Weekly Roundup

Wilmington’s teen violence statistics draw strong reaction

A year-long investigative project by The News Journal about teen gun violence in Wilmington has provoked elected officials and community members to speak up. The three-day series, which ran in print and online over the weekend, revealed that children ages 12 to 17 are more likely to be shot in Wilmington than any other place in America. It also showed that elected officials have failed to fully implement the prescription provided to the city by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention… Read more here

Congressional Justifications for Mental Healthcare: A Dangerous Stereotype?

Most Americans are aware of the stereotype that people with mental illness are more violent and dangerous than the general population. Everyone has seen or heard of a slasher film where the “slasher” is an escaped or released psychiatric patient on a murder spree. In the last decade, due to multiple high-profile mass shootings, discussions surrounding mental illness and violence have become especially prominent not only in entertainment media, but news media as well. According to a 2014 study, news media frequently blame mass shootings on what they perceive to be the mental illness of the shooter, further stigmatizing people with mental illness as violent and dangerous… Read more here

Let’s make the new youth detention center unnecessary

Opening a new, $30 million youth detention center in Baltimore is certainly no reason to celebrate. No question, the new facility is a big improvement in terms of the educational, psychological and other services that will be offered to alleged juvenile offenders while they wait for trial, and placing them in a dedicated building, away from adult offenders, was necessary to secure their safety and civil rights. But the youth advocates who wish we could have spent that money on programs to keep youth out of trouble rather than on a building to confine them are absolutely right. When a young person winds up behind bars waiting for trial in adult court, that’s a reflection of failure by adults, not the child.. Read more here


New York Legislature moves New York ahead of Texas in protecting teens from child marriage. By: Lauae Wolfe

With New York Times taglines like “young teenagers, New York State is calling the wedding off,” New Yorkers are happy to announce law changes that protect children from young teen marriage. Previously allowing marriages of children as young as 14 with court and parent approval, now marriages of children between the ages of 14 and 16 are “abolished” in the state of New York. State Assembly member Amy Paulin sponsored the bill, and gladly announced the measure will “dramatically change the lives of girls in New York.” Quoting the President of the Organization for Women of New York, the New York Times hailed the measures as proving “New York is poised to lead the nation in recognizing child marriage as a human rights violation.” Governor Cuomo and legislatures championed the bill as ending what they termed as “a form a child abuse.” It’s hard not to agree with Cuomo, quoted in a Daily News article, that “[i]t’s shocking current law allows for children as young as 14 to be married off.”

Without protection against “coercive” child marriages, there is often a gap between the age a child can marry and divorce. Like a child who can marry at 14, but not be legally granted a divorce or seek asylum in an abuse shelter until they are 18. In Texas, a child can marry with just parent approval at 16, and younger with court approval, according to Texas Family Code § 2.103. The Houston Chronical reports the most recently available data shows that just in the five years between 2009 and 2013, 718 ages 15-17 years old were married, and that 120 of those were married in Harris County. If you go back as far as 2004, and look at the nation as a whole, the Tahirih Justice Center shares that 4,500 children were married.

When will Texas follow New York, and protect children by passing similar legislation? Just last month, Texas House Bill 3932 was unanimously voted to pass to the next stage by the Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee, and twin Senate Bill 1705 passed out of the Senate. Moved by a Houston Chronicle article written by Francisca Ortega about her mother, “A Child Bride in Texas,” lawmakers have championed the bills as a measure to end the heart-wrenching practice of coerced teen marriage that Senator Van Taylor says will “continue to haunt [his] memory.” Citing CDC data, Francisca Ortega shares that even in marriages “willingly joined” by children rarely last, and that it is too late to make up ground lost once educational opportunities are set aside, and the associated challenges of “increase[d] risk of mental health issues, domestic violence, abuse and poverty” occur.

Houston is at the center of a large patch of counties cited in the Houston Chronical article “The Texas Counties with the most married children,” that estimates 15.4 million minor girls are married each year in the world. You can support Unchained At Last in moving for legislative changes by emailing legislatures right on their site if you currently live in California, Connecticut, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania or Texas, where legislation to end child marriage is under consideration.

My own mother at 17 decided to marry my biological father, pictured above. He was older, she barely knew him, going from an honors program in high school to married with three kids before she turned 21. College scholarships left behind, it took years to finally leave an abusive relationship with her kids in tow, and two decades more to finally go back to finish her college degree. Even years older than Francisca Ortega’s mother in “A Child Bride in Texas,” it was a tough road back from an early marriage, one our family was affected by for years. The legislation proposed in Texas isn’t perfect, it still allows marriage between 16-17 years old with parent and court approval, but it is far better than the system currently in place. Our courts and advocates can be involved to ensure at least coerced young marriages are curtailed, and I urge involvement and letters to legislators to see the measure in Texas, and those similarly situated in other States, to quickly pass.

Weekly Roundup

Ending Solitary for Juveniles: A Goal Grows Closer

A nationwide shift toward abolishing solitary confinement for juveniles, which began to take shape in 2016 after former President Barack Obama banned the practice in federal prisons, has surged ahead in recent months, with a half-dozen states either prohibiting or strictly limiting its use in their youth facilities… Read more


If You’re Looking To Help Children, Consider Taking On A Housing Law Matter

By the time she was seven years old, she had moved residences and schools a half-dozen times. She and her mother were either escaping from an abusive husband/father or were falling so far behind on their rent that they left or were forced out. Not coincidentally she was performing poorly in school. Anyone looking at the correlation between housing and education would have predicted as much. For the legal community, this situation presents an oft-overlooked, but meaningful, pro bono opportunity… Read More

Child Welfare Ideas from the Experts #7: A Federal Foster Care Bill of Rights

The Chronicle of Social Change is highlighting each of the policy recommendations made this summer by the participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program (FYI), a group of 12 former foster youths who have completed congressional internships.The program is overseen each summer by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Each of the FYI participants crafted a policy recommendation during their time in Washington, D.C. Today we highlight the recommendation of Jameelah Love, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee… Read More