Blog: teens

Youth Justice News Roundup

We round up the latest news on youth justice reform and national public health.

Watch This Webinar: Improving Services for LGBT Youth

feet-349687_1920Reclaiming Futures is committed to the equitable treatment of troubled youth—nurturing each of them on a path toward health and prosperity, rather than incarceration. To do this, we must be able to identify and end the patterns of discrimination and victimization at play in our schools and our juvenile justice systems.

Why Schools Over-Discipline Children With Disabilities; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and teen mental health. 

Why Schools Over-Discipline Children With Disabilities (The Atlantic)
As the U.S. Department of Education celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the high rate at which special-needs students are disciplined raises questions about the current state of equal access to services like public education. Some researchers and advocates refer to this issue as "the discipline gap," and data from the Department of Education finds that the disparity increases when race is added.

Using art at a juvenile detention facility to teach teens about starting over

I am teaching writing and art in a six-week program at Denney Juvenile Justice Center. The workshop is a part of the National Reclaiming Futures Program. Reclaiming Futures helps young people in trouble with drugs, alcohol, and crime. The six-step model unites juvenile courts, probation, treatment and the community to reclaim youth.
The program being implemented by community members and artists in my community is PAIR–Promising Artists in Recovery. Our final week will be a trip to the new Schack Art Center where the kids will have an opportunity to blow glass in the hot glass shop.
This week, we taught a lesson called, “Clean Slate.” We began by handing out half-sheets of paper, and asked the kids to think of a time when they were “criticized or felt not good enough.” I used the example of how I always felt like I wasn’t smart in high school. High school was a bit of a challenge for me. I’d always done well in middle school, but when I got to high school, the rules seemed to change. In English class, I worked hard on my papers. My journalist Mom edited for me, and I typed–sometimes many times–before I turned them in. But, I’d still, receive low grades on those dreaded five-paragraph essays. It took until I was a teacher myself to understand all the dynamics of learning, and to see that some learning styles are different than others. Not bad or good–just different.
We also spent time talking to the kids about how constructive feedback is helpful to an artist, and it’s important to know how to find and receive that constructive feedback on a work in progress. I shared with the kids my recently edited manuscript, STAINED GLASS SUMMER (December 2011). I talked about how my editor helped me to find the inconsistencies in the story, and how she is helping me to clean up the wording so the sentences read smoothly. The whole process reminds me of my class in stained glass when we cleaned, polished, and shined our glass projects.
After our discussion, the kids wrote down words, images and phrases on their half sheet of paper about a time they felt “not good enough” or “criticized.”

Advice for parents of troubled teens

I have a 15-year-old son who, in the past year, has gone from a quiet, well- mannered, well- liked child to a stranger to me. He hasn’t attended school in about two months. He comes and goes as he pleases, he will not respect the curfews I set for him and sometimes is gone for days on end. He has started smoking and he has admitted to smoking weed. He doesn’t listen to anyone and if we try and talk to him he just leaves. I don’t want to throw him out of the house but I just don’t know what to do. His behavior is taking its toll on me. — Noreen
Many parents are struggling with similar problems. So the first thing Noreen should know is that she shouldn’t feel alone.
Look in your neighborhood or church and notice all the parents who seem to have it all together. One of the very first things I would advise you to do is to seek counsel from some of those successful parents. I would also strongly encourage you to establish contact with your son’s school to request assistance in addressing his specific challenges. Our tax supported schools deal with these sorts of challenges every day and many have targeted resources at their disposal to counter these problems. You must ask for information on specific adolescence or male-oriented programs that have proven successful over the years. Then, you must then develop a relationship with the leaders of that program to give them a sense of urgency about your son. Do not be put off by their busy schedules. The old adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” is very true when dealing with most large organizations. You must be diligent and persistent if you truly want to redirect the life of your son.
I would then encourage you to work on establishing lines of communication with your child. It is not unusual for adults to lose the ability to communicate with their children effectively. You must now identify what those barriers are and strategically remove them one at a time.
I would enlist the support of a valued male relative or friend who can oftentimes better identify with younger males because they have already transitioned into adulthood. They can better identify and anticipate what some of the experiences your son has/will encounter. Young men are often confused about where they fit in life and need actual role models to help them work through this sometimes very difficult period. You must partner with a dependable male who has good communication skills, who is willing to spend some-one-on-one time with your son. Many schools and organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, scouting and athletic teams have very active and effective mentoring programs for young people. They do a thorough job of screening and training the adult mentors who work with their students.

2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health data available

Those interested in drug/alcohol/tobacco use statistics should head over to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to download the data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
For those less inclined to analyze the data, SAMSHA also released a report (PDF) summarizing the findings, which include:

  • Among youths aged 12 to 17, the current illicit drug use rate was similar in 2009 (10.0 percent) and 2010 (10.1 percent), but higher than the rate in 2008 (9.3 percent). Between 2002 and 2008, the rate declined from 11.6 to 9.3 percent.
  • The rate of current alcohol use among youths aged 12 to 17 was 13.6 percent in 2010, which was lower than the 2009 rate (14.7 percent). Youth binge and heavy drinking rates in 2010 (7.8 and 1.7 percent) were also lower than rates in 2009 (8.8 and 2.1 percent).
  • There were an estimated 10.0 million underage (aged 12 to 20) drinkers in 2010, including 6.5 million binge drinkers and 2.0 million heavy drinkers.
  • The rate of past month tobacco use among 12 to 17 year olds declined from 15.2 percent in 2002 to 10.7 percent in 2010, including a decline from 2009 (11.6 percent) to 2010.
  • Almost half (48.6 percent) of youths aged 12 to 17 reported in 2010 that it would be "fairly easy" or "very easy" for them to obtain marijuana if they wanted some. Approximately one in five reported it would be easy to get cocaine (19.0 percent). About one in seven (12.9 percent) indicated that LSD would be "fairly" or "very" easily available, and 11.6 percent reported easy availability for heroin. Between 2002 and 2010, there were declines in the perceived availability for all four drugs.

Advice to a parent with a teen struggling with drug addiction

I’ll never forget how my hands shook as I gripped my office phone that afternoon. My 16 year-old son called tell me he was a drug addict and that he needed help. Right now.
I must admit I did have suspicions he’d been involved in drugging. His behavior had changed. He was doing so poorly in school that he was on the verge of either failing or dropping out. He struggled with my newly blended family and the move to a new state. I thought everything would work its way out in his life, but the tenor of his voice told me this was something serious.
Even though I’m the parent or step-parent of seven boys, I was totally unprepared. I’d always wished for a book for the teen years to turn to when things go rough, much like my mom turned to her trusty Dr. Spock reference book. But, there isn’t anything like that to help parents navigate today’s minefields.
I flew out the door and was soon home, sitting in my living room, attempting to wrap my mind around the depth of his problems. The night before a drug dealer threatened him. This was serious. Turning to the Yellow Pages, I called several drug rehab facilities in my state, but found only one with an immediate opening. It was two hours away from home and my son sat quietly in the front seat. I felt I’d failed him. Who knows what he felt.
The intake counselor sat us down in a private office and began to do a drug inventory. As the list began to grow from marijuana use all the way down to cocaine and heroin, I shakily agreed to anything to help him get out of the death trap of drug addiction.
My situation wasn’t unusual.