News Briefs: Archives 2011 & Earlier

Briefly…

Record-Setting Child Support – Before leaving town in January, outgoing U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala announced that state and federal child support enforcement programs had collected a record $18 billion last year, marking a 123 percent increase since 1992. HHS links the increase in part to the welfare reform law. Among other things, the law required states to “freeze and seize” money from delinquent parents’ accounts. But for some parents, money isn’t everything …

Parent Sells Rights to Her Child – The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments last month in a case in which parents traded child support forgiveness for custody revocation. Beth White agreed to forgive more than $15,000 of the $23,000 that her former husband, James Laingor, owed in child support on the condition that he give up parental rights to their two children. The parents would have pulled off the deal smoothly had one of their children not refused to be adopted by her mother’s new husband, leading to a disagreement between the parents over whether or not the child support forgiveness was still in effect. Beth White v. James Laingor may decide whether parents can sell custody rights to their children.

Online Health Insurance in California – Gov. Gray Davis recently announced that California is testing a system to let state residents enroll online in California’s Children’s Health Insurance Program. If the test succeeds, California would boast the nation’s first web-based public health insurance enrollment system. State officials say the application should take between 20 and 30 minutes to complete, and has been simplified from the paper-based applications.

Un-Cola Nuts at the USDA – The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report last month discouraging the use of soda and snack machines in schools, saying the proliferation of the machines deters kids from eating healthy. While more schools and youth centers are using vending machines as fundraising devices (the companies pay for the placement), the USDA wants the legal authority to standardize all food and beverage in schools, in addition to its role in setting lunch and breakfast nutrition requirements.

Sex Abuse Cases Plummet – The U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention said last month that substantiated child abuse cases fell 33 percent between 1992 and 1998. Researchers say the report, showing at least a 30 percent decline in 36 of the 47 states that reported data, indicates a change in one or more aspects of child abuse: a decline in actual incidences, a change in reporting behavior, and changes in programs within child protective services.

Child Passenger Laws Graded – The D.C.-based National Safe Kids Campaign’s comprehensive study on child passenger restraint laws flunked 24 states. The only A went to California. According to the report, car crashes are the number one cause of unintentional death among children under the age of 14.

Youth Offenders Sleep Under the Stars – Facing a severe overcrowding problem in their Central Juvenile Hall, San Bernardino County, Calif., will temporarily house 120 youth inmates in tents. The tents, similar to those used by the armed forces in the Persian Gulf War, feature air conditioning, heat and wood floors. According to Central Superintendent George Post, the tents are being used temporarily and will be replaced with permanent buildings within three years. The juvenile hall’s capacity is officially 277, but last year’s daily average was 537. Watchdogs pledge to watch. “We want to make sure the emphasis remains on rehabilitation,” said Elizabeth Schroeder of the ACLU.

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