Report Roundup for March 2004

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The Impact of After-School Programs: Interpreting the Results of Four Recent Evaluations
William T. Grant Foundation

The report analyzes four evaluations of after-school programming nationwide, focusing on programs that included some academic component in communities with large numbers of disadvantaged youth. The authors found that, despite hope to the contrary, programs in those areas had little impact on reducing the number of children left alone after the school day. Increases in nonparental adult care were offset by overall declines in parental or sibling care, meaning that many of the youth who attended the programs would have been otherwise supervised after school anyway.

Compounding this, attendance at the programs was found by most evaluations to be sporadic. Although the TASC programs in New York City were an exception (youth averaged 3.9 days per week), participants in other programs averaged between one and two days. On a positive note, several of the evaluations consistently demonstrated connections between after-school participation and parental involvement, student engagement and commitment to homework. 33 pages. Free online. Promising Practices in Afterschool, 1825 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20009. (202) 884-8267,

Unlocking the Future: Detention Reform in the Juvenile Justice System
Coalition for Juvenile Justice

The coalition argues against expanding the capacity of secure detention centers for juveniles at a time when juvenile crime is at its lowest level in 20 years. The cost of building and expanding such facilities is about $100,000 to $150,000 per bed, the report says; an additional $36,487 a year per bed is needed for operating costs. Also, while detention centers are designed to hold youth temporarily before trial, statistics show that many stay for weeks or months.

With lower crime rates, the report authors argue, it is more sensible to explore cheaper and more lenient alternatives to secure detention. 84 pages. $10. Coalition for Juvenile Justice, 1710 Rhode Island Ave. NW, 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20036. (202) 467-0864,

Trying and Sentencing Juveniles as Adults: An Analysis of State Transfer and Blended Sentencing Laws
National Center for Juvenile Justice

The report lays out, as coherently as possible, the complex web of provisions that govern transfers between state juvenile and criminal justice systems. All states have some combination of judicial waivers (carrying various degrees of discretion), prosecutorial discretion and statutory exclusions (mandating that a juvenile be tried as an adult for certain crimes). The report also lists states that have blended sentences. 24 pages. National Center for Juvenile Justice, 710 Fifth Ave., Suite 3000, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. (412) 227-6950,

No Child Left Behind: A Federal- , State-, and District-Level Look At The First Year
The Civil Rights Project

After a year under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), ensuring state accountability to the federal government is proving to be difficult, this report says, adding that few students targeted by the act are taking advantage of its provisions.

Contrary to the government’s claim that all states were NCLB compliant, the authors say only 11 states had accountability plans fully approved by the U.S. Department of Education as of June 2003. The new federal standards also created a dual system of accountability, as illustrated by Virginia, where 40 percent of schools failed to meet federal standards, but only 22 percent missed the state accreditation criteria.

Meanwhile, provisions in NCLB designed to help students at failing schools were vastly underused. Of students eligible to transfer to better schools in the 10 districts studied, only 3 percent requested a move.

Demand for supplemental services funded by the act was also low. Fewer than 8 percent of eligible students requested supplemental services in all but two of the districts studied: Atlanta (16 percent) and New York City (12.5 percent). 202 pages. Free online. The Civil Rights Project, 125 Mount Auburn St., 3rd Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138. (617) 496-6367,

The Invisible Hand of No Child Left Behind

American Enterprise Institute

As schools began to comply with the controversial No Child Left Behind Act, companies prepared to compete for the business created by its supplemental service provisions. While tutoring groups such as Sylvan Education Solutions have begun to profit from the act, the tutoring industry as a whole has yet to fully market itself to NCLB students or to predict where and how many students will take advantage of the offer. 26 pages. Free online. American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1150 17th St. NW, Washington, DC 20036. (202) 862-5800,

Children, Families and Foster Care: Analysis and Recommendations
David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Drawing from a wide range of recent data, the study authors make 11 recommendations for improving a system that the general public knows little about, yet regards as unacceptably flawed. The recommendations generally fall under two themes: Make each state system a more coherent unit and tailor services better to specific entities. The authors also recommend more flexibility in provisions for federal money for services. 29 pages. Free online. David and Lucile Packard Foundation, 300 Second St., Suite 200, Los Altos, CA 94022. (650) 917-7110,

Foster Care: Voices from the Inside
Pew Commission on Foster Care
Addressing the less-monetary costs of foster care on the people most directly affected by the system, the commission covers six human costs: insecurity, poor communication, inflexibility, not securing timely help, professional burn-out and stigma. 34 pages. Free online. Pew Commission on Foster Care, 2233 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Suite 535, Washington, DC 20007. (202) 687-0948,

Explanations for the Decline in Child Sexual Abuse Cases
U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Researchers David Finkelhor and Lisa Jones assess six possible explanations for the staggering 40 percent drop in sexual abuse cases substantiated by child protective service (CPS) agencies between 1992 and 2000: an actual decline in abuse; increased conservatism within CPS; exclusion of cases that do not involve caretakers; changes in data collection processes; a decline in backlogged older cases; and a potential “backlash” because of fear of public scrutiny and liability. 12 pages. Free online. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 810 Seventh St. NW, Washington, DC 20531. (202) 307–5911,

Alcohol Dependence or Abuse Among Parents with Children Living in the Home
U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Of the 69 million parents with at least one child under 18 in their homes, 5 million had an alcohol abuse or dependency problem in 2002, the report says. More than 60 percent of parents with alcohol problems were men.

Alcohol abuse and dependency also correlated to other vices. Parents with alcohol problems were more likely to smoke (58 percent compared with 30 percent of those without an alcohol problem) and use illicit drugs (36 percent to 11 percent). 3 pages. Free online. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 5600 Fishers Lane, Room 12-105 Parklawn Building, Rockville, MD 20857. (301) 443-8956,

A Part of You So Deep: What Vulnerable Adolescents Have to Say About Spirituality

New England Network for Child, Youth and Family Services

The network put together a focus group of 58 youths (many of them formerly homeless) and a survey group of 91, to try to separate their perceptions of religion and spirituality in the youths’ lives.

The results indicate that many youth consider themselves spiritual, even if they do not identify strongly with any religion. While only 67 percent said they were at least somewhat religious, 86 percent said they were somewhat spiritual. (Respondents were allowed to interpret “spirituality” and “religion” for themselves.)

Asked whether they participated in certain “secular spiritual activities,” more than 30 percent said they practiced yoga, 50 percent did martial arts and more than 50 percent were involved with art. 45 pages. $12.95. New England Network for Child, Youth and Family Services, 156 College St., Suite 301, Burlington, VT 05401. (802) 658-9182,

Community-Based Public Foundations

National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy

The report relies on data from a 2002 national committee survey and provides a thorough analysis of the role, structure and function of community grant-making organizations. Among the findings: Such foundations are typically small in size (median of five staff members), small in regional scope and “tend not to shy away from controversial issues or political stances.” 41 pages. Free online. National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, 2001 S St. NW, Suite 620, Washington, DC 20009. (202) 387-9177,

Issues in Risk Assessment in Child Protective Services

North American Resource Center for Child Welfare

The white paper begins by outlining the pressing issues in risk assessment, which authors call the “cornerstone of case planning and case management.” Among them: a lack of agreement on the scope and purpose of risk assessment, and ethical and legal issues that have not been adequately addressed. The authors recommend ways to develop and improve risk assessment. 58 pages. Free online. North American Resource Center for Child Welfare, 1706 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215. (614) 252-0725,

Child Welfare: Improved Federal Oversight Could Assist States in Overcoming Key Challenges

U.S. General Accounting Office

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should make major strides in improving its governance of child welfare funding for states and its assistance to state systems, particularly through Titles IV-A and IV-B, the GAO says. While recently mandated reviews of state systems are improving the data available, the report authors say, HHS should take steps to help states identify ways to improve problems such as poor employee compensation and retention. 31 pages. Free online. U.S. General Accounting Office, 441 G St. NW, Room LM, Washington, DC 20548. (202) 512-6000,

Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth Wave 1: Three State Findings

Chapin Hall Center for Children

Older foster youth in the Midwest face significant and troubling challenges when they age out of foster care, this report says. Compared with a national sample of adolescents, the exiting foster youth are three times as likely to receive services for mental health and substance abuse problems. More than half cannot read at a 7th-grade level, and more than half of both males and females have been arrested. On the positive side, more than half the youth report maintaining connections with family members, particularly siblings. 61 pages. $5 for hard copy, free online. Chapin Hall Center for Children, University of Chicago, 1313 East 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637. (773) 753-5900,

More Research Needed to Put Marriage Policies on Track

National Center for Children in Poverty

As the marriage rate and the number of single-parent families continue to decline (while cohabitation rates increase), the center reviews research on marriage policies resulting from the 1996 federal welfare reform.

The research led the authors to conclude that more research is needed. Recent studies by the Urban Institute and Johns Hopkins University indicate that while children born to married parents exhibit more positive indicators, there is no conclusive evidence that youth living with parents entering marriage fare better than those in stable cohabiting or stable single households. However, research does show that nonmarital unions are more likely to experience economic problems. 6 pages. Free online. National Center for Children in Poverty, 215 W. 125th St., Third Floor, New York, NY 10027. (646) 284-9600,

Nationwide Child Care Survey

YMCA of the USA

The majority of the 800 Americans over 18 surveyed said that “lack of affordable quality child care continues to be a critical problem to communities across the country.” In looking at the YMCA itself, the study found that the agency is one of the “most trusted organizations when it comes to being an advocate for children and child care.” Free online. YMCA, 101 North Wacker Dr., Chicago, IL 60606. (800) 932-9622,