A report from the advocacy group Children Now takes a county-by-county look at children’s well-being in California through 28 health, education, child welfare, and economic indicators.
According to the scorecard, approximately 81% of children exited to permanent homes within three years of entering the child welfare system in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Clara Counties. For all five counties, this was a drop in permanent placements from the previous year, and 3% lower than the state average.
Alameda County came in 52nd place with 77% of kids exiting to permanency. In Alameda, San Berardino, Los Angeles, and Santa Clara, African American kids found permanent homes less often than kids of other races.
Statewide, just over three quarters of foster kids between the ages of 12-17 are living in “family-like settings.” Nearly a quarter of kids in the child welfare system are in group homes, transitional housing, and shelters.
Other data collected by Children Now paints a bleak picture of kids’ educational well-being in the state. For example, only 12% of California kids from low-income households have access to state-funded after-school programs.
Just 27% of black third graders and 31% of Latino third graders can read at grade level, compared with 60% and 67% of their white and Asian peers.
One bit of good news is that California’s school districts have made progress toward eliminating harsh school punishment. Sixty-nine percent of suspensions were limited to serious offenses, rather than willful defiance—up from 57% of suspensions the prior year.
“Leaders across California need to take a hard look at the Scorecard data and work together on policy solutions to improve the well-being of children,” Children Now President Ted Lempert said. “We need to invest more in quality early childhood programs, increase access to the health screenings and quality mental, oral and physical health supports that children need, and make sure that all kids, especially kids of color, have access to excellent schools and teachers from the very start.”
Head over to the scorecard for more county-by-county rankings, which can be sorted by county or by any of the individual well-being indicators which include “Three- and four-year-olds who attend preschools,” “Twelfth graders who graduate on time,” “Children who have health insurance for the entire year,” “Schools that have a health center,” and, “Students who are low income and eat free or reduced price meals.”
IN NEW POLL CALIFORNIANS MOVE TOWARD COMMUNITY-BASED SOLUTIONS TO MANY PUBLIC SAFETY PROBLEMS
According to a Field Poll released last week, 39 percent of California voters view the justice system as “generally unfair.” That means, of course, that over sixty percent of those questioned saw the American justice system as “generally fair.”
Yet, among certain demographics, those generally fair/generally unfair numbers reversed themselves. For instance, the majority of African Americans chose the more pessimistic of the justice, as did nearly half of young voters ages 18-29.
When asked about specific concerns regarding the unfairness of the justice system, 41% of all voters surveyed, and 54% of those under age 30, felt the system unfairly penalizes people of color more than whites.
But a larger segment of California voters (53%) agreed that their primary concerns when it came to the justice system centered around the system’s treatment of the innocent—specifically that “too many innocent people, regardless of their race and ethnicity, are arrested unfairly, mistreated by police, wrongly convicted for crimes, or given overly harsh punishments.”
HOW TO BUILD A SAFER COMMUNITY
Interestingly, when it came to programs and strategies to make their communities safer, a hefty majority of those polled said they strongly supported community-based prevention strategies for promoting community safety over strategies that mandated spending more money on police and prisons.
Then when asked about specifically what methods they felt might improve community safety, two thirds of the state’s voters said they “strongly support” having their local governments spend funds to increase access to mental health services (66%). The same percentage of voters (66%) favored providing more job training programs (66%). Increasing support programs for young people also drew 66%, while slightly less—56%—wanted to increase access to substance abuse treatment.
Still, a healthy 39% were strongly supportive of increasing the number of police, however just 11% favored building more jails and prisons as a strategy to make their communities safer.
SUPPORTIVE OF KIDS BEING KIDS
Voters seemed to have the most agreement when it came to the need for programs to keep kids in school and out of the justice system.
For instance, greater than eight in ten voters (86%) agreed that suspending or expelling students from school for misbehaviors ranging, from minor misconduct to violent offenses, should only be employed as a last resort after other approaches have been tried “to hold students accountable while keeping them in school.”
This view was shared by the majorities of voter across all age, ethnic and party lines—although Democrats, Latinos, African Americans, and voters under age 30 expressed the strongest agreement for taking this no-expulsion approach.
Similarly, greater than two in three polled said they believed the government’s education and health care systems are better suited than the juvenile justice system to oversee the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders
And by a two to one margin, California voters surveyed told Field that they believed the justice system should treat juvenile offenders differently than adult offenders.
NO FOR-PROFIT DETENTION CENTERS FOR IMMIGRANT DETAINEES
In the last topic area that the survey covered, pollsters found the majority of Californians would make changes in how undocumented immigrant detainees are treated.
Most California voters (68%) favored a policy of releasing undocumented immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers into the community under supervision or electronic monitoring rather than holding the immigrants in a jail or detention center (31%) while they wait to go to court to determine their residency status.
The numbers on this topic are most dramatic with voters under age 30, where close to nine in ten favored community-based supervision.
And if undocumented immigrants are locked awaiting their court appearances, three in four Californians (73%) said these immigrants should be held in government-run facilities rather than in the private, for-profit jails or detention centers (25%) that currently house the majority of immigrant detainees.
It is not clear whether or not these poll numbers are indicative of how voters will vote on the ballot propositions relating to justice issues, like Propositions 66 and 62, which both deal with the death penalty, pro and con, and Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 57, which would take the power to transfer kids to adult court out of the hands of prosecutors and give that control back to judges, along with increasing parole eligibility for non-violent offenders who have completed the base sentence for their primary offense, and boosting access to early release credits.
Yet representatives from the California Endowment, which requested the Field poll, said they were pleased by the what the numbers suggested about Californians’ evolving views and perceptions.
“As a health foundation, we believe it’s time for a new vision of community safety centered on health, education and investing in young people,” said Mary Lou Fulton, Program Director for the Endowment. “It’s encouraging to see that a majority of California voters support moving our tax dollars and policies from punishment to prevention.”
Every Wednesday night around two dozen men from the Jordan Downs housing project meet to teach each other, and themselves, how to be fathers.
“See, most of the men in the group never had fathers,” Mike Cummings, told me two years ago. Cummings, whom everyone calls Big Mike, is a very large, very charismatic man and one of the program’s founders.
“Or if they did have a father in the home,” Cummings said, “he was usually was doing drugs or an alcoholic, or abusive, or both. So those men never had anyone show them what it means to be a parent. At least not a male parent.”
Big Mike has been through his own wide array of life stages. He’s been an LA gang member, been shot, sold drugs, been to prison.
Now he’s an ordained pastor and a recognized community leader who spends most of his waking hours working to heal the same community that, as a young man, he and his friends helped to break.
The Wednesday group, which he and a handful of other men with experiences akin to his own, started in the fall of 2011—is called Project Fatherhood.
“A mother can teach a lot of things,” said Big Mike. “But she can’t teach the same things that a father can teach,” he said. “She can’t teach a boy to be a man.”
PROJECT FATHERHOOD, THE BOOK
Dr. Jorja Leap is on the faculty of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and is an internationally recognized expert in gangs, violence, and crisis intervention. Leap has also been the resident academic, official social worker, and adopted sister of the Jordan Downs fatherhood program since its beginning.
Homeboy Industries’ founder, Father Greg Boyle called the story “a view of courageous men as architects of their own healing” that “offers hope for real solutions in our inner cities born from the community itself. “
I talked to Jorja Leap earlier this week about the book, and about the fathers who have left such a deep mark on her life.
DADS HEALING DADS
WITNESS LA: Before we go further, explain a little about Project Fatherhood for those who have never heard of it.
JORJA LEAP:Sure. There was a group of men, former gang members who had become community activists—Big Mike, Andre Christian, Johnny Bailey, and some others. And they began meeting regularly with younger men from the community and trying to sort of mentor them out on these picnic tables behind Jordan Down housing project. They saw these younger men had the need, and so this group sprang up organically.
At the same time, a man named Dr. Hershel Swinger of the Children’s Institute, who was an important African American psychologist and a big believer that fathers were part of the family’s strength and that children who did not consistently have fathers in their lives tended to do poorly in school, were more likely to drop out, more likely to be caught up in the school to prison pipeline… So, he too was interested in strengthening the fathers [in places like Jordan Downs], and he got a big federal grant to do it.
The third factor in the creation of Project Fatherhood was HACLA—the Housing Authority for the City of Los Angeles—which plan to rebuild Jordan Downs and, in doing so, they want to, as they put it, build human capital.
So all three of these forces came together in a sort of positive perfect storm. The will, the knowledge, and the credibility was there from the community men who were meeting at the picnic tables. Children’s Institute and Hershel Swinger provided the funding, the support, and the infrastructure. And the locale was provided by HACLA.
WLA: How did you get involved?
JL: Big Mike called me because, to qualify for the funding, they were required to have an MSW on board—to deal with DCFS, child custody issues, issues of child abuse prevention, mental health issues, and a million other things.
WLA: So in some ways, when you were first brought in, it sounds like the fathers were just checking a box. How did that change?
JL: I’d known Big Mike for about ten years. And I really wanted to go back to Watts for some kind of project.
WLA: I know you and your family lived in South LA until you were around 10 years old….
JL: Yes, and as a young social worker I’d worked in South LA and loved it, so I was returning to an old love. But I had real doubts if the group was going to take hold, if people were going to show up. But then one of the fathers, Sy Henry, who is also one of the elders of the community, said to me, “Are you going to stick around? Or are you going to leave us too?” I realized I had to make a commitment. This wasn’t just drive by social work. So I committed. And what the group turned into was beyond my wildest imaginings. Truly.
I think, quite candidly, that was the case for everyone—including the Children’s Institute and, Dr. Swinger.
This group was supposed to help these men learn to be fathers. . But, they also did another thing. They fathered one another. They also took responsibility and wanted to be fathers to the young men of the community, whose fathers were not around. In a sense, they adopted them, and now they have these youth impact sessions.
WLA: What was one of the most challenging moments for you personally during these past years of your involvement with the program.
JL: One of the most shattering moments was a fight that we had when Christopher Dorner was in the midst of his…bloodbath. One of the fathers, a man named Donald James, stood up. Donald James had been in San Quentin for 32 years and he and I were often at odds. He stood up and said, “I think Christopher Dorner is a hero.” And I waited for somebody to say, “What’re you talking about?!” For someone to speak up. But there was no dissent. In fact, many fathers were nodding their heads. I didn’t know what to do. I was shattered.
When I went home to my husband, Mark, he had to set me on my ear. [Jorja is married to Mark Leap, a retired deputy chief of the LAPD.] He said, “Well, of course they feel that way. Do you know what the LAPD has done to them?
I’d always felt like little miss enlightened, and I understood, and had my finger on the pulse of everything. Instead I found I had my finger up my….well, I’ll leave it at that.
WLA: I know from reading the book that there have been many, many high moments. Tell us about one.
JL:There are so many. For example there was the evening that one of our fathers brought his daughters to the meeting. They were fighting with each other at school and got expelled. And he said, I want to whup both of them, but I know that’s wrong, so I brought them to you and I need you all to help me. And so the fathers did. And magic occurred. It was very humbling.
WLA: What made you decide to turn what you were witnessing into a book.
JL: Well it was complicated. Because these aren’t my stories. So I had to ask the men if the book would be okay with them and ask their permission.
But when I heard their voices, how the men expressed themselves, and how they felt about fatherhood, I realized that these were stories that had not been told. These were voices that had not been heard. And I realized I could be the vessel that carried these stories—that were their stories—out into the world.
And these are men who have pasts. When you total it up, the group has probably spent a couple of centuries incarcerated. Yet these men are, week after week, putting one foot in front of the other, while making this effort at healing themselves and healing their community.
WLA: What are the main misconceptions about the men whom you know from Project Fatherhood—and men like them.
JL: Good question. In the mind of many, there are the two extremes—deadbeat dads and the Clifford Huxtable dad—Bill Cosby allegations notwithstanding, the character he created on the Cosby Show.
We don’t seem to have room in our minds for the men who are between those two extremes. But I’m dwelling here in the heart of the territory between those two extremes. These men want to be fathers to their children, but it may not be mom, dad, the Prius and the 2.5 kids. Watts bounces between 50 and 55 percent unemployment during the years of this program. Yet, these men desperately want to work—and not make-work jobs or summer jobs. They want real jobs. They want to stay off public assistance. They’re very proud of staying off. They’ll say, “That’s my baby son. He wasn’t raised on the county. I raised him. “On the county,” means welfare.
WLA: What does what you’ve learned from Project Fatherhood suggest about changes we need to see in public policy?
JL:For one thing, I think there should be a program like this one on every corner, including in Brentwood.
Another thing, people tend to come out of the university environment and mine the data in these communities. And we need to be a presence. We need to not just mine the data, but help the community in tangible ways.
One more thing: every one is missing a bet in Watts, because the real leadership is coming from within that community. Outside agencies don’t need to come in and tell them what to do. Outside programs need instead to provide support for the qualified leadership that is already there.
WLA: What are the most significant lessons you’ve learned personally from your experience with the fathers in the group?
JL:There are so, so many, They helped me understand myself and my relationship with my father, of course. I’ve also learned the uncomfortable lesson that I bathe in White privilege without being aware of it. It’s one thing to read Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow.” It’s another thing to live it every day.
And, by the way, we are not living in a post racial society. I’ll tell you that right here, right now.
We’ve lost several of our fathers to the New Jim Crow. There’s one father in the book, whom people will read about. What happened to him…broke everybody’s heart. I’m still struggling with it.
The other thing I become more and more aware of is what I’d call the wages of trauma, which is so profound for so many of these men. They are trying to heal themselves, while healing others whom they’ve hurt.
Witnessing their courage every week has been and continues to be very humbling.
NOTE: There will be a book signing and discussion with Dr. Jorja Leap on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 21, at 2 p.m. at Esowan Books, located at 4327 Degnan Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90008
All the proceeds from Jorja Leap’s book go back to Project Fatherhood.
The video above is from the book launch event for Jorja Leap’s Project Fatherhood featuring a discussion between Jorja and several of the fathers. Watch it!
Several times a year, I am asked to speak about juvenile justice issues at classrooms full of graduate students studying public policy, or some similar subject. These days when I talk about criminal justice–juvenile or otherwise—I always bring up the issue of trauma.
I trot out the results of research showing that kids in the juvenile justice system are 8 times more likely to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder—PTSD—than non-incarcerated kids in the community.
I note that the prevalence of PTSD is higher among girls in the justice system (49%) than among boys in the system (32%).
I explain that for school age kids, PTSD can look a lot like attention-deficit disorder, with the accompanying lack of concentration, resulting poor grades, plus the kind of inability to sit still that often leads to school discipline.
Then I tell the students that there is a newer way to look at the kind of extreme stress and trauma that can cause PTSD in kids—along with related difficulties in school performance, behavior and so on.
It is called Adverse Childhood Experiences—OR ACEs.
(We’ve written about ACEs in the past here and here and here.)
THE ORIGINAL ACEs STUDY
In the late 1990s, Vincent Felitti, founder of the Department of Preventive Medicine for Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, and Robert Anda of the US Centers for Disease Control, conducted a landmark study that examined the effects of what they termed adverse childhood experiences–ACEs—things like abuse, neglect, domestic violence and other forms of family dysfunction and catastrophe.
Felitti and Anda studied around 17,000 people in all, the majority of whom were white, well-educated, and middle class or above. Each subject was asked to answer a series of questions about highly stressful events or conditions in their childhood, along with another basic set of questions about physical and emotional issues in their adulthood.
When the researchers analyzed the resulting data, they found find a powerful connection between the level of adversity faced and the incidence of many health and social problems. The two also discovered that ACEs were more common than they had expected. About 40 percent of Felitti and Anda’s respondents reported two or more ACEs, and 25 percent reported three or more.
Of course there are other significant forms of childhood trauma that are not listed in the quiz: having a friend killed, repeated exposure to community violence, surviving and recovering from a severe accident, being the subject of severe bullying or violence by a friend or acquaintance….and so on.
Moreover, the test doesn’t measure traumatic events occurring in young adulthood, or adulthood, which can compound the effects of earlier trauma, or cause it’s own after effects.
Yet it’s a good place to start.
After everyone has finished and privately noted their personal scores, we talk further about how trauma is the unacknowledged elephant in the room when it comes to the subjects of school discipline, justice policy, prisoner reentry, etc., and also, as it turns out, when it comes to physical health.
I tell stories about the young men and women I got to know during my first few years of gang reporting in the early 1990′s, and how their ACEs scores were off the charts. And now, 20 years later, many of them are struggling with the physical and emotional issues that the first ACEs study described.
When we talk about criminal justice policy reform, juvenile justice reform, school discipline reform, prisoner reentry, we also have to have the conversation about trauma, I say.
When the class is over, there is inevitably a cluster of students who want to talk more. Once we’ve chatted a little, I ask those who have lingered behind if they’d be willing to reveal their own ACE scores; what they tell me no longer surprises: ….5….6…7….
And in the last class at which I lectured, one obviously bright woman took a breath and said… “10.”
(Her story is an interesting one and I hope to persuade her to write about it for WLA)
BRINGING ACES INTO THE LIGHT
I bring all this up because this week NPR’s Laura Starecheski produced an excellent three part series for All Things Considered about the world of ACEs, which will further explain why this topic is something we should all know more about.
In the 1980s, Dr. Vincent Felitti, now director of the California Institute of Preventive Medicine in San Diego, discovered something potentially revolutionary about the ripple effects of child sexual abuse. He discovered it while trying to solve a very different health problem: helping severely obese people lose weight.
Felitti, a specialist in preventive medicine, was trying out a new liquid diet treatment among patients at a Kaiser Permanente clinic. And it worked really well. The severely obese patients who stuck to it lost as much as 300 pounds in a year.
“Oh yeah, this was really quite extraordinary,” recalls Felitti.
But then, some of the patients who’d lost the most weight quit the treatment and gained back all the weight — faster than they’d lost it. Felitti couldn’t figure out why. So he started asking questions.
First, one person told him she’d been sexually abused as a kid. Then another.
“You know, I remember thinking, ‘Well, my God, this is the second incest case I’ve seen in [then] 23 years of practice,’ ” Felitti says. “And so I started routinely inquiring about childhood sexual abuse, and I was really floored.”
More than half of the 300 or so patients said yes, they too had been abused.
Felitti wondered if he’d discovered one of the keys to some cases of obesity and all the health problems that go along with it.
I met Felitti last fall and he said that when he and Anda first published their results in the late 1990s, they expected an overwhelming response from the medical community.
Instead for the next fifteen years they got….crickets.
Here’s what the CDC’s Anda told Starecheski:
“I thought that people would flock to this information,” Anda says, “and be knocking on our doors, saying, ‘Tell us more. We want to use it.’ And the initial reaction was really — silence.”
In fact, it took a long time to even get the study published. A number of top medical journals rejected the article, Anda says, “because there was intense skepticism.”
Here are some clips from the rest of the story:
For one thing, doctors aren’t taught about ACE scores in medical school. Some physicians wonder what the point would be, as the past can’t be undone. There also is no way to bill for the test, and no standard protocol for what a doctor should do with the results.
But Felitti thinks there’s an even bigger reason why the screening tool largely has been ignored by American medicine: “personal discomfort on the part of physicians.”
Some doctors think the ACE questions are too invasive, Felitti says. They worry that asking such questions will lead to tears and relived trauma … emotions and experiences that are hard to deal with in a typically time-crunched office visit.
According to Dr. Jeff Brenner, a family doctor and MacArthur Fellows award-winner in Camden, N.J., getting these rough measures of adversity from patients potentially could help the whole health care system understand patients better.
The ACE score, Brenner says, is “still really the best predictor we’ve found for health spending, health utilization; for smoking, alcoholism, substance abuse. It’s a pretty remarkable set of activities that health care talks about all the time.”
Brenner won his MacArthur fellowship in 2013 for his work on how to treat the most complicated, expensive patients in his city — people who often have high ACE scores, he found.
“I can’t imagine, 10, 15 years from now, a health care system that doesn’t routinely use the ACE scores,” he says. “I just can’t imagine that.”
Brenner only learned about ACE scores a few years ago, and says he regrets not integrating the tool into his practice sooner. But like most doctors, he says, he was taught in medical school to not “pull the lid off something you don’t have the training, time or ability to handle.”
In theory, Brenner says, talking to patients about adverse childhood experiences shouldn’t be any different than asking them about domestic violence or their drinking — awkward topics that doctors routinely broach now.
KANSAS CITY TRIES “TRAUMA INFORMED” CARE FOR KIDS
The good news is that there are some promising programs popping up all around the nation, including a number in California, which make use of what we know about the effects of childhood trauma.
Never mind the little girl’s name. What’s important is that she was about 10 years old and all the doctors she had seen month after month had failed to ease her pain.
The girl’s stomach wrenched. Her chest tightened. Her skull seared with lightning-bolt headaches.
Then at Children’s Mercy Hospital, pediatrician Lisa Spector decided to probe with a different set of questions. Instead of asking what was wrong physically, Spector asked the girl what had happened to her in her young life. Quickly, the crux of her pain became clear:
“It was impacting her physical and mental health,” Spector said.
At school, she was bullied. At home, she witnessed repeated domestic violence. She talked of her dad belittling and abusing her emotionally. She recently had been a victim of an attempted carjacking; the thief fled after seeing her in the back seat.
Day to day, she was living a tense and unsure existence that was translating itself into hobbling pain.
That the child’s troubles ultimately eased not with medication but with counseling can be credited to a serious effort by Children’s Mercy to focus on “trauma-informed” care.
For a growing number of children across the country, the approach has become the key to their emotional and mental health, “the most important thing we can do for people,” said Marsha Morgan, chief operating officer for behavioral health at Truman Medical Center.
Trauma-informed care focuses on the notion that a traumatic event in childhood, either experienced or witnessed, can alter the biology of the brain. A trauma-informed strategy works on multiple fronts — using counseling and changes to one’s personal interactions and environment — to lessen or bypass those negative associations while forming new and more positive associative pathways in the brain.
“I’ve worked in this field for over 42 years, and this is the most important thing I’ve ever done,” Dr. Morgan told Adler as they talked about the hospital’s trauma work.
We’ll be talking more about trauma, its effects,. and what can be done to prevent and address them, as we profile more of important programs over the coming weeks and months
Here are a few of the early reactions to the news Monday night that a Missouri grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson in the August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown
LA COUNTY SHERIFF-ELECT JIM MCDONNELL
The frustration we have seen in Ferguson, Missouri demonstrates what can happen when a divide develops between government — through one of its most vital agents, law enforcement — and the community it serves. It is why community policing and engagement must not merely be something we do, but rather it must be who we are and how we operate every day.
The Grand Jury in Ferguson, Missouri has spoken. Yet a community is still fractured and many lives are forever and irreparably impacted.
I urge those who may be disappointed by today’s decision to nonetheless respect the outcome and processes of our legal system. The greatness of our nation comes from our ability to come together peacefully and lawfully, to speak up about what is on our minds, and to respect one another…..
As the incoming Sheriff of Los Angeles County, I will continue to focus, as I have throughout my career, on strengthening lines of communication and fortifying trust between communities and law enforcement….
As we await the grand jury’s decision, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you — a deep, heart-wrenching thank you — to all the organizers and activists who took to the streets following Michael Brown’s killing and who refused to stop marching, raising their voices, and crying out for justice. It is because of them — their courage, boldness, vision and stamina — that the world is paying attention to what is happening in a suburb called Ferguson. The world is not watching because an unarmed black man was killed by the police. That’s not news. What made this police killing different was that the people in Ferguson — particularly the young people — rose up and said We Will Not Take It Any More. Our Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. And their cry has been heard around the world…..
CONNIE RICE AND THE ADVANCEMENT PROJECT
“Today, the people of Ferguson and caring Americans throughout our country are devastated by the grand jury decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “The legal system has failed again to hold someone accountable for the loss of life of an unarmed young Black man. In places throughout the United States, innocent lives are being lost at the hands of those who are supposed to serve and protect us. Mike Brown, Eric Garner and John Crawford are just a small portion of those killed by the police, while countless others have been harassed, injured and criminalized unnecessarily. Efforts for sweeping change will not stop until there is relief for communities of color.”
“The family of Michael Brown deserves an immediate, thorough, and transparent investigation into this shooting,” said Connie Rice, Founding Co-Director of Advancement Project. “This incident should be investigated by the federal government for possible civil rights violations. We also welcome federal action to ensure that civil rights of youth of color and of those protesting Michael Brown’s death are protected in the community of Ferguson.”
“Michael Brown’s death has ignited deep passions across the nation, and Los Angeles is no exception.
Tonight’s decision is one that will be heatedly debated — but we should do so through dialogue and peaceful action….
OAKLAND CONGRESSWOMAN BARBARA LEE
My heart continues to go out to Michael Brown’s family and community. Like everyone in our community, I am devastated by the senseless murder of yet another young black man,” Lee said. “The deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant, one of my constituents, serve as tragic examples of the senseless murder of young African American men.
We must come together like never before to tackle the systemic, structural and rampant racial bias endemic in our institutions and criminal justice system. We must demand change and work to realize it.
AND IN OTHER NEWS
GOV. BROWN NAMES YOUNG SUPERSTAR LAWYER TO STATE SUPREME COURT
In a surprise move that is very much in keeping with Jerry Brown’s style of choosing unconventional but talented and high profile judicial candidates, on Monday, the governor named 38-year-old Leondra R. Kruger to the California Supreme Court, making her the youngest member of the court in memory. In his Monday statement, Brown called his nominee “a distinguished lawyer and uncommon student of the law” who has won “the respect of eminent jurists, scholars and practitioners alike.”
Interestingly, Kruger, has argued twelve times before the U.S. Supreme court, but has not practiced law in California since 2008. Instead she has spent much of her career as a rising star in the nation’s capital, most recently serving in the U.S. Department of Justice, in the office of legal counsel, prior to that, holding a top position in U.S. solicitor general’s office.
Attorney General Eric Holder stated that Kruger would be “an excellent and thoughtful Supreme Court justice who will serve the people of California with distinction for many years.”
Kruger is only African American on the court since the exit of Janice Rogers Brown in 2005 for a position on the D.C. Court of Appeals.
Defying convention again in his picks for the state’s highest court, Brown on Monday tapped 38-year-old top Obama administration lawyer Leondra Kruger to a vacancy that has been lingering on the Supreme Court since early this year.
Most recently a deputy U.S. attorney general, Kruger would be the state Supreme Court’s first African-American justice since former Justice Janice Rogers Brown moved to a federal appeals court in 2005.
Kruger, a rising legal star already mentioned as a federal appeals court and future U.S. Supreme Court prospect, replaces 73-year-old Justice Joyce Kennard, who retired in April.
The addition of Kruger to a once-aging state Supreme Court represents an unprecedented youth movement – in addition to being the youngest justice in memory, Kruger joins Brown’s two other picks, Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, 42, and Goodwin Liu, 44, in bringing down the court’s average age by decades.
“(The governor’s) recent appointments to the California Supreme Court reflects a realization in Sacramento of something made decades ago in D.C. in connection with the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Shaun Martin, a University of San Diego law professor. “The younger the justices are when they get appointed, the longer they stay there and affect the law.”
FBI RELEASES 2013 STATISTICS FOR OFFICER DEATHS IN LINE OF DUTY, FINDS NUMBER OF OFFICERS CRIMINALLY KILLED SHARPLY DOWN
According to statistics released by the FBI on Monday, 27 law enforcement officers died as a result of felonious acts last year, and 49 officers died in accidents, for a total of 76 officers killed on the job protecting American communities.
The numbers of officers killed as a result of criminal acts by others in 2013 decreased by 22 when compared with the 49 officers feloniously killed in 2012, according to the FBI.
The FBI also looked at five- and 10-year comparisons in number of officers killed on the job by others and found a decrease of 21 felonious deaths compared with five years ago, in 2009, when 48 officers died, and a decrease of 30 felonious deaths compared with 2004′s 57 officers.
Of course, for the friends, colleagues and the families of those 27 officers feloniously by others in 2013, the statistics don’t really matter.
THE ADVERSE AFFECTS OF PRISONS ON COMMUNITY HEALTH
The millions of Americans who cycle through the nation’s courts, jails, and prisons every year experience far higher rates of chronic health problems than found in the general population—including a higher rate of infectious diseases, substance use, serious mental illness, and emotional conditions such as chronic depression.
When prisoners return to their communities—as most eventually do—they bring those problems with them, in many cases, arriving home with a condition that has been exacerbated by their prison stay.
Each year, millions of incarcerated people—who experience chronic health conditions, infectious diseases, substance use, and mental illness at much higher rates than the general population—return home from correctional institutions to communities that are already rife with health disparities, violence, and poverty….
For several generations, high rates of incarceration among residents in these communities has further contributed to diminished educational opportunities, fractured family structures, stagnated economic mobility, limited housing options, and restricted access to essential social entitlements
Several factors in today’s policy climate indicate that the political discourse on crime and punishment is swinging away from the punitive, tough-on-crime values that dominated for decades, and that the time is ripe to fundamentally rethink the function of the criminal justice system in ways that can start to address the human toll that mass incarceration has had on communities…..
But the vote was delayed, sources told us, because—surprisingly—it was not clear whether the matter had enough support to pass.
The fact that the motion couldn’t count on at least two votes in addition to that of Ridley-Thomas was particularly perplexing since both the county’s chief prosecutor, DA Jackie Lacey, and the man most likely to be the next LA County Sheriff, Long Beach Police chief Jim McDonnell, were unequivocal about their belief that a strong diversion program was essential and that adequately funding such a program was a necessity.
“There’s….a moral question at hand in this process,” Lacey said to the supervisors. “Are we punishing people for simply being sick? Public safety should have a priority, but justice should always come first. If you are in a mental state that you hurt others, then the justice system has to do what it can to protect the public. but there are many who do not fall into that category. When we over incarcerate those…We merely act on fear and ignorance…”
McDonnell hadissued his own statement the day before Lacey’s report calling on the county to “…fund and promote an effective network of treatment programs for the mentally ill which will provide them with the support, compassion and services they need to avoid our justice system.”
To WitnessLA he added, “I think what we do here will be watched carefully by other jurisdictions across the state, and really across the country.”
It was rumored that some of the supervisors were worried about the motion’s price tag, even though the proposed $20 million is a modest amount of money when compared to the $$$ now expended unnecessarily jailing—rather than treating (which costs much less)—nonviolent mentally ill inmates and then seeing a high percentage of those same inmates return time after time.
It is “the common sense solution,” wrote So Cal ACLU’s legal director, Peter Eliasberg, in his letter to the individual board members urging them to support the motion to “set aside funding so that it is available when Jackie Lacey provides her comprehensive blueprint to the board in September.”
Lacey put the matter in even stronger terms when she was interviewed for Monday’s news broadcast on Al Jazeera America. “….I am determined that we are going to lead this cause,” she said of the mental health diversion effort. “My dream is that we’ll be able to close down some wings of the jail.”
Moreover, as Eliasberg also noted, a robust program will likely go a long way to satisfy the scathing compliance letter issued in early June by the U.S. Department of Justice, which found that “…serious deficiencies in the mental health care delivery system remain and combine with inadequate supervision and deplorable environmental conditions to deprive prisoners of constitutionally-required mental health care.”
Now we await the board’s vote. Let us hope it is a wise one.
AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT OF THE COST/BENEFIT OF MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT VERSUS LOCK UP….A NEW STUDY SUGGESTS STATE MEDICAID POLICIES RESULT IN MORE MENTALLY ILL GOING TO JAIL AND PRISON
According to a just-released study from USC’s Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, people suffering from schizophrenia are more likely to end up in prison in states like California, which have tight Medicaid policies requiring an extra, supposedly cost-cutting step in approval when deciding which antipsychotic drugs can be given a patient in need.
Some health plans require an extra approval step before tests or treatments can be ordered for patients. This step – called prior authorization – is intended to encourage physicians to select cost-effective options by requiring justification for the selection of more expensive options. Likewise, prior authorization policies adopted by state Medicaid programs aim to reduce costs associated with some medications, especially those drugs used to treat schizophrenia. However, an unintended consequence of these policies may be that more mentally ill patients are being incarcerated, raising questions about the cost effectiveness of these formulary restrictions.
In the study published July 22 in The American Journal of Managed Care, researchers found that states—like California—requiring this prior authorization for what are termed “atypical antipsychotics” had a whopping 22 percent increase in the likelihood of imprisonment for schizophrenics and others, compared with the likelihood in a state without such a requirement.
“This paper demonstrates that our policies around schizophrenia may be penny wise and pound foolish,” said Dana Goldman, director of the Schaeffer Center. “Limiting access to effective therapy may save states some Medicaid money in the short run, but the downstream consequences – including more people in prisons and more criminal activity – could be a bad deal for society.”
Yep. And, just so we’re clear, balking at the $20 million price tag to fund an adequate diversion program for LA County is also exactly that: penny wise and pound foolish.
We’re just saying.
LAPD PATROLLING CITY WITH “GHOST CARS?”
As the LAPD inspector general investigates the allegation that some high level department supervisors have been falsely inflating the reported numbers of officers on patrol under their watch, the police union—the LAPPL—which evidently flagged the practice to begin with, has confirmed that there are indeed reportedly “ghost cars” on patrol. (Here’s an LAPPL video that attributes the drop in patrols to budget cuts.)
….Union officials, who submitted the complaint, refer to the patrol vehicles that are not on the street when they are reported to be as “ghost cars.”
The investigation began when union officers complained to the Los Angeles Police Commission and the inspector general about patrol officers who were supposed to be assigned to light or desk duty because of an injury or other condition but are asked to sign in to work as if they were in a patrol car.
LAPD Detective David Nunez, a delegate for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said he complained to the police commission and the inspector general, saying it’s “unsafe for the community and the officers.”
POST SCRIPT: Allegations of similar “ghost patrols” have repeatedly surfaced among our sources in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. The reports come from both the unincorporated areas of LA County and some of the contract cities.
MORE FROM THE NY TIMES ON MARIJUANA, SPECIFICALLY THE RACIAL INJUSTICE OF WEED ARRESTS
After the New York Times’ Sunday editorial calling for marijuana to be legalized, the paper has continued to make the case in a series of editorials on the matter, the newest being this one by Jesse Wagman on the shameful racial inequities in marijuana arrests and convictions.
Here’s a clip:
America’s four-decade war on drugs is responsible for many casualties, but the criminalization of marijuana has been perhaps the most destructive part of that war. The toll can be measured in dollars — billions of which are thrown away each year in the aggressive enforcement of pointless laws. It can be measured in years — whether wasted behind bars or stolen from a child who grows up fatherless. And it can be measured in lives — those damaged if not destroyed by the shockingly harsh consequences that can follow even the most minor offenses.
In October 2010, Bernard Noble, a 45-year-old trucker and father of seven with two previous nonviolent offenses, was stopped on a New Orleans street with a small amount of marijuana in his pocket. His sentence: more than 13 years.
At least he will be released. Jeff Mizanskey, a Missouri man, was arrested in December 1993, for participating (unknowingly, he said) in the purchase of a five-pound brick of marijuana. Because he had two prior nonviolent marijuana convictions, he was sentenced to life without parole.
Outrageously long sentences are only part of the story. The hundreds of thousands of people who are arrested each year but do not go to jail also suffer; their arrests stay on their records for years, crippling their prospects for jobs, loans, housing and benefits. These are disproportionately people of color, with marijuana criminalization hitting black communities the hardest.
NOTE: Blacks and whites use marijuana at comparable rates. Yet in all states but Hawaii, blacks are more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana offenses. In California, for example, blacks are more than twice as likely as whites (2.2 times) to be arrested. In nearby Nevada, the discrepancy is double that with blacks 4.5 times as likely to be arrested than whites.
In the late 1990s, a couple of researchers named Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda conducted a landmark study that examined the effects of adverse childhood experiences—which they named ACEs. These ACEs included abuse, neglect, domestic violence and family dysfunction, among other issues. Interestingly, the study involved 17,000 mainly white, mostly well-educated, middle class people in San Diego, not those living in high violence areas. Felitti and Anda were surprised when they found a significant connection between the level of adversity faced and the incidence of various health and mental/emotional and social problems.
Further research found that kids with high ACE scores were far more likely to be suspended from school, and or to get into trouble in other ways.
Over the last 10 years, related studies conducted by some of the nation’s top trauma experts began to find that as many as one-third of children living in our country’s violent urban neighborhoods have experienced sufficient family and/or environmental trauma to have PTSD at a rate than that was greater than that reported for troops returning from war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One of those studies involved middle school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
For school age kids, PTSD can mimic attention-deficit disorder, with the same lack of concentration, poor grades and inability to sit still.
Not surprisingly, kids suffering from intense trauma—whether measured as ACEs or PTSD—often wind up in the juvenile justice system.
The prevalence of PTSD is higher among incarcerated female adolescents (49%) than among incarcerated male adolescents (32%), and 8 times higher than among youths in the community.
For too long, we have ignored the effects of trauma on the mental and emotional states of kids and adults when we design public policy.
Fortunately, that attitude is beginning to change.
TRAUMA & RESILIENCE: TUNE IN!
With the above in mind, at 1 pm on Monday, March 17, The California Endowment is hosting an afternoon long program called “Health Happens with Everyday Courage” to explore community-based solutions for building resilience—in individual and the community itself—to the chronic stress and trauma that plagues many California neighborhoods.
Daily stress is normal, but traumatic stress—especially without the right support, can produce PTSD plus the risk of a range of physical and socio-emotional health problems.
Monday’s event is sold out. (WLA will be there and will report back.)
But you can live stream all or part of Everyday Courage
HOWEVER, IF YOU WANT TO LIVE STREAM YOU NEED TO SIGN UP HERE.
We strongly recommend you check it out.
In the meantime, take a look at this story written by Fania Davis for Yes! Magazine about how some Oakland classrooms are trying healing instead of punishment for traumatized kids who act out.
California State Senator California Senator Ronald Calderon was taken into custody Monday morning after surrendering to federal authorities to be arraigned Monday afternoon on 24 counts that include corruption, mail fraud, wire fraud, bribery, conspiracy, money laundering….and more.
Thomas Calderon, the former speaker of the California state assembly, and Ron Calderon’s brother, surrendered this past Friday when federal charges against both men were announced by U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte.
As you may know by now, Ron Calderon is accused of being involved in two elaborate schemes in which he allegedly solicited and accepted around $100,000 in cash bribes along with trips to Las Vegas, expensive dinners, and gratis stays at golf resorts, plus a couple of high-paying jobs for his son and his daughter (requiring little or no work). In return Calderon allegedly exerted influence on state legislation that was favorable to those doing the bribing.
In one of the bribery set-ups that resulted in the charges against Calderon and his brother, the state senator allegedly took money and favors from a guy named Michael Drobot, the former owner of Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, which is a major provider of two kinds of expensive and delicate spinal surgeries that are often billed to workers’ compensation programs. (Drabot has accepted a plea agreement and is cooperating with the feds.)
The California law that Calderon reportedly worked to keep on the books (it has since been repealed), allowed a hospital to essentially bill twice for an expensive piece of hardware used in the surgeries. (First the hospital got to bill workers comp for the full cost of the surgery—which amounted to a 20 percent more than the facility would have gotten if it was being paid under Medicare. Then it got to bill all over again for the hardware—the average price of which, was already paid for in the original billing).
In the companion case filed on Friday, Drobot admitted that his hospital exploited this law, which was known as the “spinal pass-through,” law, by billing insurance providers at highly inflated prices for the device in question that had been bought from shell companies that Drobot controlled.
“Drobot allegedly bribed Ron Calderon so that he would use his public office to preserve this law that helped Drobot maintain a long-running and lucrative health care fraud scheme,” said the US Attorney’s office in one of its official statement.
In addition, Drobot had reportedly been paying kickbacks to doctors and chiropractors who, in return, recommended to what would amount to thousands of patients that they have their pricey surgery at Drobot’s Long Beach hospital, even if they lived a hundred or more miles away from Long Beach, and there was perfectly appropriate facility far closer to their homes.
“The co-conspirators lined their pockets by ripping off insurance companies to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars,” said California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.
THE AFFIDAVIT AND THE STING
The charges against the Calderons were, to a great extent, previewed last October when reporters from Al Jazeera America managed to get their hands on a sealed 125-page federal affidavit that was used to get a judge to sign off on the FBIs raid of Calderon’s office some months earlier.
The affidavit (which was redacted by Al Jazeera to block out the identities of the undercover FBI agents involved in a sting against Calderon) is replete with lots of alleged dialogue between Calderon and the three FBI undercovers, who were posing as the head of a new (and fake) LA film company, the film company’s money man, and the film guy’s good-looking girlfriend, who was in need of a job. Calderon allegedly provided said girlfriend employment on the state’s dime—until such time as the fake film guy “was no longer with” his fake girlfriend. (Nope. Not making this last part up.) Oh, yes, and Calderon allegedly solicited and accepted bribes from the undercover FBI agents in return for pushing legislation that would be favorable to their “film company.”
US Attorney Birotte looked grim as he talked to reporters on Friday about the case against the high-living Calderon brothers. “Holding elected office means accepting the public trust…” said Birotte. “And the vast majority of officeholders do so with dignity, honor and the well-being of their constituents. When you selfishly line your pockets, it’s up to us to take steps to hold these individuals accountable.”
Since the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman was announced just a few minutes after 7 pm, Pacific Time on Saturday night, there is no shortage of opinions on what the verdict meant and did not mean.
Of all that we have seen and read since Saturday night’s announcement by the all-female jury, among the essays and analyses that we feel adds the most to the collective dialogue are the following:
Amid their frustratingly uneven presentation, Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda and the rest of the prosecution have pegged their second-degree murder charges largely on the idea that Martin was losing the fight on February 26th of last year, that he shouted for help, and that Zimmerman, a vigilante would-be cop, shot and killed him anyway. In plotting their route to conviction, they necessarily bypass another set of questions. What if he wasn’t losing the fight? What if Zimmerman is the one who called for help? What if Martin did swing first? And, most crucially, is an unarmed black teen-ager ever entitled to stand his ground?
The answers to these questions have bearing that is more social than legal, but they’re inescapable in understanding how we got here in the first place and what this trial ultimately means.
Also good is this column by our usual go-to-guy from The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen.Here’s a clip from his take on the trial and the verdict, and the oceans of fears, heartbreak and knowledge of our still-tragically race-fractured nation that they triggered.
Of course the deadly meeting last year between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman had at its core a racial element. Of course its tragic result reminds us that the nation, in ways too many of our leaders refuse to acknowledge, is still riven by race. The story of Martin and Zimmerman is the story of crime and punishment in America, and of racial disparities in capital sentencing, and in marijuana prosecutions, and in countless other things. But it wasn’t Judge Debra Nelson’s job to conduct a seminar on race relations in 2013. It wasn’t her job to help America bridge its racial divide. It was her job to give Zimmerman a fair trial. And she did.
Without a confession, without video proof, without a definitive eyewitness, without compelling scientific evidence, prosecutors needed to sell jurors cold on the idea of Zimmerman as the hunter and Martin as the hunted. But when the fated pair came together that night, in those fleeting moments before the fatal shot, the distinctions between predator and prey became jumbled. And prosecutors were never able to make it clear enough again to meet their burden of proof. That’s the story of this trial. That explains this result. That’s why some will believe to their own dying day that George Zimmerman has just gotten away with murder.
And finally there is Monday’s essay by the Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates. Below is a clip from the opening to get you started, but it demands a full reading:
In trying to assess the the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, two seemingly conflicted truths emerge for me. The first is that is that based on the case presented by the state, and based on Florida law, George Zimmerman should not have been convicted of second degree murder or manslaughter. The second is the killing of Trayvon Martin is a profound injustice. In examining the first conclusion, I think it’s important to take a very hard look at the qualifications allowed for aggressors by Florida’s self-defense statute:
It’s been three and a half years since Michelle Alexander’s essential book,The New Jim Crow, appeared in book stores and laid out, with an avalanche of unignorable facts, her thesis that Jim Crow and racial segregation have been replaced by a racially biased justice system where discrimination masquerades as public safety with shattering effects.
The following stories that hit the news recently are examples of the problem that Alexander pointed out, each with their own complexities.
Following up on that report, the NY Times ran an editorial over the weekend urging law enforcement, both on a state and local level, to do away with the kind of arrest policies that are the most likely to produce these disasterously biased outcomes that the report outlines.
Here’s a clip:
Researchers have long known that African-Americans are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though studies have repeatedly shown that the two groups use the drug at similar rates.
Of the more than eight million marijuana arrests made between 2001 and 2010, nearly 90 percent were for possession. There were nearly 900,000 marijuana arrests in 2010 — 300,000 more than for all violent crimes combined.
Nationally, African-Americans are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites. The disparity is even more pronounced in some states, including Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota, where African-Americans are about eight times as likely to be arrested. And in some counties around the country, blacks are 10, 15 or even 30 times as likely to be arrested.
This nationwide pattern is evident in all kinds of communities — urban and rural, wealthy and low income, in places where the African-American populations are large and in places where they are small.
As the report notes, police officers who are targeting black citizens and black neighborhoods are turning “a comparatively blind eye to the same conduct occurring at the same rates in many white communities.”
FEDS MAY STEP IN TO FORCE CHANGE IN NYC’S STOP-AND-FRISK POLICY
As the more than five-year-old lawsuit challenging New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy finally comes to a close, the Department of Justice has told the federal judge overseeing the case she has the DOJ’s permission (read: encouragement) to slap the city with federal oversight if she rules its actions violate the Constitution.
Should that come about, it will be met with much resistance by such people as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly who both say that the policy has made the city safer and has lowered the kind of serious crime that affects minorities in the city disproportionately.
Delvin Barrett and Sean Gardiner of the Wall Street Journal, among others, have the story that will continue to unfold this week. Here’s a clip:
The New York Police Department faces the prospect of a federal monitor for the first time in its history, after the Justice Department issued an opinion in a civil-rights trial concerning the city’s policy of conducting street stops.
The tactic, known as stop-and-frisk, has received intense scrutiny in New York, where officers have conducted more than five million such stops in the past decade. While 52% of the city’s population is black or Hispanic, those groups make up 85% of those stopped, according to NYPD data.
Officers can stop, question and sometimes frisk people on the street when they have reasonable suspicion of a crime. But three federal class-action lawsuits have questioned whether New York’s execution of the tactic violates the U.S. Constitution.
In an opinion filed Wednesday night, the Justice Department said U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin could impose an outside monitor on the NYPD if she finds that officers violated the law in conducting stops. The opinion is tied to the first of the three cases to go to trial. Judge Scheindlin hasn’t yet ruled.
AND NOW ON A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT AND MUCH CHEERIER TOPIC…
NICKERSON GARDENS STARTS BRAND NEW FATHER’S DAY TRADITION TO FOCUS ON UNDERAPPRECIATED DADS
Nickerson Gardens is a community where, in the past, too many kids have been wounded by the lack of adequate fathering. Now, however, a growing number of men in Nickerson are working hard to be the kind of fathers to their own kids that they never had. Sunday, on Father’s Day, the community acknowledged those dads with what organizers hope will be a yearly celebration.
For the first time, families from Nickerson Gardens housing development gave a formal ‘Thank You’ to the dads in the community at Sunday’s inaugural Father’s Day luncheon.
“In these communities, the fathers, they just feel nobody kind of care about them,” said Donny Joubert, who organized the event.
Joubert works for the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, which manages the development. When you talk to guys at Nickerson Gardens, they refer to him as “Uncle Donny.” Joubert said he relates to the young fathers; he grew up there and is a dad himself.
“We got a bunch of young men that we know that is struggling, job to job, dealing with situations at home, but still trying to be there for their kid,” he said.
The event was called “Honor Thy Father.” About two-dozen dads were showered with ‘man bags,’ as one father called it. The gift bags were filled with some dad essentials like shiny silver watches, shaving kits, and of course white socks.
“Nobody never do nothing for the fathers, so this is a great,’ said Kevin White, a single father, whose sons are 17 and 18 years old.
White said he and his ex-girlfriend share custody of their teenage sons after they decided a long time ago that their relationship just wasn’t working. The towering man behind a dark pair of sunglasses twists a long silver chain hanging around his neck. White said that his 18-year old son starts his first year at Virginia Tech in August…..
According to the U.S. Census Bureau 24 million kids in America-–one out of every three—grow up with their biological fathers absent from thier homes.
That’s why fledgling events like the one above, and programs like Jordan Downs’ Project Fatherhood, are so very important—-and are indeed a cause for celebration.