September is National Recovery Month, and a program in Ohio is showing success in healing families who have struggled with addiction.
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Ohio START (Sobriety Treatment and Reducing Trauma) focuses on families experiencing child maltreatment and substance use disorders. Children Services caseworkers, behavioral health providers, and Family Peer Mentors work in tandem to get them the support they need.
Donna, in Summit County, struggled with addiction and lost custody of her two older sons over drug charges. She explained that when she found out she was pregnant again, she knew she needed to make a change and sought help.
After spending time in a court-ordered treatment center, she joined the Ohio START program.
"They helped me a lot," said Donna. "They helped me get my place. They're really work well as a team. They're caring and want to see us do good. They just ain't in it for a paycheck."
She said she's been in recovery for 17 months, is working and has her son back.
Ohio START, now in its fifth year, started with 17 counties and has since expanded to 54. More than 1,000 families have been served, with 121 successful case-plan completions in 2021.
The Family Peer Mentors have lived experience with addiction and the child welfare system. Khala, who is also from Summit County, said hers provided hope and motivation as she worked on sobriety and parenting.
"I know my recovery coach has multiple years sober, but she had also lost her kids to Children Services years ago," said Khala. "And so, just having somebody to talk who's been through it and knows exactly where you're coming from."
Training and certification to become a peer recovery supporter is done through the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Khala said her experience with Ohio START showed her that the goal of Children Services is to keep families together.
"They don't believe that your kids would be better off with somebody else, as long as you're doing the right thing," said Khala. "That's the only thing - like, if you are doing the right thing, you will get your kids back. Don't give up hope, because there are people out there who absolutely believe in you."
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, held its annual meeting last week amid new scrutiny from the federal government and multiple shareholder proposals calling for changes.
The annual meeting saw 11 shareholder proposals addressing a number of items related to increasing transparency. One proposal sought to compel the company to produce a report on child safety impacts and actual harm reduction to children. Another proposal called for an independent review of the company's audit and risk oversight committee, which is responsible for evaluating risks to the company from a variety of places including data privacy and community safety, as well as reputational and legal risks originating in harmful user-generated content.
The proposal was put forward by Harrington Investments with the AFL-CIO as one of the co-filers because union members' pension funds are invested in Meta.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, sits on the AFL-CIO executive council and spoke in favor of the proposal, saying shareholders are in the dark about how the committee operates.
"While Meta's audit and risk oversight committee is charged with evaluating risks, shareholders have no idea how the committee operates, what information it considers or whether it just cedes its authority entirely to CEO Mark Zuckerberg," Weingarten contended.
The Meta board recommended shareholders vote against the proposal, saying it currently is undertaking an independent third-party quality assessment of the company's internal audit function including the Audit Risk and Oversight Committee. According to ProxyMonitor.org, none of the 11 shareholder proposals were adopted at the meeting.
Regulatory attention on Meta has increased of late with the FTC seeking to update its 2020 privacy order to now prevent the company from monetizing data collected from users younger than 18.
The U.S. Surgeon General issued a 25-page advisory May 23 about the impact of social media on youth mental health. The advisory cited ample indicators social media "presents a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents."
On the same day, the White House announced a series of actions the federal government will be taking to improve protections for youth mental health, safety and privacy, including an interagency task force to study the matter and make recommendations.
In her statement to shareholders, Weingarten noted teachers are bearing witness to the impact of social media.
"In classrooms and communities across the country, AFT members are witnessing firsthand the impact of students suffering from anxiety, bullying, trauma, body dysmorphia and the eating disorders as a direct result of exposure to images on Instagram, as well as the violence glorified on Meta's platforms," Weingarten asserted.
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The number of foster youths near adulthood has dropped slightly in Washington state, according to a new report.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation looked at the transition period for young adults in foster care and found the number of young Washingtonians age 14 and up dropped from 23% in 2006 to 22% in 2021.
Neveah Brewer was part of the foster-care system, and now coaches foster youths who are transitioning into adulthood as a launch success coach with the Washington state-based organization Treehouse.
She said leaving the system is often the first time foster youths have anything of their own.
"In foster care, you don't even have your own bed, and the clothes that you get often are hand-me-downs," said Brewer. "So this is the first time being on your own completely and having everything and nothing all at the same time."
Brewer and Treehouse provide guidance for people in or coming out of foster care, including helping them find housing and get jobs.
Todd Lloyd, a senior policy associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said youths are going to foster care for different reasons than they did in 2006.
"In the past, young people were coming in for foster care for reasons of adolescent behavior, child behavior problems," said Lloyd. "But now there's more of a shift towards them entering care for reasons of neglect, which are often connected to issues of poverty."
In 2006, neglect was the entry reason for 21% of Washington kids. In 2021, that number jumped to 57%.
Brewer said the state and federal governments could provide more resources to young adults coming out of foster care, including extended scholarships for higher education.
Just as important are some of the skills she's able to provide that they may not have received growing up, such as budgeting.
"Not in the sense of, like, 'Put away this amount of money every paycheck' because that's a privilege, but more in the sense of financial literacy and empowerment and understanding where they are and how to get where they want to be," said Brewer. "As well as understanding that it's OK to not be OK."
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A new report found Black girls across the Keystone State are subjected to "daunting educational barriers" in K-12 public schools and offers recommendations to make the school system more inclusive.
The report detailed barriers with curriculum, dress codes, anti-Black racism, sexism and other issues.
Paige Joki, staff attorney for the Education Law Center-Pennsylvania and leader of the Black Girls Education Justice Initiative, said the purpose of the report was to hear the concerns of Black girls, because their voices were missing from conversations.
She reported students advised them they were exposed to harmful curriculum, and one of the girls' recommendations for public schools is to implement a culturally responsive and affirming curriculum.
"Black girls shared with us that the ways that they were being taught about their history and experiences was traumatic, nonresponsive, and erased experiences of those who are part of their community or have shared identities," Joki reported. "Girls spoke to subjects being handled carelessly, like American slavery."
Another recommendation in the report called for police to be removed from schools. Joki pointed out Black children disproportionately attend schools where police are present, and many of the Black girls they spoke with felt police in their schools created a climate of fear and made them unsafe.
Joki noted a recommendation from Black girls in the report said schools must provide culturally affirming mental health support and increase the number of school-based mental health providers.
"Black girls shared with us that there were not enough counselors at their school or any at all, that the focus was mainly on academics, rather than on supporting their well-being," Joki explained. "They greatly benefited from working with Black mental health support professionals who shared identities and experiences and would allow them to speak freely."
Talia, a high school senior, participated in the focus group discussion and said she is a strong believer in schools needing culturally affirming mental health support. She added being a grown adult and Black femme nonbinary, sometimes life gets stressful, and she would like to see more mental-health support at school.
"However, not just any mental health support," Talia stressed. "I would like there to be people who understand my experience and share an identity with me. It makes me feel a lot more comfortable and heard when we have similar backgrounds. It feels nice to have a Black role model at school, especially since my school is majority Black. And I feel like most of us would agree we need more Black supporters."
Joki emphasized while the report detailed many harmful things, the girls were able to envision more just spaces for their education. She added the girls loved working with people who looked like them and several girls had a beautiful positive story about a teacher who changed their education trajectory and remains in their life.
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