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Taking the Border Crisis to Heart Team from UCLA Luskin Social Welfare counsels mothers and children seeking asylum in the United States

Team from UCLA Luskin Social Welfare travels to immigrant detention center in Texas to counsel mothers and children seeking asylum in the U.S.

Abrams Publishes Research on Child Incarceration, Adult Health

Professor Laura Abrams, chair of Social Welfare, recently co-authored an article in Academic Pediatrics investigating the relationship between child incarceration and subsequent adult health outcomes. The United States is the world leader in youth incarceration, and research by Abrams and co-principal investigator Elizabeth Barnert, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, aimed to bridge the data gap on repercussions from child incarceration. The study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health to compare adult health outcomes in individuals grouped by age of first incarceration. The study compared individuals first incarcerated before age 14 with those first incarcerated at 15-17 years old, 18-20 years old and 21-24 years old. Among the adult health outcomes analyzed were physical health, such as mobility limitations, and mental health, including depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts. After controlling for sociodemographic and ecological factors, the study found that “child incarceration independently predicted adult mobility limitations, adult depression and adult suicidal thoughts,” confirming the link between younger age at first incarceration and worse adult health. The research also identified sociodemographic disparities in child incarceration, finding that “individuals first incarcerated as children were disproportionately of color, more likely to be from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and more likely to have been raised in a single-parent household.” The findings will likely have repercussions in the health arena. The report concluded, “Child incarceration displays even wider sociodemographic disparities than incarceration generally and is associated with even worse adult physical and mental health outcomes.”


Bill to Deem Children Under 12 Too Young for Court Is Backed by Abrams’ Research

Research by Professor Laura Abrams of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare is mentioned in a story that originated with the Chronicle of Social Change and has been picked up by other media outlets, including the Appeal and the Press-Telegram. Senate Bill (SB) 439 would prevent the juvenile justice system from hearing most cases of children younger than age 12. “I think people have an assumption that juvenile court is potentially a helpful intervention for young children,” Abrams says in the story, which notes her analysis of state juvenile justice data. “But in most cases, the charges aren’t sustained or they’re dismissed, so the family doesn’t get any help at all.”


 

Policy Practice in Field Education Grant Received

Laura Abrams, professor and chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, and Sergio Serna of the field education faculty received a one-year policy practice in field education grant from the Council on Social Work Education totaling $18,500. This grant will enable Social Welfare students and faculty to make closer ties with local child welfare agencies to advocate for youth aging out of foster care, to learn more about the policymaking process and to forge lasting community relationships.

 

Early Childhood Incarceration Linked to High Rates of Physical, Mental Health Issues Half of those admitted to juvenile justice facilities before their teen years reported suicidal thoughts as adults

By Ryan Hatoum

Elizabeth Barnert, left, and Laura Abrams. Photo by George Foulsham

When children are placed in juvenile detention centers, jails or prisons before their teenage years, they are much more likely to experience serious physical and mental health issues as adults, according to a new study by UCLA researchers.

The UCLA researchers reported that more than 21 percent of people who had been incarcerated as children reported poor general health in adulthood, compared with 13 percent for those incarcerated later in life and 8 percent for those never incarcerated. The study appears in the International Journal of Prisoner Health.

“Those at risk for imprisonment during childhood need special attention from the health care sector,” said Elizabeth Barnert, principal investigator of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “The rates of poor health outcomes among people who’ve been incarcerated tell us there’s a huge need for us to take better care of them — both as kids and as adults.”

There has been a growing international movement to find alternatives to juvenile incarceration — or the detainment of minors in juvenile halls, probation camps and other juvenile justice facilities — for the youngest offenders. Many countries are raising the minimum age at which adolescents can be incarcerated and are deferring children to other programs for rehabilitation.

Researchers from the Geffen School, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital analyzed data from 14,689 adult participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Their analysis considered three groups: adults who had been incarcerated during the ages of 7 to 13; adults who had been incarcerated during the ages of 14 to 32; and adults who had never been incarcerated.

“From the data we have available, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why those who enter the juvenile justice system at a young age face greater health challenges,” said Laura Abrams, also a principal investigator of the study and a professor and chair of Social Welfare at the Luskin School. “It’s likely a combination of trauma, which can lead to troubled behavior and long-term health problems, and the lasting effects of the conditions of early imprisonment.”

A key study finding were the differences among the groups’ mental health symptoms. Thirty-eight percent of the people who had been incarcerated before age 14 experienced symptoms of depression in adulthood, contrasted with 24 percent of those who were incarcerated at age 14 to 32 and 15 percent of the never-incarcerated group.

In other findings, more than one in four of those incarcerated before age 14 reported suicidal thoughts as adults, contrasted with about one in 10 of the group incarcerated at later ages and one in 15 of the group who had never been incarcerated.

Among the respondents who had been incarcerated at the youngest ages — seven to 12 — the rate was even higher; half experienced suicidal thoughts and ideation in adulthood.

“Incarceration has human costs at all ages, but with children, it’s particularly problematic,” Abrams said. “Children need spaces to grow and thrive — not to be confined in jail-like settings.”

While this new analysis does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between early incarceration and poor health later in life, mounting research gives experts a sense of the factors involved.

One such factor is who gets incarcerated in the first place — for which research has shown there is bias. A study in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior found that of children with psychiatric disorders, those of a racial or ethnic minority are more likely than those who are white to be incarcerated rather than diverted to the community for treatment. As such children are placed into juvenile justice facilities, their health issues may be left untreated or worsen.

The UCLA study found disproportionate racial, ethnic and socioeconomic patterns in those incarcerated as young children. People incarcerated at the youngest ages were significantly more likely to be male, black or Hispanic than those incarcerated at older ages and those never incarcerated. They were also much more likely to have been raised in the lowest income group and in a single-parent household.

“We’re only now starting to understand the full effects of juvenile incarceration on the person, and from a health perspective, the needs of this population are largely going unmet,” Barnert said. “We need a system that effectively addresses their health challenges as early as possible — ideally preventing adolescents from ever reaching juvenile hall.”

New UCLA Center Aims to Build Paths to Success for Foster Youths, Families Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families leverages campus expertise to create paths to educational success

By John McDonald, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies

Tony and Jeanne Pritzker

A new center at UCLA will address the needs of children who are disconnected from traditional paths to success, with a particular focus on youth in foster care. The UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families is a collaborative hub for research, prevention and intervention efforts that will work to strengthen families, and help children avoid entering the child welfare system.

The center’s staff and faculty will also aim to give foster parents, related caregivers, and adoptive families the skills and resources to promote stable and nurturing families, equitable opportunities and paths to educational success for the children in their care. It will address the complex needs of youth in foster care by bringing together resources and expertise from numerous UCLA units, including the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies’ education department, the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The center was made possible by a gift of $10 million from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation. Tony and Jeanne Pritzker are Los Angeles philanthropists and leading supporters of UCLA who have made significant investments toward bettering the lives of foster youth and their families.

“This generous gift from Jeanne and Tony Pritzker allows UCLA to help provide critical resources for our community’s most vulnerable children and youth,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “As a leading public research university, we have a responsibility to use the breadth and depth of our resources to help address the most critical issues facing society. The UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families will be a tremendous resource for young people in the foster care system and their families.”

The center will serve as a catalyst for more effective collaboration between UCLA researchers and nonprofit agencies, other colleges and universities, K-12 systems, children and family advocates, and government support services across Los Angeles County. It will also develop innovative classroom support systems, family support services, and programs that help children affected by trauma and promote resilience; and it will produce new research on issues related to foster care, with an initial focus on the dynamics of race in foster care in Los Angeles County.

“This new center is a natural outgrowth of our family’s commitment to increasing UCLA’s capacity to improve outcomes for children,” said Tony Pritzker. “Our intent is that the Pritzker Center will lend synergy to so much good work already being undertaken throughout the institution, and galvanize new research and opportunities for academic advancement across departments.”

Todd Franke

The center is directed by Tyrone Howard, a UCLA professor of education and GSEIS’s associate dean of equity and inclusion. Howard also is the director of the Black Male Institute at UCLA. The center’s co-director is Audra Langley, an associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Semel Institute, and the director of UCLA TIES for Families, which serves children in foster care or adopted families.  Patricia Lester, the Jane and Marc Nathanson Family Professor of Psychiatry, and Todd Franke, a professor of social welfare at UCLA Luskin, also serve on the center’s leadership team.

“There are nearly 35,000 young people engaged in the child welfare services system in Los Angeles County, including more than 21,000 in foster care, many of whom are struggling,” Howard said. “Issues of race, poverty and gender all play a role in how children and families seek to navigate complex systems for help and hope. The Pritzker Center will help us to better understand their needs and enhance and intensify our efforts to ensure their educational and social success and economic security.

“We are going to work with others in our community to ensure they get the support and services they need, and maybe more importantly, to strengthen children and families in ways that prevent children from entering the foster care system in the first place.”

Langley said: “We have long been doing important work at UCLA to help optimize the development of children in foster care, but there is more to be done to synergize our efforts. This new center will leverage our campuswide experience and strengthen partnerships with others across Los Angeles County who are working to better serve our children and young people in foster care and prioritize brighter futures for all children and families.”

The gift also establishes the Pritzker Family Endowed Chair in Education for Strengthening Children and Families at the Graduate School of Education; the position will provide faculty leadership for the center.

“With the generous endowment created by the Pritzker family, the Pritzker Center promises to be a lasting resource,” said Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, the UCLA Wasserman Dean of the Graduate School of Education. “The center’s leaders will work collaboratively with those in the nonprofit world and government sectors to develop and identify new rigorous, research-based approaches to better support the needs of foster youth and families.

“Many young people in foster care spend much of their day in public school settings, and we need to explore how educators, social workers, clinicians and public health leaders can work together to empower these young people to live full, successful lives.”

A Life of Social Work Dedicated to Children and Families Friends and former colleagues gather in tribute to former educator Joycelyn ‘Joy’ Crumpton, ‘an inspiration to everyone around her’

By Stan Paul

Joycelyn Anita McKay Crumpton — “Joy” to all who knew her — spent more than three decades dedicated to a career in social work and helping others.

The former Social Welfare field faculty member at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, who passed away in September 2017, was known for working to create positive change through education, leadership and service where she worked and taught, as well as in the communities where she lived.

Family, friends, faculty, colleagues and former students got together on March 8 at UCLA’s Faculty Center to honor Crumpton’s contributions to the field of child welfare, diversity, and spirituality in social work practice, to celebrate her life and share memories. In addition, a memorial fellowship fund in her name has been established so MSW student recipients may carry Joy’s legacy as leaders and change agents.

View photos from the memorial gathering on Flickr:

Joy Crumpton Memorial

“Joy was loved and respected by students, faculty and community members,” said Gerry Laviña MSW ’88, director of field education in Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin. “She could always be counted on for support, wisdom, and a smile or hug,” he added. As news of Crumpton’s passing spread into the community and among alumni, Laviña, also a UCLA Luskin MSW alumnus, noted that Crumpton’s “positive spirit and words are carried forward through the many MSWs she taught.”

Contribute to the Joy Crumpton Memorial Fellowship Fund.

At UCLA Luskin, Crumpton MSW ’80 also served as project coordinator of the Title IV-E California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) stipend program for MSW students, a post she held from 2004 until her retirement in 2012. Previously, she served as associate director of the UCLA Center on Child Welfare, Inter-university Consortium from 1992 to 1996. In addition, she spent many years in curriculum development and training implementation focused on child abuse and neglect. At the core of her work was the determination to impact those in need — children, adults and families, according to friends, family and colleagues.

“Joy was an inspiration to everyone around her,” said Wanda Ballenger MSW ’73, longtime friend and colleague, who met Crumpton in the 1980s. In 1992, Ballenger hired Crumpton as associate director of the Center on Child Welfare. “Joy was a very social person, who was better at being ‘on,’ ” when it came to meetings and presentations, added Ballenger. In fact, Crumpton was a talented and inspirational speaker. Her audiences included children and youth, parents, graduate students, social workers, probation officers, public health nurses, judges, court officers, community advocates, clergy members, and university faculty and staff, as recounted in a memorial posted online.

In additions to positions at UCLA, Crumpton held a number of training and instructional positions, including lead trainer for the Bay Area Academy and child welfare ombudsman for the Health and Human Services Agency of the city and county of San Francisco. She also founded and directed Family Tree, which provided training and consultation services related to child welfare.

Ballenger said the two stayed in touch despite being far apart. Ballenger recalled that when her husband received a diagnosis of a serious medical condition, even though Joy was fighting her own battle with cancer, she would call every week. “She was just that kind of person,” Ballenger said. “I really miss her. Joy was my sister.”

Throughout Crumpton’s career, she taught and provided fieldwork instruction at a number of institutions, including UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare, San Francisco State University, and USC’s Center on Child Welfare. At UCLA Luskin, Crumpton taught graduate courses in cross-cultural awareness, international social work, advanced child welfare practice and the program’s child welfare seminar. She also collaborated with the University of Ghana to develop a cultural immersion and fieldwork internship for MSW students working in key social service agencies in Accra, Ghana, West Africa.

Jorja Leap MSW ’80, adjunct professor of social welfare, remembered her longtime friend and colleague from their early days as MSW students in the same class at UCLA.

“Joy was one of those who knew early on how to collaborate — how to work with difficult people in all groups — she was a mediator so much of the time,” said Leap, recalling an earlier and far different time in social work. “So much of it involving marginalized populations,” Leap said. “Joy knew early on to work within institutions and organizations to make change.”

Joseph A. Nunn MSW ’70 PhD ’90, former director of field education for Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin, also had the privilege of working with Crumpton.

“Whenever Joy Crumpton walked into a room, she would light it up,” Nunn said. “Her first name said it all. With an infectious sense of humor and a winning smile she did indeed live up to her name by bringing joy.”

In addition to discussing their children and families, Nunn and Crumpton talked about time each spent coincidentally as children in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Crumpton was born in New Orleans.) “Through one of those it’s-a-small-world experiences, we discovered that she grew up four doors away from my cousins who I visited many summers from my home in Los Angeles.”

Citing her background in direct practice, classroom teaching and training, Nunn said in an email: “Joy had a strong commitment to the children served by the public child welfare system. Whether discussing policy issues or practice interventions her strong analytical skills and compassion for this population were evident. ”

He added: “Joy’s engaging personality made it possible for her to quickly connect with others and thus building collaborative relationships was one of her talents. In summary, Joy had class and style like few before her.”

Getting an Early Start on Social Welfare Lessons Master of Social Welfare graduates share advice with incoming UCLA Luskin students who will be serving vulnerable clients and populations

By Stan Paul

Even before the fall quarter had begun, the new class of first-year UCLA Luskin Social Welfare master’s students was already learning the lessons that will become the foundation of future careers in social work.

“Ten years ago I was sitting exactly where you are,” said Tara Chandler MSW ’09, now a social worker in mental health care, as she and a panel of recent Luskin grads shared practical advice about their roles as mandated reporters for the children, families, senior citizens, dependent adults and others they serve as professional social work practitioners.

The seminar for the incoming cohort of Social Welfare students was one of two half-day sessions designed to help students understand the role of social work and their mandated obligations when working with clients and families, said Michelle Talley, a field education faculty member at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs who works with first- and second-year students.

Joining Chandler were Luskin Social Welfare alumnae Bridgette Amador ’11, Aiyanna Rios ’08, Malena French ’11 and Jolene Hui ’11, all of whom have moved up to positions as administrators and supervisors “in record time,” Talley said. In addition, Hui, who spoke on ethics and confidentiality issues, is director of membership for the California chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, which governs the School’s MSW program, Talley said.

Session topics included mandated reporting of child abuse and elder abuse, domestic violence, suicide, and related legal responsibilities. The idea is to support students who had already begun internships a month before school begins, Talley said. “This is to help students, as they may encounter issues directly or indirectly at their placement,” she said, explaining that students participate in several modules to help them understand complex social justice issues.

The new cohort brings a broad range of experiences to the programs. On average, most of the students have one to three years of experience — either as volunteers or working in a service capacity, Talley said. This includes participation in research studies on adolescent and social anxiety, working with children and older adults, as well as working with a mental health agency providing case management services. Some of the students come from careers in teaching or law, or even as a behavior specialist, working with children with special needs and their families.

For UCLA Luskin student Tina Nguyen, who will be interning in a mental health setting in Los Angeles, the sessions served as a helpful refresher.

“For people who have worked with children or in mental health, you see that daily, so what they are talking about is very effective,” said the Orange County resident who has worked with children and adults in a nonprofit organization.

First-year student Brian Stefan said he was encouraged by the alumni presentations and plans to use his MSW to continue working in suicide prevention, outreach and education in the Los Angeles area. The L.A. native has had previous experience as a volunteer and a staff shift supervisor for a suicide prevention center. Stefan has also done volunteer work as a co-leader for a grief support agency and for the L.A. Mayor’s Office Crisis Response Team.

“The speakers sharing their passion and commitment to the social welfare field is inspiring,” Stefan said. “It’s amazing how much can be done with a Master of Social Welfare [degree] at UCLA.”

 

UCLA Researchers Seek Juvenile Justice Alternatives for Children Under 12 UC study indicates that a minimum-age standard is needed to protect California children from prosecution in the juvenile court system

By Stan Paul

Dr. Elizabeth Barnert, left, and Laura Abrams. Photo by George Foulsham

Although Laura Abrams and Dr. Elizabeth Barnert come from opposite ends of the UCLA campus, their work in their respective academic professions meets at the intersection of health and juvenile justice.

A recent University of California study led by Abrams, professor of social welfare in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Barnert, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, offers a powerful rationale for shielding children 11 years old and younger from prosecution and incarceration in the state’s juvenile justice system.

“Children in the juvenile justice system literally meet the definition of children with special health care needs,” said Barnert, who worked with Abrams as members of a team affiliated with the University of California Criminal Justice and Health Consortium. Prior to their study, which was recently published in International Journal of Prisoner Health, the issue in California was not on anyone’s radar, they said.

“Kids in conflict with the law are kids that typically have unmet health needs. We see a lot of undiagnosed depression, ADHD and learning disabilities — or absentee parents who can’t support their children due to working three jobs, deportation, imprisonment or substance abuse,” Barnert said. “When we prosecute these children or lock them away, we’re putting them in a system that traumatizes them further and often makes their problems worse.”

The UCLA study brought together UC experts from social welfare, medicine, psychology and psychiatry, law and criminology, as well as community partners from organizations such as the Children’s Defense Fund-California and the National Center for Youth Law.

“Our findings provide a rationale for why California should have a minimum age for entering the juvenile justice system and why children 11 and younger should be excluded,” Barnert said. “The study recommendations are based on international human rights standards, guidelines from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatricians, and medical evidence that children’s brains do not fully mature until their mid-20s.”

Added Abrams: “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has established a standard on children in conflict with the law. The convention states that every country should have a minimum age of criminal responsibility, or what we refer to as a minimum age of juvenile justice jurisdiction. The United States does not have this type of law at the federal level, however, so it is up to the states to determine.”

Abrams pointed out that protections for minors already built into current state law are based on the capacity or the intent to commit a crime, as well as the competency to stand trial. California’s 58 counties, however, set many of their own juvenile probation standards. Therefore, “there’s no way to insure, without a minimum-age law, that state laws around capacity and competency are being implemented fairly and without geographic or racial disparities. There is no statewide oversight of these mechanisms for protecting children,” Abrams said.

Findings and recommendations from the UC study and related policy briefs prepared by the researchers include:

  • Children should be held less culpable under criminal law, given their expected developmental immaturity, as repeatedly recognized in recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
  • Children have a diminished capacity to make intentional decisions regarding participation in crimes or to understand that an act was morally wrong.
  • Children have less developed abilities to understand court proceedings and meaningfully participate, emotionally or cognitively, in working with attorneys to wage their own defense.

California currently has no law that specifies a minimum age for prosecuting and imprisoning minors. But a new state senate bill, SB 439, which incorporates the research and recommendations in the UC study, would change that by amending sections 601 and 602 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code related to juvenile court jurisdiction. In particular, the bill would substitute current references to “any person under 18 years of age” with language specifying individuals “ages 12 to 18.”

In its first hearing on April 4, the senate’s committee on public safety passed the bill, which was then referred to the senate appropriations committee, the next step in the legislative process. The bill is part of a package of criminal justice reform bills put forth by the legislators in March.

Proposed amendments and revisions to SB 439 can be found online.

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