‘They Put Us on a One-Way Street and Expect Us to Go the Other Way’

poverty: A one way sign, next to U.S. property no parking sign

jstillma/Shutterstock

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Dear Momma,

I’ve been taking all my pain out on this paper

I’m sorry I’m still stuck up in this cell a year later

They are tryin’ to send me to prison like they doin’ me a favor

Used to mix all my drinks, now I mix my feelings with no chaser

And I’m sorry, Momma, if I ever let you down

We was living real broke, tryin’ to make a come around

Momma, I know you understand when I say I’m feelin’ down

I know you know pain, the way lost time is never found

But, Momma, can you see it now?

The way shhh in our life should have been turned around

But we’re a product of poverty, they ain’t lettin’ us out

If they were standing in our shoes, what product would they be sellin’ now?

It’s not like we had a choice to grow up in pain

They put us on a one-way street and expect us to go the other way

If they give us all shade, how they expect us to be raised?

And if they never showed us love, wouldn’t love turn to hate?

Evictions, food from church

Shhh, I’ve been thinking on how we used to live in our past

Been through thick and thin, with no shoes we walked on glass

They say they went through hell, we did too

The only difference is that we never came back

The streets got ahold of us, so poverty held us back

Had to support our family, so I started running up these bags

Started dealing in these streets, ‘cause we really needed cash

While the rent went up, we got evicted real fast

We was poorer than other kids, I always wanted what they had

We walked up in churches just to get something to eat

I remember asking you, Momma, if there’s any food

You said we got no more money on our EBT

We never once had a car,

we always had to walk on our feet

Pushing laundry in a grocery cart,

’Cause sometimes that’s how it be

I’m grateful to you

From sleepin’ on the streets and motels

With no water or light

You always left us alone,

’Cause you had somewhere else to be at night

I said, “Momma, what you doing?”

You said “Honey just close your eyes”

And I didn’t understand until I was 7 years of age

Saw the feds busted in, “Momma, why they taking you away?”

I tried to grip onto your hand, tears rushing down my face

But they would never understand all the pain we had to face

And Momma, I don’t blame you,

Momma, it’s not your fault

’Cause we live in a messed-up world with closing back walls

Ain’t anyone picking us up after every time we fall

But it’s all right Momma,

’Cause you tried to give us your all

Momma, I see your pain, and I’m just tryin’ to keep it straight

A single mother on welfare with three kids to be raised

And we still couldn’t afford a place

Even though we was on Section Eight

We never had a lot, but you gave us a hot plate

So I’m sincerely grateful for you really tryin’

Momma, you was doing it on your own, you was tryin’ to get it right

Momma, you played both roles, had no father in my life

Even though we slept in the cold, we was just tryin’ to get by

I know for most of my life me and my sisters in foster homes

Surrounded by the lies you telling us we going home

But Momma, I don’t blame you, ’cause you was just all alone

And Momma, don’t blame yourself, ’cause you had problems of your own

I knew you was fighting the devil, tryin’ to get off the dope

I knew it hurt you to see us in pain, so you let us go

Momma, you so strong, but you might not see it through

You made a hard decision and I see it, Momma,

I just want to let you know

Momma, they don’t understand where you really coming from

But I do, I appreciate everything you ever done

And Momma, don’t be tripping off the things you haven’t done

‘Cause Momma, you did the best you can,

Sincerely, your son.

King J, 17, is in the San Mateo County [Calif.] Juvenile Hall for first-degree robbery.

The Beat Within, a publication of writing and art from incarcerated youth, was founded by David Inocencio in San Francisco in 1996. Weekly writing and conversation workshops are held in California, six other states and Washington, D.C. Submissions and new partners are welcomed. Write to him at dinocencio@thebeatwithin.org.

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Global warming found to give rise to earlier springs contributing to drier summers

An international team of researchers has found evidence that suggests global warming is giving rise to earlier springs in some parts of the world, which contributes to drier summers—at least in the northern hemisphere. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes their study of satellite data over a 30-year period and what they learned from it.

D.C.-Region Youth in Poverty Education and Development Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Education, Youth in Poverty, Student Achievement, Youth Development, 
Deadline:
Feb. 6, 2020 (LOI)

“This program will focus on helping needy young people and adults gain a quality education. For projects serving youth, The Herb Block Foundation seeks proposals which focus on improving student achievement and healthy development of young people. Projects may include in-school and community-based educational programs, after-school activities, and mentoring programs. Programs designed to increase high school graduation rates are encouraged to apply. For projects serving adults, The Herb Block Foundation seeks proposals to provide literacy education and GED preparation, and to offer vocational training and job placement.”

Funder: The Herb Block Foundation
Eligibility:
“Applicants must be nonprofit organizations classified as 501(c)(3) organizations by the IRS. Applicants for the Pathways Out of Poverty Program must be located in /and or provide services in the greater Washington, DC region which we define as the District of Columbia, the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, and the city of Alexandria in Virginia and Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties in Maryland.”
Amount:
$5,000 – $25,000
Contact:
Link.


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Youth Leadership Exchange Program Grant

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Student/Youth Exchange, Cultural Education, Youth Leadership, Youth Development, Civic Engagement
Deadline:
Feb. 13, 2020

“The On-Demand Youth Leadership Program supports U.S. foreign policy goals by empowering the U.S. Department of State to respond quickly to evolving priorities. U.S. public and private non-profit organizations meeting the provisions described in Internal Revenue Code section 26 USC 501(c)(3) may submit proposals to implement two separate three-week exchanges in the United States. Applicants may submit only one proposal under this competition. If multiple proposals are received from the same applicant, all submissions will be declared ineligible and receive no further consideration in the review process. Proposals should illustrate the organization’s extent of experience working in different regions of the world, demonstrating flexibility and originality in programming. Proposals should include actual examples in which the organization has responded quickly to fast changing circumstances in a region or country where they had not previously worked.

The On-Demand Youth Leadership Program provides exchanges in the United States for international high school students ages 15-18 and adult educators or community leaders from countries and regions identified as U.S. Department of State 2 priorities. Exchange activities will focus on civic education, community service, respect for diversity, and youth leadership development. Secondary themes on issues of global or regional relevance may be added by the embassy. Applicants must indicate their capacity to program an exchange at varying points during the award period. Participants will engage in a variety of activities such as workshops on leadership and service, community site visits related to program themes and subthemes, interactive training and discussion groups, presentations, visits to high schools, local cultural activities, homestays, and other activities designed to achieve the program’s stated goals. The exchanges must include multiple opportunities for participants to interact meaningfully with their American peers. Follow-on activities with the participants are an essential part of the program, and the exchange activities should prepare participants to apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired by planning action projects in their home communities.”

Funder: Bureau Of Educational and Cultural Affairs
Eligibility:
Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS (other than institutions of higher education), private institutions of higher education, public and state controlled institutions of higher education, others.
Amount:
Up to $1,200,000
Contact:
Link.


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Youth Leadership Exchange Program Grant

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Student/Youth Exchange, Cultural Education, Youth Leadership, Youth Development, Civic Engagement
Deadline:
Feb. 13, 2020

“The On-Demand Youth Leadership Program supports U.S. foreign policy goals by empowering the U.S. Department of State to respond quickly to evolving priorities. U.S. public and private non-profit organizations meeting the provisions described in Internal Revenue Code section 26 USC 501(c)(3) may submit proposals to implement two separate three-week exchanges in the United States. Applicants may submit only one proposal under this competition. If multiple proposals are received from the same applicant, all submissions will be declared ineligible and receive no further consideration in the review process. Proposals should illustrate the organization’s extent of experience working in different regions of the world, demonstrating flexibility and originality in programming. Proposals should include actual examples in which the organization has responded quickly to fast changing circumstances in a region or country where they had not previously worked.

The On-Demand Youth Leadership Program provides exchanges in the United States for international high school students ages 15-18 and adult educators or community leaders from countries and regions identified as U.S. Department of State 2 priorities. Exchange activities will focus on civic education, community service, respect for diversity, and youth leadership development. Secondary themes on issues of global or regional relevance may be added by the embassy. Applicants must indicate their capacity to program an exchange at varying points during the award period. Participants will engage in a variety of activities such as workshops on leadership and service, community site visits related to program themes and subthemes, interactive training and discussion groups, presentations, visits to high schools, local cultural activities, homestays, and other activities designed to achieve the program’s stated goals. The exchanges must include multiple opportunities for participants to interact meaningfully with their American peers. Follow-on activities with the participants are an essential part of the program, and the exchange activities should prepare participants to apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired by planning action projects in their home communities.”

Funder: Bureau Of Educational and Cultural Affairs
Eligibility:
Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS (other than institutions of higher education), private institutions of higher education, public and state controlled institutions of higher education, others.
Amount:
Up to $1,200,000
Contact:
Link.


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CO Disadvantaged Youth OST Physical Activity Program Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Child/Youth Health, Physical Activity, OST, Youth Sports, Low-Income Youth
Deadline:
Feb. 15, 2020  | June 15, 2020

“This funding opportunity will support organizations to provide quality, structured physical activity in out-of-school time settings (including before school, after school and summer programs) to children and youth ages 4 to 18 through safe and affordable programs. We will consider proposals for up to two years of funding. Proposed projects must reflect the Foundation’s cornerstones, as our work is grounded in serving Coloradans who have low income and historically have had less power or privilege, putting the creation of health equity at the center of everything we do, and being informed by the community and those we exist to serve.

Programs must:

  • Primarily serve children and youth where opportunities for physical activity may be absent or harder to access. Preference will be given to programs in rural communities.
  • Primarily serve children and youth living on low income; we will consider percentages of children eligible for free and reduced lunch (FRL) that are served by the program, average family income of participants or other indicators your organization may use to determine need.
  • Primarily serve children and youth ages 4 to 14. We will consider programs that serve youth up to 18 years of age.
  • Engage participants in a total of at least 90 minutes of structured physical activity per week, for no less than two days per week, for a minimum of six weeks. Children must be engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) a minimum of 50% of the structured physical activity time.
  • Ensure physical activity is structured (organized or guided activity led or facilitated by a program staff person, qualified volunteer or qualified partner organization). A curriculum is welcomed but not required. If an organization is not using a curriculum, a practical plan or outline must be submitted demonstrating how the organization will ensure engagement in high quality, structured physical activity (not free time on playground or in the gym).
  • Implement activities that are relevant and appropriate for the needs and interests of the children and youth served, including cultural and linguistic responsiveness. Youth engagement processes, community needs assessments, satisfaction surveys, existing participation data or similar methods will be used to assess demonstrated interest and demand for the activities.
  • Demonstrate strong relationships and experience working within the community or communities served.
  • Demonstrate sufficient organization and staff capacity and training to effectively implement and sustain the proposed activities.
  • Have an effective method to track the amount of time dedicated to structured physical activity and the number of children engaging in those activities on a consistent basis.”

Funder: Colorado Health Foundation
Eligibility:
“Generally, we make grants to the following types of organizations: [1] Colorado organizations classified as tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3), and [2] Colorado public agencies, including state and local governments. Organizations eligible to apply include those that:

  • Currently operate an established out-of-school-time program (before school, after school or summer program) with a structured physical activity component for children and youth ages 4 to 18. In this case, funds may be requested to maintain or enhance existing structured physical activity components.
  • Currently operate an established out-of-school-time program (before school, after school or summer program) but do not have a structured physical activity component. Funds may be requested to incorporate structured physical activity as a new component of an existing out-of-school time program for children and youth ages 4 to 18.
  • Are starting up a new out-of-school-time program in a rural or frontier county (contact the program officer about eligibility) where few or no out-of-school-time programs exist. Funds may be requested for startup or pilot phase programs. Such programs must include a structured physical activity component for children and youth ages 4 to 18.”

Amount: Unspecified
Contact:
Link.


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Atlantic and Pacific oscillations lost in the noise

The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) do not appear to exist, according to a team of meteorologists who believe this has implications for both the validity of previous studies attributing past trends to these hypothetical natural oscillations and for the prospects of decade-scale climate predictability.

Substance Abuse Treatment Capacity Expansion for Adult and Family Courts Program Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Child/Youth Health, Child/Youth Welfare, Family, Mental Health, Substance Abuse
Deadline:
Feb. 3, 2020

“The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) is accepting applications for fiscal year (FY) 2020 Grants to Expand Substance Abuse Treatment Capacity in Adult Treatment Drug Courts (ATDC), Adult Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts or Family Treatment Drug Courts (FTDC). The purpose of this program is to expand substance use disorder (SUD) treatment services in existing drug courts. The program recognizes the need for treatment instead of incarceration for individuals with SUDs.

Recipients will be expected to provide a coordinated, multi-system approach designed to combine the sanctioning power of treatment drug courts with effective SUD treatment services to break the cycle of criminal behavior, alcohol and/or drug use, and incarceration or other penalties. Family drug court applicants will be expected to do the same with an added focus on family preservation and promoting the wellness of the family.”

Funder: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Eligibility:
“Eligible applicants are state, local, and tribal governments with direct involvement with the adult treatment drug court, adult Tribal Healing to Wellness Court or family drug court, such as:

  • State governments; the District of Columbia, Guam, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau are also eligible to apply.
  • Governmental units within political subdivisions of a state, such as a county, city or town, and individual adult treatment drug courts.
  • Federally recognized American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) tribes, tribal organizations, Urban Indian Organizations, and consortia of tribes or tribal organizations.”

Amount: Up to $400,000
Contact:
Link.


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Community and Environment Enhancement, Education and Engagement Grants

OUR GRANT OPPORTUNITIES: Youth Today’s grant listings are carefully curated for our subscribers working in youth-related industries. Subscribers will find local, state, regional and national grant opportunities.

THIS GRANT’S FOCUS: Community, Environmental Education, Environment, Civic Engagement
Deadline:
Feb. 1, 2020 (LOI)

“New Earth Foundation (NEF) seeks to fund innovative projects that enhance life on our planet and brighten the future, furthering peace. The grants given by NEF support a wide variety of projects in many fields of endeavor, including but not limited to environmental initiatives that are working to help eliminate pollution and to save the planet’s ecosystems, community efforts that create models of social sustainability, educational innovations that prepare youth to become the socially responsible leaders of the future, and strategies that offer economic improvement and opportunities. NEF particularly appreciates projects that are replicable so that excellent ideas and work can multiply and benefit many.”

Funder: New Earth Foundation
Eligibility:
Nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations. NEF has a particular interest in supporting smaller, newer organizations.
Amount:
Unspecified
Contact:
Link.


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RTCs At Front of Line to Squeeze Money Out of Family First Act

Wyoming: Robotic Claw on a white background grabs dollars

Pacharawi Imsuwan/Shutterstock

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Remember the Family First Act? That’s the vastly overhyped federal legislation touted as a revolutionary change in how child welfare is financed. Supposedly, under Family First, lots of money that used to be reserved only for foster care will, at last, go to better alternatives. That was never going to happen. Very little additional money actually will go to those better alternatives.

Wyoming: Richard Wexler (headshot), executive director of National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, smiling balding man with white-gray hair in black top.

Richard Wexler

And now it looks like the very first to benefit from Family First may not be families at all. It may be “providers” of the worst form of “care” in a state that is always a candidate for foster care capital of America. Yes, the first beneficiaries of Family First may be residential treatment centers (RTCs) in Wyoming, a state that regularly tears apart families at a rate nearly triple the national average, even when rates of family poverty are factored in.

The money won’t actually be coming from the federal government. It’s even worse. The RTCs have found a way to use — sorry, I mean leverage — Family First to siphon off scarce state funds — funds that could be used for far better options.

The situation in Wyoming is a wonderful case study in how providers game the system every step of the way. 

  • First, they create “residential treatment centers” — or simply rebrand what used to be called orphanages.
  • Then one of their own trade associations creates a group to “accredit” RTCs and other agencies through a process that is meaningless — but expensive.
  • Then the RTCs’ agencies try to get taxpayers to help pay for the “accreditation” of institutions for which there is no evidence base; institutions that are at least as likely to harm children as to help them.

To understand how this all came to pass, we need to take a couple of steps back.

The Family First Act has two parts. One part allows the use of federal Title IV-E foster care money for a very limited number of prevention programs under very limited circumstances. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that an average of only $130 million per year in IV-E money will be made available for prevention thanks to the law. That’s less than 2% of the roughly $7 billion or more per year spent under IV-E on foster care and adoption. 

The second part of the law supposedly curbs the use of the worst form of care, group homes and institutions, including so-called “residential treatment centers.”

Residential treatment doesn’t work

The first thing to understand about residential treatment is this: There is overwhelming evidence that it’s a failure. There is nothing a residential treatment center does that can’t be done better, and at less cost, in a child’s own home or a foster home. Even the former head of a child welfare trade association that includes RTCs admitted there is a lack of “good research” showing residential treatment’s effectiveness and “we find it hard to demonstrate success …” 

But it’s worse than that. Institutions are the worst placement for a child, both because of the emotional harm inherent in institutionalization and also because institutions have the worst record for physical and sexual abuse of children in their “care.”

The second thing to understand about residential treatment centers is that they tend to be big, powerful institutions with lots of clout in state legislatures and in Washington. So when Congress tried to use the Family First Act to set limits on when federal taxpayers will help pay to warehouse children in such places, the residential treatment industry was able to shoot the bill full of loopholes.

The result: A law that says states can’t use federal foster care money to help pay for residential treatment for more than two weeks — except if the institution is a “Qualified Residential Treatment Program” — a new category created by the law itself.

And what does it take to be a QRTP? Almost nothing. You can read the actual requirements on pages 17 and 18 of the law here. But it boils down to this:

  • Write lots and lots of plans filled with appropriate buzzwords. (Drop the word “trauma-informed” into every third paragraph and you should be fine.)
  • Hire a nurse during working hours and have one on call the rest of the time. 

But if residential treatment programs don’t already meet these minimal requirements, what in the world are they doing — except warehousing kids? And even institutions that can’t meet these minimal requirements still may be able to get paid by governments using Family First funds thanks to other loopholes (My personal favorite is the “Presents for Pimps” loophole.)

Perhaps that’s why the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2016 that the Family First Act would barely reduce the proportion of institutionalized foster children. It would decline from 14% to 11%, over 10 years.

And yet, all over America, news stories are popping up in which the local residential treatment industry wrings its hands and warns of dire consequences because they can’t possibly meet requirements to do things like, you know, actually treat people.

The sham of ‘accreditation’

Oh, there is one more requirement:

Get a rubber-stamp seal-of-approval from an accrediting agency. I say rubber-stamp because one of the groups an aspiring QRTP can choose is the so-called “Council on Accreditation.” COA is a creation of the Child Welfare League of America. (That’s the trade association of agencies themselves whose former director said they have trouble showing that residential treatment works, by the way.)

COA’s “site visits” are announced well in advance — in fact, COA recommends that institutions conduct a full-scale rehearsal before the COA “review team” visits. It should include, among other things “Rehearsing and otherwise preparing staff for their roles during the Site Visit.”

And then there’s the way the “review team” goes about interviewing people. As COA puts it in its “Accreditation Guidelines”:

“Arrange for Key Staff to be Available for their Scheduled Interviews While the Review Team is On Site.

In addition to making senior staff available, the review team will be seeking to interview other staff as well as persons served.” [Emphasis in original.]

Everything else is based on the agency’s paperwork. The Council on Accreditation doesn’t accredit agencies. It accredits file cabinets.

Perhaps that’s why, in the 1990s, COA accredited a private agency in Ohio in which, the Dayton Daily News found, children lived in squalid group homes and the agency director had a conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Public agencies like this one also can be accredited.

What the RTC industry wants from Wyoming

And now, in Wyoming, the residential treatment industry wants state taxpayers to divert scarce funds to help the RTCs pay for the cost of accreditation! They’ve gotten a legislative committee to introduce draft legislation to that effect

Exactly how much in taxpayer money this will divert from better purposes is not specified, but the “legislative findings” section of the bill says: “The costs and technical demands of becoming QRTP accredited and maintaining QRTP accreditation are significant.” The fee schedule published by COA confirms this.

That section of the bill goes on to make a claim that leads me to wonder if the lawmakers and staff talked to anyone other than residential treatment providers:

“Without the availability of technical and financial support, there is a significant risk that an insufficient number of Wyoming’s care provider organizations will be QRTP accredited and Wyoming’s children and families will not receive the services that are available through the Family First and [sic] Prevention Services Act.”

This appears to conflate the two parts of the Family First Act. The funds for services do not require RTCs to be accredited. In fact, they don’t require RTCs at all. The whole point of these funds is to keep children safe through alternatives that avoid the use of RTCs, or any other form of foster care.

The part of Family First that requires the sham of accreditation is the part that limits (slightly) the use of existing federal funds for RTCs. Even that does not prohibit states from simply picking up the entire tab themselves.

As for the fear that “an insufficient number” of RTCs will be accredited, that can only be a good thing. Since there is nothing an RTC can do for foster children that can’t be done better using other alternatives, the sufficient number of such institutions for foster children is: zero.

If Wyoming winds up with fewer institutions into which to dump children, perhaps the state will stop tearing apart families needlessly at one of the highest rates in America.

Richard Wexler is executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

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All global sustainability is local

Nations across the world are following a United Nations blueprint to build a more sustainable future—but a new study shows that blueprint leads less to a castle in the sky, and more to a house that needs constant remodeling.

Simulations show thousands of lakes in Himalaya Mountains at risk of flooding due to global warming

Three researchers with the University of Potsdam report that thousands of natural lakes in the Himalayas are at risk of bursting their moraines due to global warming and causing flooding downriver. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Georg Veh, Oliver Korup and Ariane Walz describe simulations they ran on lake models and what they showed.