groups that actually increased CEO salaries while reducing the number of full-time employees was not available at press time.

Rick Cohen, executive director of the Washington-based National Center for Responsive Philanthropy, says service providers that reduce staff size often face a “quadruple-whammy: lower state funding, charitable funding and federal funding, and greater relative demand for services.”

“If there are layoffs of people delivering actual services, it’s hard to justify increases in CEO salaries … past the inflation rate,” he says.

Lengyel says the salary increase, which is 2.2 percentage points over last year’s inflation rate, is justifiable, based on the increased “demands placed on CEOs to raise money while maintaining the quality and extent of services provided by their organizations.”

He adds, however that “the simultaneous decline in the number of full-time staff almost certainly results” from reactions to the increased financial pressures described by Cohen, “and deserves further study.”

Contact: The Alliance for Children and Families. (414) 359-1074,

How to Measure A Youth Worker

A network of national nonprofits has created a set of 10 standards to help determine the overall competence of youth workers.

The standards, released last month by the D.C.-based National Collaboration for Youth, were compiled by choosing qualities identified in hiring and evaluation data contributed by nonprofits and universities.

“These are the 10 things we all think need to be present in a competent youth worker,” says Irv Katz, president of the collaboration’s parent organization, the National Assembly of Health and Human Service Organizations.

The collaboration says the following standards “are needed by entry-level youth development workers,” both volunteer and professional:

• Understands and applies basic child and adolescent development principles.
• Communicates and develops positive relationships with youth.
• Adapts, facilitates and evaluates age-appropriate activities with and for the group.
• Respects and honors cultural and human diversity.
• Involves and empowers youth.
• Identifies potential risk factors (in a program environment) and takes measures to reduce those risks.
• Cares for, involves and works with families and community.
• Works as part of a team and shows professionalism.
• Demonstrates the attributes and qualities of a positive role model.
• Interacts with and relates to youth in ways that support asset-building.

Each standard is supported by examples.

The goals of the standards are two-fold, says Katz: “First, to professionalize the field of youth work, so organizations can be assured the competency is there. Also, to get youth workers to begin seeing the field as a career.”

Katz agrees that many of the listed qualities would be difficult to use as hiring criteria, before a youth worker can actually display his or her abilities. But he said all of them can be used as a baseline for training and evaluation.

Although the network represents the interests of 40 national nonprofit organizations, one standard might be impossible to follow for one of its largest members, the Boy Scouts of America. Standard 4 suggests that workers have “respect for those of different ... sexual orientation.” The Boy Scouts, of course, forbid homosexuals from serving as Scout leaders.

The standards were developed as part of the Youth Development Learning Network, a partnership between the National Assembly and the Lilly Endowment. The report is available at:

Contact: NCY (202) 347-2080.

For Detained Youth, Horrors in California

The infamous California Youth Authority (CYA) has again been exposed as a virtual torture chamber for convicted youth, but this time advocates for kids believe the situation will improve.

That’s because of scathing reports that say detained juveniles are routinely locked in cages, are overmedicated and actually come out in worse mental health than when they went in. State officials have vowed to make changes at CYA facilities, and change actually seems likely, as the reports were produced for the state attorney general because of a lawsuit against the state.

“I expect to get a consent decree out of this in the near future,” said Donald Specter, an attorney for the Prison Law Office, a nonprofit that is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Reports about horrible conditions in juvenile detention are nothing new. But juvenile justice experts such as John O’Toole, director of the Oakland-based National Center for Youth Law, expect these reports to show the value of litigation in forcing reforms.

The CYA holds about 4,400 young people up to age 25 who have been sentenced for serious and violent crimes.

The lawsuit (Farrell v. Harper) prompted the attorney general to ask several national experts to investigate conditions and produce a series of reports, which have been released in stages since last year. Among the findings:

During classes and counseling sessions, youths are often kept in small cages, so that they were isolated from one another and the staff; the “wards live in constant fear of physical and sexual violence from CYA staff and other wards”; and “The vast majority of youths who have mental health needs are made worse instead of improved by the correctional environment.”

CYA officials have called the findings “substantially correct” and promised changes, as have the attorney general and several state legislators. “They’re abolishing the use of the cages,” Specter says.

He says he and attorneys for the state are on the verge of an agreement to settle the lawsuit. He expects a wide range of stipulations for improving conditions.

Those stipulations will include better staff training and the hiring of more staff, Specter says. “I don’t think they’re trained properly or enough,” he says. The training would include use of de-escalation techniques with youth who are acting up.

While Specter says some CYA staff members are “obviously malicious,” he recalls that when he toured CYA facilities a couple of years ago, “I was struck by how many of the staff wanted help. … They went into this not for punitive reasons, but to help kids. …

“They just haven’t been given the resources, the training, the administrative structure or the staffing that’s needed.”

“There’s a long way to go,” but improvements are on the way, predicts O’Toole of the youth law center. “The CYA has been a horrible place for a very long time.”

Contact: California Youth Authority (916) 262-1473,; Prison Law Office (415) 457-9144,


Teen Pregnancy Down: The national teenage pregnancy rate dropped 2 percent from 1999 to 2000, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute. The rate has dropped 28 percent since 1990, the institute says, while abortion rates for 15- to 19-year-olds dropped 45 percent during the same period. Various researchers and advocates credit both safer sex practices and sexual abstinence for the continuing decline.

Sex Offender Law Tossed: A federal judge threw out Iowa’s law requiring sex offenders to live no closer than 2,000 feet to a school or child-care facility. The law was challenged by the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, which said it infringed on the offenders’ constitutional rights.

Foster Child Shuffling: Acting on concerns about foster children being moved too often, U.S. District Court Judge John Grady has ordered Illinois to stop placing more than three unrelated children in one home. A state study found that foster children were more likely to be moved if they were living in a “crowded” foster home.

Warning on Anti-depressants Urged: A scientific advisory panel at the National Institute of Mental Health urged the Food and Drug Administration to issue stronger warnings about possible links between the use of anti-depressants by children and suicidal thinking and behavior. Dr. Matthew Rudorfer, chairman of the advisory panel, said doctors should continue to prescribe such medications, but understand the warning signs of harmful effects. The FDA launched a safety review of clinical use of the drugs last month.

Child Welfare Overhaul: New Jersey officials presented a plan last month to revamp the state’s child welfare system, which has been beleaguered by a series of highly publicized abuse cases. The plan includes hiring 1,000 more child-care workers, creating a child-abuse investigation team, increasing subsidies to foster families by 25 percent and increasing compensation for kinship care.

Youth Voting: A group of national organizations, including MTV Choose or Lose, Hip Hop Summit Action Network and World Wrestling Entertainment, released a national voter issues paper for youth last month. The paper includes questions for candidates on Iraq and national security, education, motivation and vision, and the economy. For a copy of “The 18-to-30 Year Olds’ Voter Issues Paper: Questions Every Candidate Should Answer to Win 20 Million Votes in 2004,” go to:

Scout Scam: Anthony Herman and Sally Ann Gombocz of Bethlehem, Pa., admitted dressing their 7-year-old son in a Cub Scout uniform to scam people out of money. The parents and the boy knocked on more than 150 doors to collect nearly $700, allegedly for personal profit.

Juvenile Executions: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on the constitutionality of executing people for crimes committed when they were juveniles. The case, Roper v. Simmons, involves Christopher Simmons, who murdered a woman in 1993, when he was 17. Missouri set aside his death sentence, and prosecutors are appealing. The case seeks to build on the argument in 2002 that persuaded the high court to ban executions of the mentally retarded. The court upheld juvenile executions in a 1989 case.

Convicted Juvenile Free: Lionel Tate, the Florida boy sentenced to life two years ago for killing his 6-year-old playmate when he was 12, is no longer locked up. After a Florida appeals court overturned Tate’s first conviction on the grounds that the state should have held a competency hearing before his trial, Tate pleaded guilty rather than go through another trial. He received credit for his three years served, a year of house arrest and psychological counseling.