Report: Juvenile Prison System – New York

New York finds extreme crisis in youth prisons, By Nicholas Confessore, December 13, 2009, New York Times: “New York’s system of juvenile prisons is broken, with young people battling mental illness or addiction held alongside violent offenders in abysmal facilities where they receive little counseling, can be physically abused and rarely get even a basic education, according to a report by a state panel. The problems are so acute that the state agency overseeing the prisons has asked New York’s Family Court judges not to send youths to any of them unless they are a significant risk to public safety, recommending alternatives, like therapeutic foster care. ‘New York State’s current approach fails the young people who are drawn into the system, the public whose safety it is intended to protect, and the principles of good governance that demand effective use of scarce state resources,’ said the confidential draft report, which was obtained by The New York Times…”

Child Hunger in the US

Missing more than a meal, By Amy Goldstein, December 12, 2009, Washington Post: “Three weeks before he was elected president, Barack Obama set an audacious goal: end hunger among children in the United States by 2015. Since his inauguration, Obama has seldom broached the subject. His aides brainstorm weekly with several agencies, but their internal conversations so far have not produced fundamentally new approaches. The president’s goal could prove daunting: Childhood hunger is more complex than previously understood, new research suggests, and is unlikely to be solved simply by spending more money for food programs. If Obama intends to erase childhood hunger, the government will need to reach even further into the rowhouse kitchen where Anajyha Wright Mitchell sometimes takes tiny portions so her mother will have more food. ‘I tell her to eat, eat, eat, because she is real skinny,’ Anajyha, 12, said of her mother, Andrea Mitchell. Anajyha, a serious girl with two younger brothers and a mother who has lost two of her three part-time jobs, is growing up with an ebb and flow of food typical of a growing number of families. In her home, in a scuffed neighborhood called Strawberry Mansion a few miles north of the Liberty Bell, food stamps arrive but never last the month. There can be cereal but no milk. Pancake mix and butter but no eggs. The intricacy of the problem — and of the Obama administration’s task — plays out here, where Anajyha could have enough to eat but shortchanges herself…”

Welfare Delivery System – Indiana

  • Overhaul of state welfare will debut next month, By Will Higgins and Robert Annis, December 14, 2009, Indianapolis Star: “The long-awaited overhaul of Indiana’s ailing welfare program will begin next month in the southern part of the state, a step key to salvaging a system hobbled by a failed attempt at privatization. The new system of delivering food stamps, Medicaid and temporary assistance for needy families will debut in 10 counties in the Evansville area, said Marcus Barlow, a spokesman for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, the state agency responsible for dispensing benefits. FSSA released details Sunday of what it calls a ‘hybrid plan’ that will keep the best aspects of the automated system but add more personal contact between caseworkers and clients. The agency said the changes will improve state oversight of the private portions of the system, keep better tabs on documents submitted by clients and move more workers from call centers to county welfare offices…”
  • FSSA to test hybrid welfare system, By Ken Kusmer (AP), December 14, 2009, Fort Wayne News-Sentinel: “Under fire for problems since it automated and privatized its welfare intake system, Indiana’s human services agency plans to introduce more face-to-face contact with caseworkers and make other improvements in January in 10 southwestern counties. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration released details Sunday of what it is calling a ‘hybrid plan’ that will keep the best aspects of the automated system but add more personal contact between caseworkers and clients. The agency said the changes will improve state oversight of the private portions of the system, keep better tabs on documents submitted by clients and move more workers from call centers to county welfare offices…”
  • Hybrid welfare rollout nearing, By Niki Kelly, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: “Ten counties in southern Indiana will serve as a pilot for a new hybrid welfare delivery system that will start sometime in January, the Family and Social Services Administration announced Sunday. But Allen County and other areas affected by the failed modernization effort will have to wait for improvements…”

Children on Medicaid and Antipsychotic Prescription Drugs

Poor children likelier to get antipsychotics, By Duff Wilson, December 11, 2009, New York Times: “New federally financed drug research reveals a stark disparity: children covered by Medicaid are given powerful antipsychotic medicines at a rate four times higher than children whose parents have private insurance. And the Medicaid children are more likely to receive the drugs for less severe conditions than their middle-class counterparts, the data shows. Those findings, by a team from Rutgers and Columbia, are almost certain to add fuel to a long-running debate. Do too many children from poor families receive powerful psychiatric drugs not because they actually need them – but because it is deemed the most efficient and cost-effective way to control problems that may be handled much differently for middle-class children? The questions go beyond the psychological impact on Medicaid children, serious as that may be. Antipsychotic drugs can also have severe physical side effects, causing drastic weight gain and metabolic changes resulting in lifelong physical problems…”