Archive for Parenting

Susan Madden Lankford talks about Born, Not Raised on KPBS

Yesterday our own Susan Madden Lankford was a guest on KPBS, both TV and radio! Here is the video of the televised portion of proceedings. (a link to the 17 minute audio interview on KPBS radio appears after the video.)

For a much more in depth interview check out the one she did for KPBS radio that same day -‘Born, Not Raised’ Explores The Links Between Development And Juvenile Crime

Faces of Justice: An Interview with Judge Irene Sullivan

JudgeSullivanJudge Irene Sullivan is a well known figure in Florida and nationally when it comes to the subject of juvenile justice. A retired judge she is currently an adjunct professor at Stetson University College of Law and has been the juvenile track leader for circuit judge’s education.

For more information about Judge Sullivan please see her full bio at the end of this interview. The number of task forces she is on is truly stunning! But now, on with the interview!

HE: What drew you to working with juvenile justice in the beginning? Was it the focus of your work as a trial lawyer or was it something that began after you attained the judiciary?

IS: I’d never done any juvenile or criminal work as a trial lawyer.  When elected to the bench in 1998, I was assigned to family law, i.e. divorces, domestic violence, etc. After three years, I was asked to move to our newly-created Unified Family Court, where I would serve as a juvenile judge handling both dependency (child abuse, abandonment, neglect) cases and delinquency, as well as related family law matters of the parents or guardians of the kids who appeared before us. It was an experimental court and I jumped at the opportunity to serve in a “one family, one judge” model, which I did for nine years. I enjoyed the kids the most, even the delinquent ones!

HE: Would you be kind enough to tell us a bit about your visit to Umatilla Academy for Girls and how it influenced your stance and actions since then?

IS: Umatilla Academy for Girls was a residential program for high risk girls located in a former children’s hospital in a small central Florida town. Not long after becoming a juvenile judge, I visited the program as three of the girls from our circuit had been sentenced there. I actually wept when I saw the atrocious conditions of the place: dirty walls, dirty sacks for clothing, terrible food, no exercise, girls running wild, screaming inside, and no doors on the toilets or curtains on the showers, despite the presence of male guards. It was awful, and after my findings were confirmed, it was shut down. That experience taught me that kids deserve kind and nurturing treatment everywhere, even when committed, and that people will listen to make that happen.

HE: One hundred years ago the first juvenile courts were created in Chicago, Illinois. Today we find a system in shambles and the effectiveness that was once an example for the rest of the world seems long lost. What factors do you believe brought us from there to here?

IS: Hopefully, we’re slowly returning to more of the old Chicago court juvenile model. For the last 25 years, kids have been treated like adults; we’ve lost focus on prevention, diversion and rehabilitation; legislators run on “tough on crime” platforms that include kids, and public schools have turned into places where a kid first gets arrested. It’s beginning to turn around, especially in states like Florida under the enlightened and inspired leadership of Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters.

HE: Let’s talk a bit about Evanston High School. Last May you wrote a column for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange in which you levied high praise on their approach and it’s effectiveness. Now that you’ve had half a year to process the experience would you share a bit about it with our readers?

IS: At Evanston High School just north of Chicago, I became part of a “peace circle” of students, teachers and counselors who shared their deepest fears and desires, and then promoted restorative justice as a better way to deal with school-based infractions.  I learned that a “peer jury” could deliver more appropriate sanctions than the court system, for example, having the disruptive student not only apologize to the teacher but show up early for a month to help her organize her classroom, and not have a criminal record. It’s a wonderful program and should be replicated nationwide.

HE: What would you point out as exemplary programs for dealing with juvenile offenders both in Florida and nation- wide? To what do you attribute their success?

IS: Florida is know for its progressive, humane and nurturing girls programming, in and out of residential care, due to the efforts of Dr. Lawanda Ravoira, with the National Center for Girls headquartered in Jacksonville, and Pace Center for Girls, which has 17 alternative schools throughout the state where counseling, education, therapy and mentoring is delivered in a very therapeutic way to at risk girls who have histories of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Other evidence-based programs throughout the country, such as those run by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have revolutionized detention care and juvenile drug treatment. As more dollars are put into prevention and diversion, we are starting to see juvenile jails being closed or consolidated.

HE: What do you espouse as the best means of combating recidivism among juvenile offenders?

IS: Recidivism is a big problem in the re-entry of teenage boys from residential programs back into the community. The best way to reduce it is through a re-entry program designed by Parenting with Love and Limits (PLL),created by Dr. Scott Sells, that brings the family and family counseling into the residential program from the time the juvenile is first committed, and follows the juvenile and family after re-entry into the community, to provide aftercare and prevent recidivism. The PLL program not only works to reduce recidivism, it shortens the length of residential stay as it is based on an “earned release” philosophy.  You can’t fix the kid until you fix the family, and that’s what PLL does.

HE: Much like our own Susan Lankford, you also utilize a lot of personal narrative in your book, Raised By The Courts. Did you collect all those stories yourself or were you assisted by other interviewers? How did those interviews change your own perspective on the issue?

IS: The stories in my book, Raised by the Courts: One Judge’s Insight into Juvenile Justice, are all true stories of the kids who appeared before me. Only the names have been changed. I began collecting these stories almost from “day one” on the juvenile bench, when I realized how complicated the lives of these kids were, how much chaos and violence they were exposed to daily, not only on the street but in the home.

HE: What would you say are the three most important things you have learned from your years dealing with these issues from the bench?

IS: The three most important things I learned, out of many, are that kids are not born bad; all kids need love, nurturing and, most important, hope, in their lives, and that a single caring adult can make a big difference in the life of the most hardened child.

HE: Every day it seems like technology progresses by leaps and bounds. What online tools do you think could improve our engagement with at risk youth, or allow us to serve them in a more efficient and cost effective fashion?

IS: I’m not the most computer literate person, that’s for sure, but I think that the internet, laptops, appropriate use of social media, can bring to many at risk kids the sense of connection and hope for the future that is lacking in traditional education and upbringing. I’m optimistic about it, despite the dangers of “sexting,” etc.

HE: Internet rumors are floating around about a new book as a follow up to Raised By The Courts. Is there any substance to them, and if so is there a timeline for publication yet?

IS: Yes, if I can discipline myself to finish it, I have a biography of one of the most abused and mistreated young men in my book in the works, as well as a fictional series based on juvenile court. Sort of like:  Law and Order in Juvenile Court!!!  Thanks for asking.

HE: Thank you for joining us Judge Sullivan, keep up the good work!

About Irene Sullivan: Judge Sullivan served as a juvenile and family court judge from 1999-2011 in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area of Florida. Prior to that, she was a general partner at Harris, Barrett, Mann & Dew, L.L.P. in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she had a civil trial practice for 22 years and became an A-V rated trial lawyer.

She obtained a Juris Doctorate degree from Stetson University College of Law, cum laude, and a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, with honors, from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, in Evanston, Ill.

Judge Sullivan received the following awards:  The Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, Inc. Outstanding Community Partner Award; Clearwater and St. Petersburg Bar Associations’ Annual Judicial Appreciation Award; Stetson University College of Law Ben C. Willard Distinguished Alumni Award; Guardian ad Litem Community Advocate Award; Florida Association of School Social Workers’ Diamond Award; Salvation Army’s Children’s Justice Award; Pinellas Enrichment Through Mental Health Services (PEMHS) P.A.C.E. Award; Family Resource’s Family Advocate Award; Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) Domestic Violence Champion Sponsor Award.

She has presented at many conferences and seminars involving juvenile crime, the importance of prevention and diversion, truancy, domestic violence and mental health issues for juveniles. In February, 2011, she was a keynote speaker at the Adolescent Conference sponsored by the Florida Juvenile Justice Association and the Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association, where every registrant received a copy of her book, Raised by the Courts: One Judge’s Insight into Juvenile Justice, released by Kaplan Publishing Co. in November, 2010.

She currently sits on the following boards or task forces: The American Bar Association’s Commission on Youth At Risk; The Ounce of Prevention of Florida, Inc., PACE for girls, state and local; The Pinellas Community Foundation, The InterCultural Advocacy Institute; Florida Disproportionate Minority Contact Task Force; Blueprint Commission to Reform Juvenile Justice, and the Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network at Barry University Law School, funded by the MacArthur Foundation. She’s an adjunct professor at Stetson University College of Law and has been the juvenile track leader for circuit judge’s education.

Born, Not Raised – The First Review on Publisher’s Weekly

bornnotraisedAs you are probably aware Humane Exposures will be releasing it’s most recent book in the next few months. Today we are pleased to announce that Born Not Raised: Voices From Juvenile Hall has garnered it’s first review from none other than Publisher’s Weekly!

Disputing the notion that delinquents are beyond repair, Lankford argues that most inmates can transform their traumatic histories into productive maturity if sustained by just one “good enough” adult. Questionnaires and interpretations of artwork, published in the inmates’ raw penmanship, convey nuanced perspectives of dreary inevitability, level-headed insightfulness, and hope. Lankford’s earnestness is on display in her humanizing conversations with a handful of girls, including the game-talking yet vulnerable Hui and the unguarded Sands.

Look for more announcements about the third volume in our award winning social justice trilogy!

Juvenile Justice Matters on Blog Talk Radio

Let’s start the new year off with a great resource that I just discovered.

Juvenile Justice Matters is an online radio program produced by the Campaign for Youth Justice. The CYJ is a national organization dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system, a cause we whole-heartedly support. This radio show features experts, young people, and parents discussing juvenile justice issues.

As we strive to move forward on this issue one of our best resources is information. This show is not only a rich source of pertinent info, but it is also fantastic for bringing a multiplicity of perspectives to the table. Here are a few sample shows for you to try out, if you enjoy them share them with your friends. After all, the more of us have good data at hand the easier time we will have in trying to implement effective programs.

Let’s beging with an interview with New Orleans Judge David Bell discuss juvenile justice reform  and a model that other judges should consider when sentencing kids.

Listen to internet radio with JJ Matters on Blog Talk Radio

Another great example of their work is a discussion with Michael Kemp, a formerly incarcerated youth from the Washington, D.C. area. Michael is determined to turn his life around and break the vicious cycle of returning to prison. Michael was charged as an adult at the age of 17, but first ran into the system at 12.

Listen to internet radio with JJ Matters on Blog Talk Radio

Go browse through their old shows, they only seem to produce about one show a month but it’s well worth the wait.

Do you know of other online resources that we have not touched on as yet? If so please share them with us in the comments!

Inappropriate talk on daytime TV for teens, children and young adults.

HUMANE EXPOSURES explores the quality of daytime TV for young mothers with children at home, or for children and teens coming home from school and turning on TV as they have a break between school and homework. Or are all kids in afternoon sports?

The Doctors, CBS daytime one-hour show, had topics about “mental orgasm,” “vaginal discharge,” “swamp butt,” “anal sex,” “going gray down there,” and other embarrassing, personal, female issues that children and teenagers coming home from school, grabbing a snack and turning on the tube, do not need to see, hear about, become aware of, or add to other inappropriate viewing on daytime TV.  Is this valued information for young mothers to view? Is this what we want young mothers and their mothers to talk about as critical issues of today? This show airs in San Diego from 4:00-5:00 p.m. opposite Oprah.

HUMANE EXPOSURES is interested in your thoughts.

States Get Graded on Treatment of Pregnant Inmates

Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing TimeA  report card that examines the treatment of mothers and pregnant women in prison has been issued recently, and several states are none too happy about the grades they’ve received. (California scored a cumulative “C-” in case you are curious.)

Here is a link to the PDF version of the report, which was issued by the National Women’s Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights: “Mothers Behind Bars: A State-by-State Report Card and Analysis of Federal Policies on Conditions of Confinement for Pregnant and Parenting Women and the Effect on Their Children.”

For those of you short on time, here is an excerpt from the Executive Summary:

There are now more women behind bars than at any other point in U.S. history. Women have borne a disproportionate burden of the war on drugs, resulting in a monumental increase of women who are facing incarceration for the first time, overwhelmingly for non-violent offenses. This rampant incarceration has devastating impact on families. Most of these women, unseen and largely forgotten, are mothers. Unfortunately, pregnant women, incarcerated women and their children are subject to federal and state correctional policies that fail to recognize their distinct needs or honor their families.

The Rebecca Project and the National Women’s Law Center collaborated on this Report Card, which analyzes federal and state policies on prenatal care, shackling, and alternative sentencing programs and grades states on whether their policies help or harm incarcerated women in these key areas. This effort is intended to help advocates assess their own state’s policies affecting these significant phases of pregnancy, labor and delivery, and parenting.

The state of California received a “C” in prenatal care, a “B” on shackling policies, and an “A” on the family-based treatment as an alternative to incarceration. The last one is a heartening statistic to see, since that sort of program has the highest chance of reducing recidivism, and also radically reduces the costs at the state level. Other states fared far worse. George Prentiss, a reporter for the Boise Weekly, reports that his state received a “D” in prenatal care, a “D” on shackling policies, and an “F” on the family-based treatment.

Gene Park of the Star Advertiser reports from Hawaii, a state that received a flat-out “F” on the subject of prenatal care:

Most states fared poorly on the report. Only one state, Pennsylvania, received an overall grade of A. Including Hawaii, 27 states received an F grade for prenatal care.

Well over half of the states in the U.S. got an “F” on prenatal care. Think about that for a moment. No matter what view you might have of these women, the bottom line is that the unborn children of inmates are not responsible for where they are. Even if they were, this sort of treatment drastically affects these children, as they grow into adults. Twenty-seven states. We should be ashamed.

Park writes:

The report states more than 115,000 were in prison as of 2009, and that figure is rising at a higher rate than that of men since the introduction of mandatory sentencing policies for drug offenses.

Kat Brady, a coordinator for the Community Alliance on Prisons, told the Star Advertiser that over 80% of the women incarcerated in Hawaii have been convicted on non-violent offenses. Quite often, these same women have a history of substance abuse or physical abuse, she added.

Source: “Report: Idaho Fails to Provide Proper Treatment for Pregnant Inmates,” The Boise Weekly, 10/21/10
Source: “Pregnant isle inmates allegedly treated shabbily,” The Star Advertiser, 10/22/10
Image copyright Susan Madden Lankford, from the book “Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes.” Used with permission.
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Age Limit for Foster Care in California Goes Up to 21

SchwarzeneggerThe campus of Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services last Wednesday was the epicenter of an enormous change for California. Governor Schwarzenegger performed a ceremonial signing of Assembly Bill 12, a bill that  will keep foster care kids from aging out of the system when they turn 18. Schwarzenegger called the idea of taking care of oneself at 18 “ludicrous.”

Brian Watt, a reporter for 89.3 KPCC, reports that the Governor refers to this extension of benefits as a partnership:

‘The kids have to take care of things, and also we have to take care of things,’ [Gov. Schwarzenegger] said. ‘We for instance continue giving them financial and social support, which is important for them, but they in return have to go to school, or go to work and meet regularly with their case workers. But let me tell you something: this is the greatest investment that we can make in our state.’

Now, the refrain that “children are our future,” while true, is often invoked but seldom truly heeded. What makes this a practical plan? The governor cited some promising data in his address:

He referred to study results that say for every dollar the state invests in foster care, it saves 2 and a half dollars in the future. Former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass co-wrote the legislation. The Los Angeles Democrat and Congressional candidate said the economic recession has given rise to a common expression: Boomerang Kids.

‘Young people forced by the economy to return to their parents’ home and support,’ said Bass. ‘But what happens to a boomerang that doesn’t have a place to go back to? It just gets thrown away.’

We’d say that a return of two and a half for an investment of one is a no brainer. Not only does it make sound financial sense at a time when it is vital for the state to save money, but it also shields those in foster homes from the trials and tribulations of possibly ending up on the streets.

Karen De Sa, writer for The Mercury News, brings us some supporting data:

Research by the Urban Institute and the University of Chicago has documented these outcomes. Within two years of leaving foster care, one in four teens lands in jail. And with high school graduation rates of less than 50 percent, more than half are unemployed. Close to one in four ends up homeless within 18 months.

Frightening numbers, and ones that stand to increase if the American economy continues to be so erratic. This is why AB 12 is essential, as this real-world comparison demonstrates quite well (also via The Mercury News article):

[...A] study released last year by child welfare researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Chicago estimated that extending foster care can change those outcomes — and result in cost savings for California. The multiyear report tracking young people exiting the foster care system compared Illinois — a rare state allowing foster care through age 21 — with states lacking such support. Illinois youths were three times more likely to enroll in college and 65 percent less likely to be arrested; the young women were 38 percent less likely to get pregnant.

Alanna Connaway, a writer for The Boot, reports a telling statement by a San Jose Assemblyman:

‘For generations, foster care youth faced being kicked out of their foster homes simply because they had turned 18 or graduated from high school,’ says Assemblymember Jim Beall (D-San Jose), who introduced AB 12. ‘Without any means of support, they were left to wander the streets for shelter and food. Many had no choice but to return to the parents who had neglected or abused them. AB 12 ensures they’ll have a safe place to live and stability until they are 21. It will help clear the way for eligible foster care youths go to college and begin careers that will contribute to our society.’

As states across the nation feel the economic noose tightening around their necks, it is essential that we find ways to save money and do so in a way that supports a restoration of the social fabric of the community. This is a hand up, not a handout.

Source: “New law makes 21 age limit for Calif’s foster care system,” 89.3 KPCV, 10/06/10
Source: “California enacts landmark foster care legislation extending the system to age 21,” The Mercury News, 10/02/10
Source: “Jimmy Wayne Reacts to Signing of California Foster Bill AB 12,” The Boot, 10/05/10
Image by Nate Mandos, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Nurturing in Early Years Has Direct Impact on Child Development

Child's EyeAn oft recurring theme on the HUMANE EXPOSURES blog is the effect of parenting and environment on the early development of children. Studies of runaways and incarcerated juveniles show a correlation between those early years and the eventual path that the child takes as an adult.

Think of how frequently the topic of abuse or a neglect-ridden childhood comes up in court and in the studies of repeat offenders. Consider the personal narratives of the homeless and how much of a recurring theme these issues are in their plight.

Enter Notre Dame psychology professor Darcia Narvaez who has helmed a recent group of studies that confirm earlier work done in the field. The results suggest that children who get more physical affection during infancy turn out to be kinder, smarter, and more caring about others.
Maia Szalavitz, a journalist and author of some renown in this field, noted Narvaez’ work in her recent column on Time Magazine‘s Healthland blog:

Narvaez, who will present her findings at a conference in early October, conducted three separate studies. The first compared parenting practices in the U.S. and China. Another followed a large sample of children of teen mothers who were involved in a child abuse–prevention project, and compared outcomes of various types of early parenting practices. The third examined how parents of 3-year-olds behaved toward their children.

So we have a nice broad base to start from, that’s good. The variety of studies does give us confidence about the veracity of the findings. Szalavitz writes:

All three studies suggested the same thing: children who are shown more affection early in life reap big benefits. Researchers found that kids who were held more by their parents, whose cries received quick responses in infancy and who were disciplined without corporal punishment were more empathic — that is, they were better able to understand the minds of others — later in life.

Later in the column, Narvaez neatly sums up the findings:

‘What’s been studied most is responsivity,’ [Narvaez] says, referring to the way parents respond to their babies and act accordingly, for example, noticing when they are about to cry and reacting appropriately to subtle positive and negative signals about what they want. ‘[Responsivity] is clearly linked with moral development. It helps foster an agreeable personality, early conscience development and greater prosocial behavior.”

Even behavioral research on rats bears this out. Rats raised by neglectful mothers tend to be not as fast, smart, or social as their more doted-on counterparts.

Research like this is highly important. If we are ever to cure the society’s ills, we need to know where our efforts need to be applied. Work like this confirms our already existent ideas about how crucial early development is when looked at in the context of its impact on later life.

We would also advise checking out more work by Maia Szalavitz. She is a journalist who covers health, science and public policy. She is a co-author, with leading child trauma expert Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential– and Endangered, (Morrow, 2010). They previously co-authored The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love and Healing (Basic, 2007). Her work in the field of journalism runs the gamut from The New York Times and The Washington Post to New Scientist and O, The Oprah Magazine, among other major publications.

Source: “No Such Thing as Too Much Love: ‘Spoiled’ Babies Grow Up to Be Smarter, Kinder Kids,” Time Magazine, Healthland, 09/29/10
Image by apdk, used under its Creative Commons license.

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