A Thanksgiving Reflection: How Advocacy Can Make a Difference

Early this week, I was having Thanksgiving dinner with my fiancée. She is on her way home for the holiday, and I am staying in Georgia to work on my final paper for school and take care of a few other tasks, so we shared the meal a few days early. Before we began to eat, we took a few moments to talk about what we have been grateful for this past year. It was a pretty long list for both of us, and touched on our relationships, our work, good health, and many other things. It seems that gratitude has been coming up a lot in my life lately, in discussions with friends and online.

Boy Scout Confidential Files Reveal Patterns of Abuse

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has come under fire as its “Confidential Files” – a blacklist of adults banned from scouting for sexual abuse or molestation — have come to light. The files, submitted as evidence in lawsuits under court order, show the BSA banned about 5,000 people from 1947 through 2004. Sexual abuse scandals within other youth-service oriented programs show similar patterns of behavior, including workers dismissing victims, hiding abuse from the public, putting too much faith in adult colleagues and organizations failing to educate staff about abuse. As the problem becomes more public because of scandals such as the Penn State and Catholic Church child sexual-abuse scandals, it has become more apparent that these patterns of behavior are similar among those who mishandle the problem. For the full story via Youth Today, click here.

Kennesaw State University Awards Ruth Ann Harnisch An Honorary Doctorate

Kennesaw State University awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Ruth Ann Harnisch, a philanthropist whose foundation has supported cutting-edge approaches to gathering and disseminating news. The honorary doctorate ─ the 14th awarded in Kennesaw State’s 49-year history ─ was bestowed today during the university’s commencement ceremony for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Harnisch, a former journalist with more than 30 years of experience in print and broadcasting, is president of the New York-based Harnisch Foundation, which in 2009 awarded $1.5 million to establish the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State. “Kennesaw State University is pleased to award this honorary doctorate to Ms. Harnisch,” said Kennesaw State President Daniel S. Papp.  “In so doing, we are recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of an exceptional person, known nationally as a philanthropist who truly has made a difference, as well as a ground-breaking journalist.”

A self-described “recovering journalist” and “donor activist,” Harnisch is a proponent of creative philanthropy that produces sustainable social change.

Center for Sustainable Journalism is Now Home to Youth Today

The Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University will begin publishing Youth Today, the nationally distributed newspaper that is read online and in print by thousands of professionals in the youth services field.  “Having Youth Today housed at Kennesaw State University is a perfect fit,” said Ken Harmon, KSU provost. “We have undergraduate and advanced degree programs in compatible areas, including journalism, social work, criminology, conflict management, educational leadership and other health and human sciences, all of which can provide best practice training and research to advance the Youth Today mission.”

Leonard Witt, executive director of the Center for Sustainable Journalism, said the addition of Youth Today to the center’s publishing portfolio is an excellent extension of the work it does. “We now publish the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, JJIE.org, the only entity to cover juvenile justice every day with professional journalists, so this is a natural addition to the work we do,” Witt said. “We will be able to get Youth Today back to its full potential, while expanding the JJIE.org reach at the same time.”

Financial challenges almost led to the demise of the subscription-based newspaper that covers a wide range of issues including juvenile justice, foster care, mentoring, substance abuse, sexual behavior, after school programs, mentoring, youth employment, child welfare, college and careers, gangs, violence prevention, adolescent health, teen pregnancy and parenting.

States Respond to Budget Shortfalls with Hodgepodge of Juvenile Justice Cuts

Around the nation, states continue to grapple with the reality of budget shortfalls with a hodgepodge of cuts to various programs, including juvenile justice.

North Carolina’s Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is being forced to cut spending by 10 percent while eliminating roughly 275 positions, a 15 percent decrease in work force, under the new FY 2012 budget.

Also gone are 75 beds from the state’s seven youth development centers, raising concerns that serious offenders may end up back on the streets to make room for new juveniles entering the facilities.

Alabama’s Department of Child Abuse & Neglect Prevention has a FY 2012 General Fund roughly half that of FY 2011. The department saw a 74 percent drop in state funding and significant cuts from the federal-level.

U.S. House of Representatives

House Approps May Gut Spending on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act

The House subcommittee that oversees Justice Department funding produced an appropriations bill this week that would slash activities authorized by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act in 2012. The draft bill, marked up by the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and State (CJS), would not fund demonstration grants, Juvenile Accountability Block Grants (JABG) or Title V Local Delinquency Prevention Grants. In 2010, the last year Congress actually passed an appropriations package, those three streams totaled $231 million. The bill would also drop state formula grants – given to states on the condition that they adhere to basic standards in regard to the detainment of juveniles, and address racial disparities in the system – from $75 million in 2010 to $40 million. The full appropriations committee will vote on the proposed funding levels for Justice on Wednesday, July 13, according to a memo published by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice on its website.

Obama Budget Calls for Cuts in Juvenile Justice Programs and Revamps Funding Formulas for States

Juvenile Justice Programs across the nation could face $50 million in cuts outlined in the White House budget proposal.   The Obama budget calls for “tough choices,” including a revamp of the way states must qualify for funding, based on how well they meet federal standards. Title II formula grants would come out of a $120 million fund called the Juvenile Justice System Incentive Grants.  States would have to compete for rewards, based on how well they use evidence-based strategies, diversion programs and whether they reduce disproportionate minority contact (DMC). Youth Today digs into this new concept and how it might work. The President’s budget is a mix of cuts paired with some increases that could affect communities in different ways, according to thecrimereport.org. On the plus side, the Justice Department may get a 2% increase over all, including more money for the FBI, and $600 million for communities to hire first responder police officers.

Leonard Witt

Thanks 9,000 JJIE.org Visitors, We Will Make a Difference

I love to give you updates because they are so positive. Today the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, JJIE.org, broke the 9,000 unique visitor per month mark and we have had more than 20,000 page views for the month. Each weekday nearly 500 visitors come to the site with more than 800 page views. Of those, about 40 percent are coming from Georgia. Remember we are a small niche news operation, but this rapid growth in numbers tells me we are on to something important.

Federal Funds Available to Help Foster Kids

The federal government is now pushing states to take part in two foster care programs that support guardianship placements and the extension of foster care up to age 21. The two programs are part of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which was passed in 2009 and allows for federal IV-E funds to be more freely used, according to Youth Today. According to the Act, teens will be eligible for these funds if they continue their education or get a job among other things. As JJIE.org reported last month, more than 700 fostered teens in Georgia turn 18 this year and face an uncertain future, and a quarter of young people who age out become homeless within two years. But Georgia has apparently not applied for the money that might help them.