SEATTLE - While most students and parents are thinking about summer vacation, one nonprofit group already is looking ahead to the next school year - and how to keep more Washington youths from dropping out.
The Center for Children and Youth Justice
is using a MacArthur Foundation
grant to test truancy interventions and develop new ways to keep students in school and out of the court system. For most students, says center Director Bobbe Bridge, dropping out is a gradual process - and it's happening too often.
"We only graduate 70 percent here in the state of Washington, or a smidge above that, and with kids of color it's closer to the 50 percent mark. That, to me, is a national and a statewide tragedy. One of the ways that we can address it, is through truancy."
Court often is the last place troubled kids need to be, says Bridge, a former state Supreme Court justice, so the center is developing ways to screen for and deal with mental-health problems.
"Our more serious offenders in the juvenile justice system, somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of them, have mental-health issues, if you take a look at the kids that are committed to JRA (Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration). In the counties, for those who are still misdemeanor offenders, it's probably closer to 50 or 60 percent - but that's still a lot."
Washington is one of only four states with MacArthur Foundation support for juvenile justice reform. State budget cuts have created challenges, Bridge says, but the work is still on track. Members of the coalition include juvenile courts in several counties, plus law schools, state agencies and nonprofit groups working with youths.
More information about the program is online at ccyj.org