At the 2013 Spring Voices for Children Conference, it was evident a LOT of work needs to be done on behalf of not only Ohio’s children and adolescents, but children and adolescents around the world. For instance, starting with the youngest and most vulnerable, Anne Harnish, Assistant Director ODH, said “in 2010, 1,068 babies died before their 1st birthday. Ohio has the 11th highest infant mortality rate in the US. The cost for a pre-term infant is $38,500; full-term it’s $3,950”. And evidence shows, teen moms are more likely to deliver pre-term infants.
During the Thursday luncheon panel, Dr. Arthur James, Associate Professor Clinical, The Ohio State University, and Co-Director Ohio Better Birth Outcomes Nationwide Children’s Hospital, addressed socio-economic and socio-demographic determinants which have a significant impact on health. He said, ‘Where you are on the ladder predicts how long you live and how healthy you are during your life-time. Genes are only part of the picture.“ The pictures and futures he portrayed with statistics showed how much work has to be done to achieve better societal outcomes.
Jennifer Justice, Deputy Director of Child Welfare ODJFS cited national statistics from the ‘Connecting the Dots’ program which shows 48% of females (who aged out of foster care) become pregnant by age 19. Statistics show “every year in Ohio approximately 1,000 to 1,400 young people age out of foster care, and the futures they face are often grim.” Here are some national statistics from her presentation:
• 81% of males are arrested by age 24
• 54% report having at least one mental health problem
• 33% receive neither a high school diploma nor a GED, compared to 10% of their same-age peers
• 33% have household incomes below the poverty level, which is three times the national rate
• 25% have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, compared to 15% of Vietnam War veterans and 12% of Iraqi War veterans
• 22% experience homelessness, and 40% of the adult homeless population spent some time in foster care.
Initiatives undertaken by ODJFS ‘Connecting the Dots’ are aimed at improving the transition to adulthood including education, employment and daily life-including reduction in the incidence of pregnancy, increasing success at living independently and receiving the assistance needed to ‘make it’.
Pomegranate CPSTs (psychiatric case workers) Bobby, Emanuel, Heather, Jennifer and Deidre teach units of curriculum and lead groups designed to help older teens with the critical thinking and skills needed to negotiate independent living and think about their future options, and to make concrete plans to attain education, jobs, housing and manage money, to think about the horizon of their impending young adult lives in a new way.
An RN Case Manager for a large hospital system Northeast of Columbus, said she has seen a surge in ‘failure to launch’ in the 18-24 year old population who couch surf from friend to friend, kin, anyone who will take them in for a time. They play video games, watch television, drink, dabble in drugs and generally can’t find themselves or launch their future. Often lacking a diploma, or the ability/initiative to negotiate the employment process, they become increasingly depressed and disconnected. Some huff inhalants, dabble in bath salts, chasing a ‘cheap buzz’ and wind up in the ER with a psychotic episode, or become suicidal. The seeds for this malaise were often sown at a much younger adolescent age or even through childhood experiences and bad choices. The time to reach adolescents with therapy, education and care is now and even earlier intervention/s.
Having an IEP (individual education plan) is an important part of staying on track. [At Pomegranate Health Systems there are tutors from Columbus Public Schools on-site to help students with homework and to stay on-task. Some teens are transported to their home schools each day.] For Luke Everhart, Site Director for Virtual Community Schools, the process of getting each teen enrolled is critically important. VCS is for those teens for whom a regular school environment may pose a challenge. To enroll these students may involve multiple phone calls to pull together birth certificates, and/or any other necessary paperwork to sign each teen up for school.
When a teen receives a certificate of achievement in a subject, or graduates, that’s a big deal and a moment to celebrate, because it’s the start of empowerment, which provides seeds of hope for a better future. Learn more about VCS, Virtual Community Schools at: http://www.vcslearn.org
VCS mission ‘is to make a difference in the life of a student.’ Pomegranate’s mission is to help adolescents and their families recover from mental illness, learn to care for themselves and each other, and achieve the highest possible quality of life in their homes and communities. We all care very much about outcomes.
[Photo credit: dreamstime_xs_5479490.jpg]