Monday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Effects of Family Type and Resources on Children’s Academic Performance, Journalist’s Resource

Over the past 50 years, American children have been growing up in increasingly diversified family structures. As divorce, remarriage, cohabitation and other such events have refashioned home life, studies have found that transitions for children can have negative educational consequences.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, “Effects of Family Structure Type and Stability on Children’s Academic Performance Trajectories,” examined data from more than 8,000 children to compare academic growth from kindergarten to fifth grade among three types of traditional families and three alternative forms. The study evaluates a combination of factors — structure, transitions, family financial and social resources, and child outcomes — at various points in time.


Texas State Senator Class for Transfer of Violent Juvenile Offenders to Adult System
, Juvenile Justice

A Texas state senator wants to create a new system of youth prisons for the state’s 17- and 18-year-old offenders, the Austin American-Statesman reported last week.

Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), chairman of the state Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said his proposal would operate as a division of Texas’ adult prison system.

Under the new system, older teens with violent offenses would be transferred from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDJC). Most likely, he said that the first wave of transferred juveniles would be placed in a Youthful Offender Program in a Houston-area prison, which currently holds fewer than 100 inmates. The program might be expanded to include as many as 500 beds.

“Many of the kids who are in the youth program at TDCJ are not as tough as the ones who are on the TJJD campuses,” Whitmire is quoted by the Austin American-Statesman.

“We need to look at what is the proper place for youths in these two systems and whether there’s a better model for what we’re doing.”

Suffer the Children, The Economist

ON MARCH 29th 2012 Georgia’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted on a criminal-justice reform bill that read like a left-leaning criminologist’s fantasy. It revised sentencing laws to keep non-violent drug and property offenders out of prison, directing them instead toward alternatives—drug courts, day-reporting centres, mental-health courts—designed to treat and rehabilitate rather than punish. It invested millions of dollars in such programmes—not an easy sell in times of tight budgets. And it created graduated scales of punishment, allowing the law to distinguish between someone with a single joint and someone with a pound of marijuana. The House passed the bill unanimously. The Republican-controlled state Senate did the same, and Nathan Deal, Georgia’s Republican governor, signed it into law.

Lisa Steffek

About Lisa Steffek

Lisa Steffek is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center. Lisa completed her Bachelors, Masters and Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Texas in Human Development and Family Sciences. As an undergraduate, Lisa worked as a research assistant studying child attachment. Lisa also worked for several years at The Settlement Home, a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed adolescent females. Most of the girls at The Settlement Home had been removed from their homes by Child Protective Services, and Lisa worked with the girls to teach them life-skills and provided psychological treatment to prepare them for adulthood and the transition to foster homes. Lisa also worked for six years in various academic capacities at the University of Texas, including an undergraduate teaching assistant, graduate research assistant, and undergraduate writing consultant. Lisa has presented papers regarding human development at various academic conferences in the states and abroad, and has had her writing published in an international, academic journal.

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