Improving Family Foster Care: Findings From the Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study
Casey Family Programs, et al.
Only about 20 percent of adults formerly in foster care can be described as “doing well” on mental health, education and economic measures, says this comprehensive study of foster care alumni from public and private child welfare agencies in Washington and Oregon.
Researchers found post-traumatic stress disorder in 25 percent of foster care alumni, a rate that is twice as high as that for American war veterans. One-third of the alumni had incomes at or below the poverty level, one-third had no health insurance, and nearly one-quarter had experienced homelessness after leaving foster care. Completion rates for post-secondary education were 16 percent for vocational degrees, and 2 percent for bachelor’s degrees.
Statistical simulations based on the data collected in the study allowed researchers to determine that optimizing specific foster care experiences, such as placement history, education services and resources upon leaving care, would result in 22 percent fewer negative outcomes for alumni. Free online. 68 pages. (206) 282-7300, www.casey.org/NR/rdonlyres/4E1E7C77-7624-4260-A253-892C5A6CB9E1/300/nw_alumni_study_full_apr2005.pdf.
Restoring the Balance Between Academics and Civic Engagement in Public Schools
American Youth Policy Forum(AYPF)/Association for Supervision and Curriculum
AYPF suggests that the national focus on achievement in core academic subjects has overshadowed an equally important role of public education: preparing students to be engaged and effective citizens. The study’s author cites low voter turnout among 18- to 25-year-olds, decreasing political volunteerism and a lack of profiency on national education assessments that measure students’ knowledge of civics and United States history.
The report provides a seven-step action plan to help schools refocus on the dual goal of creating students who are both academically proficient and civically engaged. It highlights several programs and school reform models, including the First Amendment Schools project and the Microsociety model, that blend engaged learning with opportunities to practice democracy. Free online. 64 pages. (202) 775-9731, www.aypf.org/pdf/Restoring%20the%20Balance%20Report.pdf.
One-Third of a Nation: Rising Dropout Rates and Declining Opportunities
Educational Testing Service (ETS)
ETS warns that little is being done to address rising school dropout rates and the low earnings of dropouts in the job market. This report points to the decline in federal investment for “second-chance” educational oportunities (from about $15 billion in the late 1970s to about $3 billion today) and the dearth of guidance counselors in schools as possible causes.
The study notes that, from 1990 to 2000, the high school completion rate in the United States declined in all but seven states. In 10 states, it declined by 8 percentage points or more. The national average high school completion rate in 2000 was 86.5 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, placing it 10th in the world.
On average, only one certified counselor is available for every 285 students in high schools, leaving counselors little time to spend with students at risk of dropping out, the author writes. According to the study, while male dropouts working full time in 1971 earned $35,087 in 2002 dollars, the same men earned $23,903 in 2002 – a 35 percent decline. Free online. 48 pages. (609) 734-5641, www.ets.org/research/pic/onethird.pdf.
OJJDP Annual Report: 2003-2004
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)
The report highlights OJJDP’s activities during fiscal 2003 and 2004. Priority areas addressed during this period included child sexual exploitation, female delinquency, gangs and truancy. The report also summarizes the latest information available on juveniles taken into custody. Free online. 66 pages. (202) 307–5911, www.ncjrs.org/pdffiles1/ojjdp/206630.pdf.
Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates: 2004 Preview
The Foundation Center
The center says that financial giving by the more than 66,000 grant-making foundations in the United States increased to a record $32.4 billion in 2004, reversing two years of modest declines. The center credits the increase to the stock market recovery and higher levels of new gifts to existing foundations in 2003.
The number of grants awarded in 2004 also increased, according to the study. Nearly one-third of foundations that responded to the center’s 2005 Giving Forecast Survey reported awarding more grants in 2004 than in the previous year, which is up from approximately 20 percent of respondents in 2003. The number of multi year grants and the proportion of capital grants awarded in 2004 increased only slightly.
While a majority of respondents indicated that their giving would increase in 2005, one-quarter said they would reduce giving – a significant increase over the 18 percent who had expected to reduce giving the previous year. Overall, the center predicts that growth in giving this year will fall below the nearly 7 percent growth rate recorded in 2004. Free online. 19 pages. (212) 807-2415, http://fdncenter.org/research/trends_analysis/pdf/fgge05.pdf.
Rating the Raters: An Assessment of Organizations and Publications That Rate/Rank Charitable Nonprofit Organizations and Publications
National Council of Nonprofit Assocations/National Human Services Assembly (NHSA)
Organizations that act as “watchdogs” and publish rankings of charitable nonprofit organizations tend to focus on financial measures rather than program results, says this report.
The study assessed the rating and ranking criteria used by national groups, such as Charity Navigator and the Chronicle of Philanthropy, that focus on wide variety of charities. Among its findings: Approaches, criteria, data sources and levels of due diligence vary significantly; evaluation criteria may be oversimplistic, or not readily apparent to donors; and ratings may be used to drive revenues (in the form of memberhips or subscriptions) for the evaluators.
Although such groups seek to help donors make responsible choices, there is great potential for the ratings to be misinterpreted and misused by the media and the public, say the study’s authors. “It is not sufficient to know what percentage an agency spends on overhead or how much money it raises, but not how well it is managed or how effectively it delivers services,” NHSA CEO Irv Katz said in a statement that accompanied the report. Free online. 34 pages. (202) 347-2080, ext 16, www.nassembly.org/nassembly/documents/Rating_the_Raters_Final_3%20.pdf.
When Schools Stay Open Late: The National Evaluation of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program Final Report
U.S. Department of Education/Mathematica
The third and final report from the national evaluation of the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CLC) program again reveals mixed results for elementary and middle school students.
The centers, which received $1 billion in federal funding in 2004, serve more than 2 million students in more than 7,000 public schools. To coincide with the Department of Education’s “Safe and Smart” theme for the program, the most important objectives for 21st Century program directors are to provide a safe environment after school and to help students improve academically.
The study indicates that while elementary school participants felt safer than students not enrolled in CLC programs, middle schoolers felt no safer than those not in the programs. Partcipants in both age groups were more likely to exhibit negative behaviors during the school day. Researchers did identify some gains in English grades for low-performing elementary students. The program had no impact on parental involvement in school for either age group.
The analysis found no difference between participants and nonparticipants in rates of homework assistance or completion. However, students in the programs were more likely than others to be with adults who were not their parents or with older siblings after school.
“The rigorous methods used in this national evaluation show that these programs have had small or no effects on self-care, academic performance, and young people’s feelings of safety,” wrote Mark Dynarski, a senior fellow and director of the study at Mathematica Policy Research. Free online. 130 pages. (609) 275-2397 (Mathematica), www.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/other/cclcfinalreport/cclcfinal.pdf.
See “Evaluation Spotlight,” to read researcher Robert Halpern’s views on appropriate expectations for after-school programs.
The What If? Project: What If Teen Birth Rates in Each State Had Not Declined Between 1991 and 2002?
National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
If the nation’s teen birth rate had not declined by 30 percent from 1991 to 2002, another 400,000 children would have been living in poverty and 428,000 more would have been living with a single mother than actually did so in 2002, according to this state-by-state analysis. The campaign says those additional children would have increased the national percentage of children living in poverty by more than 8 percent.
State declines in teen births ranged from 13 percent to 44 percent from 1991 to 2002. If the rates had not dropped, the researchers say, 1.2 million more children would have been born to teen mothers. The 10 states that experienced the largest improvements in child poverty as a result of declining teen birth rates are Connecticut, Vermont, Maryland, Michigan, Maine, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Ohio, California and Massachusetts.
The United States still has the highest rate of teen pregnancy among industrialized Western nations. One in three American girls becomes pregnant by age 20, the campaign says. Available online. (202) 478-8510, www.teenpregnancy.org/whycare/whatif.asp.
Family Matters: Substance Abuse and the American Family
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University
Half of the nation’s children, or more than 35 millon youth, are at greater risk of substance abuse and physical and mental illness because they live with parents who use illegal drugs, abuse alcohol or use tobacco, according to this white paper.
CASA reports that 13 percent of children under age 18 live in a household where a parent or other adult uses illicit drugs. Nearly one-quarter live with a binge or heavy drinker, and 37 percent live with a smoker.
The paper says alcohol and drug-abusing parents are three times more likely to abuse their children and four times more likely to neglect them as parents who do not abuse these substances. The children of such parents are also at increased risk for accidents, injuries and academic failure, and more likely to suffer conduct disorders, depression or anxiety – conditions that increase the risk that they will smoke, drink or use drugs. Free online. 88 pages. (212) 841-5200, www.casacolumbia.org/Absolutenm/articlefiles/380-family_matters_report.pdf.
Inhalant Use and Delinquent Behaviors among Young Adolescents
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Adminstration (SAMHSA)
Twelve- and 13-year-olds who reported using inhalants were more than twice as likely as other youth to have been in a serious fight at school during the past year and six times more likely to have stolen or tried to steal something worth more than $50, according to combined data from SAMHSA’s 2002 and 2003 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.
Nearly 9 percent of the more than 700,000 twelve- and 13-year-olds surveyed said they had ever used an inhalant. About 35 percent of those had also used another illicit drug, compared with 7.5 percent of youths ages 12 or 13 who had never used inhalants.
Data from the 2003 national survey revealed that in the year before the survey, more 12- and 13-year-olds reported using inhalants than using marijuana. Free online. 3 pages. (240) 276-2127, http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k5/inhale/inhale.pdf.