Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Supporting Students in Foster Care: A School-Based Intervention

Charles A. Williams III PhD
Stoneleigh Foundation Fellow
Associate Teaching Professor of
Psychology and Education
Drexel University

Foster youth in America disproportionately face the likelihood of negative outcomes—i.e., incarceration, homelessness and high school dropout. Their level of social and cognitive functioning is often comprised due to the reasons for placement, i.e., physical and sexual abuse, neglect and maltreatment. Therefore, it is imperative that educational professionals - in formal learning environments, are aware of this reality for foster youth, if they are to support their overall social and cognitive development. This also calls for an exploration of evidence-based practices, which can support foster youth in formal learning environments. One such approach could be to offer social skills training, while pairing foster youth with mentors. This enhanced mentoring model could improve overall outcomes, while specifically supporting educational attainment.
For the roughly 500,000 youth in foster care in America, the likelihood of facing negative outcomes—i.e., incarceration, low college attendance, poor health, high school dropout, homelessness, economic problems, and early parenting—is quite high (Berzin, 2010; Gramkowski, Kools, Paul, Boyer, Monasterio, & Robbins, 2009; Leve, Fisher, & Chamberlain, 2009).  Moreover, “a sizable literature details the disparities in the child welfare system population compared to the general population on indicators of health, mental health, and social and economic well-being” (Leve et al., 2009, p. 1870). Also, Landsverk, Burns, Stambaugh, and Reutz (2009) state that between one-half and three-fourths of children and youth in foster care experience behavior and social-emotional problems (given the traumatic experiences which they face –often repeatedly), which warrant intervention.
Out of home placement
Several factors may lead to a child being placed in foster care. Specifically, Leve et al. (2009) report that the most common reasons for child placement are parental neglect (67%), physical abuse (16%), sexual abuse (9%), and psychological abuse (7%), with much of this taking place in early childhood. Often, these early child hood experiences can lead foster care youth to develop internalizing and externalizing problems (Stein, 2001). Repeatedly experiencing traumas related to placement into the child welfare system, may lead specifically to poor academic achievement, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and lower future expectations. It can also lead to higher rates of emotional difficulties and mental illness (Rosario, Salzinger, Feldman, & Ng-Mak, 2008; Stein, 2001), further explaining the disproportionality of negative outcomes for foster care youth. This, then, requires an effective intervention.
Mentoring Foster Youth
According to a report by the Corporation for National and Community Service titled Mentoring Children in Foster care: considerations and partnerships for Senior Corp Directors, foster care youth are in need of mentors or adult role models (Kaplan et al., 2009). Mentoring is often defined as the contribution of a trusted, non-parental adult in the life of a child or youth (Gordon, Iwamoto, Ward, Potts, & Boyd, 2009). “The presence of a positive, trusted, adult role model has been recognized as a protective factor against violence and other maladaptive outcomes for youth” (Cheng, Haynie, Brenner, Wright, Chung, & Simons-Morton, 2008, p. 944). However, traditional mentoring efforts may be enhanced by adding a social skills training component, thereby, making even more likely that foster youth will maintain and develop social competence.
Social Skills
Social Skills
The study of social skills has a rich history reaching back several decades, with early researchers providing a theoretical template for both the conceptualization and study of social skills (Quay, 1986). Merrell and Gimpel (1998) refer to two different ways to conceptualize/define social skills, which concentrate on three general types of constructs.  These are peer acceptance and behavioral and social validity.  Stepehens (1978) created a comprehensive listing of four broad categories and 30 sub categories of social skills, which were used to create a social skills training curriculum (these 30 sub categories have been used by other theorists and educators to address social skills issues). These four broad categories are:
1.  Self-related.  Accepting consequences; ethical behavior; expressing feelings; positive attitude toward self; responsible behavior; self-care
2.  Environmental behaviors. Care for the environment; dealing with emergencies; lunchroom behavior; movement around environment
3.  Task - related behaviors. Asking and answering questions; attending behavior; classroom discussion; completing tasks; following directions; group activities; independent work; on - task behavior; performing before others; quality of work
4.  Interpersonal behaviors. Accepting authority; coping with conflict; gaining attention; greeting others; helping others; making conversation; organized play; positive attitude; toward others; playing informally; property: own and others
Out of these four broad categories, six explicit skills can be constructed and they are:
1.      Responds to teasing or name calling by ignoring, changing the subject, or using some other constructive means
2.      Responds to physical assault by leaving the situation, calling for help, or using some other constructive means
3.      Walks away from peer when angry to avoid hitting
4.      Refuses the request of another politely
5.      Expresses anger with non-aggressive words rather than physical action or aggressive words.
6.  Constructively handles criticism or punishment perceived as undeserved
School-Based Social Skills
As has been mentioned, foster youth struggle with externalizing and internalizing problems, which can lead to academic challenges. This is the case because children and youth, who face these types of social and emotional challenges, find it difficult to connect with peers as well as receive support from teachers. In fact, research suggests that children who face such challenges often lack social competence, i.e., they are not socially-skilled.  Furthermore, Lane, Gresham and O’Shaughnessy (2002) point out that children who exhibit disruptive/acting out behaviors in the classroom (externalizing behaviors) may underachieve academically, given that their acting out behaviors may cause them “to miss out on essential instructional activities” (p.321).  O’Shaughnessy (2002) also states that “over time, this lack of participation in classroom activities results in academic under achievement” (p.321).  Such statements suggest a relationship between students’ social competence, or the lack thereof, and their academic performance. It also suggests that foster youth may benefit from developing social competence through social skills training (and mentoring).
Mentoring as a tool to improve social skills 
Mentoring has also been found to specifically improve conduct problems and social skills in school-aged youth (Brown & Enriques, 1997; Cheng et al., 2008; Horn & Kolbo, 2000; Wyatt, 2009; Zand et al., 2009). This is the case because as children learn, grow and develop, they seek out regular and consistent, high quality, positive interactions with significant adults in their lives (Draper, Siegel, White, Solis, & Mishna, 2009). Through positive social relationships, with these significant adults, children often learn and model appropriate social responses to such things as conflict and disappointment; and they learn such things as how to effectively communicate and express feelings and emotions (Williams, 2006). Mentoring has not only been shown to address social skills and behavior problems, but as has been previously mentioned it can also influence academic achievement (Glomb, Buckley, Minskoff, & Rogers, 2006; Gresham, 1998; Williams, 2006).
A Dynamic School-Based Intervention: Mentoring and Social Skills Training
A dynamic mentoring model-- which blends traditional mentoring and social skills training, could have an overall positive impact on socially desirable outcomes for these very vulnerable youth, specifically academic performance.  Also, given that most states have compulsory education laws for children and youth (up until the ages 15-17), schools could serve as ‘service sites’ for such efforts. Moreover, by using the schools as a base of sorts for a mentoring program – enhanced with social skills training, it is likely to support recruitment efforts. This could be the case, given that the community may be more invested in insuring positive outcomes for their youth as opposed to say recruiting at-large -- in a city or town.
In the final analysis, given that students – foster youth notwithstanding, are required by law to attend school, it would stand that school could serve as optimal site for interventions aimed at youth. In this instance, a recommendation is being made that education professionals become more aware of the fact that foster youth are also their students; and that they should become more familiar with the challenges they face. This, in turn, will enable educational professionals to advocate for evidence-based practices to serve them. The author feels that mentoring- enhanced with social skills training, is such a practice for which educational professionals should be advocating. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My Interview of Malcolm X's Daughter: ILYASAH SHABAZZ by William Jackson, M.Edu

There are rare opportunities that allow a person to interview the person that he idolizes and respects in life. A man, even in death, his words can continue to mentor, influence Blacks to reach their potential as a great people. My opportunity to interview Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X was an awesome honor, humbling experience and reignited my passion to be a better father, educator, mentor and community activist. 

This unique opportunity afforded me an opportunity to get close to my inspiration that today has influence on the minds and passions of millions of people globally. I have for years read books, listened to Youtube videos, Podcasts and blogged about the life and cultural influences of Malcolm X. 

His passion for Black culture, the undeniable love for his wife and children, embracing the empowerment of education and teaching the historical contributions of Blacks not just in America, but around the world. Malcolm X’s influence is felt even in the 21st century. Ossie Davis at the funeral of Malcolm X reflected on him as a Prince - our own Black shining Prince.

I’m not a member of the Nation of Islam, I’m not a practicing Muslim, nor am I a closet Black Panther, what I’ am is a man who is learning that “if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything,” (Malcolm X). Reading both the Christian Bible, and the Holy Qu’ran, learning about the life and teachings of Muhammad just as important the teachings of Jesus Christ, there is no conflict. 

Collectively the teachings are heard in many speeches highlighted by Malcolm X. Learning about loving your brothers and sisters of diverse cultural colors and importantly to uplift all people especially those that are threatened with poverty and lack of educational equality and economic along with political in-equitability. Blacks suffered from these and more, Malcolm X using the power of voice and pen sought to wake up Blacks and inspire them to be better then they were. I believe that through education and sharing the life challenges and accomplishments of Malcolm X this has allowed me to look at my life and see where I need to continue to mature and where I need to dedicate and in some cases rededicate my life to service in my community.

El Hagg Malik El Shabazz was not a complicated man; he was a man of purpose and passion. Malcolm X was sometimes misunderstood, feared and quoted with a dialogue of cultural upheaval and society turmoil. Malcolm X’s words were fuel for the engines of freedom and independence that where also used by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Asa Phillip Randolph, and even Nelson Mandela. The words were the foundation for Blacks to wake up and take ownership for their lives, not to rely on the government for handouts, welfare and second class citizenship. Blacks during these times and even
now need Malcolm X to inspire and motivate them, just as they needed Dr. King and Medgar Evers

Malcolm X with his words of, “by any means necessary,” was not a statement of violence, but a passionate plea for Blacks to educate themselves and to unify their communities. In too many cases Blacks are feared because of the greatness that Blacks do not even comprehend that is inside themselves and their children. It seems that other cultures see the potential, but there are too many Blacks that are still in denial and blind to their abilities.

Malcolm X’s weapons were his words, the ability to communicate, to ignite passions in Blacks that were once thought extinguished by racism, prejudice and Jim Crow laws. Too many Blacks forget that if it were not for the words of Malcolm X, Blacks would be too scared to climb out the trenches of poverty, they would believe they could not learn and could not be educated, they would accept the status of ignorance and even embrace the fear of hatred thrust upon them.

Blacks are more than just property; Blacks are more than just consumers of products that distract them into genocidal killers because of music, clothes, shoes and drugs. Malcolm X spoke of this before Michael Jordan had his brand and Hip Hop was the so called music of young Black men and women.

Before there could be any real change, Malcolm X understood for Blacks there needed to be a psychological challenge; this change had to be strong enough to show Blacks that “you are as great as you say you are.” If Blacks heard it enough, thought it enough and said it enough with passion they would understand not to let others define you nor let others dictate where you can or cannot go. Blacks have been taught to hate themselves, to hate their culture, their color and their ability to grow past poverty and ignorance. There needs to be a “decolonization” in the minds of Blacks.

Malcolm X attempted to show Blacks that there needed to be a “negotiable identity”
(Eric Lincoln). This identity is one of self, cultural and societal respect. The will to be anything and do anything that a Black person desires in the world. The daughter of  Malcolm X ilyasah Al-Shabazz is a example of a community organizer and activist, motivational speaker, and author of the book ”Growing Up X” 2002 and others soon to be published. Ilyasah promotes higher education, interfaith dialogue, and building bridges between cultures for young leaders of the world. She is the founder of Malcolm X Enterprises and is a Trustee for The Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Parents and PGCPS Network Member Kimberly K. Parker is Moving to China!

Hello Engaged Parents and Dedicated Educators,

Parents and PGCPS is proud to announce of one our first members, Mrs. Kimberly Parker has accepted an opportunity to teach English in China effective January 2014.  Kimberly joined Parents and PGCPS on April 12, 2009. She has been an amazing supporter of our efforts to increase parental engagement throughout Prince George's County. Please join us in congratulating Kimberly on this remarkable opportunity and wishing her the best.

In her message to family and friends, Kimberly stated: " Well, because I dared to dream, it's coming true right before my very eyes." To help Kimberly offset the cost of travel and educational expenses, Parents and PGCPS ask members to consider donating what you can afford to support her dream of making a difference. Please visit the link below and give what you can!

Please click here to donate to Kimberly K. Parker's Journey!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Info You Need To Know

Hello Engaged Parents and Dedicated Educators,
Denise M. Joseph Community Reporter and host of EDPowerment on Parents and PGCPS eRadio has “Info You Need To Know”

(1) Santa will be landing at College Park Aviation Museum today at 12pm. He will be there until 4pm Check it out and enjoy the sunshine.
Denise Joseph
Community Reporter
EDPowerment with Denise Joseph

Monday, December 2, 2013

Parents and PGCPS eRadio Presents: Organizations and Their Leaders You Need to Know in Prince George's County

Join Parents and PGCPS eRadio with host William E. Rogers on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 starting at 7:30pm, as he focuses on organizations and the work they are performing in their local communities to impact family and student success. Also, Community Activist, Denise Josephs shares what is happening in Prince George’s County in her weekly segment EDPowerment with Denise Joseph.

Guests include:
 Jaemellah Kemp, founder and president, IT TAKES TWO,INC. Ms. Kemp holds an associate’s degree in Business Administration and bachelors in Business Management from the University of Phoenix. She is currently pursuing her masters in Nonprofit & Association Management from University of Maryland University College (UMUC). Also joining the discussion will be Rev. Tierney Screen of the Share Food Network Program located in Prince George’s County Maryland.

Parents and PGCPS eRadio with host William E. Rogers is on the air this Wed. 7:30pm Listen here: 

Monday, November 25, 2013

EDPowerment with Denise Joseph on Parents and PGCPS eRadio

Hello Engaged Parents and Dedicated Educators,
Below is the link to this week's EDPowerment with Denise Joseph.  You can be heard EDPowerment with Denise Joseph weekly on Parents and PGCPS eRadio.
Parents and PGCPS eRadio

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Be B.O.L.D Against Bullying in Jacksonville by William Jackson, M.Edu.

Best of BOLD Parents is a part of the B.O.L.D. Project Afterschool Program at S.P.Livingston and Eugene Butler Middle Schools and is a program that belongs to the Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Florida.  The Best of B.O.L.D program at Eugene Butler Middle School and S. P. Livingston Elementary School is designed to be a unique collaboration with War on Poverty and the parents of Butler Middle and Livingston Elementary School.

Community collaboration is important to create positive change in the lives of children and families. Through the guidance of Jewel Flornoy (War On Poverty) and B.O.L.D Parent Organizer, Ms. Marcia Ellison PTA President of S.P. Livingston, the leadership of Principals and administration of both schools, activities are centered on creating learning opportunities that involve meeting the needs of parents not just in the school house, but in the communities. Building a strong PTA that supports and encourages parental participation is important for schools academic and community strength. The Best of B.O.L.D is a growing model for other schools across the nation.

The STOP BULLYING NOW – STAND UP – SPEAK OUT event provided the B.O.L.D Spirit Team a chance to fire up over 100 students attending from Pre K to Fifth Grade. The program was Emceed by Ms. Roberta Goode, presentations were provided by Ms. Marcia Ellison, Ms. Latrece Humphrys and the students of B.O.L.D at S.P Livingston.

Bullying is a ongoing issue in schools nationwide, on buses and in communities,  there should be continued efforts to prevent Bullying and provide services to educate, empower and encourage youth from Pre-K to fifth grade and educating parents that Bullying should be reported so actions can be taken to stop Bullying.

Several tragic events in Florida and across this nation have shown that young lives are being taken away because of Bullying and Cyberbullying. Instead of just watching the statistics grow schools and school districts need to have professional development for students and parents. Bullying and Cyberbullying is a reality for many children in schools across this nation. It will take more than laws; it will take more than speeches, it will take the collective efforts like War On Poverty, B.O.L.D, PTA organizations and individuals like William Jackson an educator, blogger, and community activist to make a difference. The opportunities of Cyberbullying can happen where children and teens have unmonitored access to Social Media that allows the behaviors of Cyberbullying to happen on Social Media platforms.  

No parent ever wants to consider their child as a Bully, but the reality is children, kids, teens and young adults are Bullying and Cyberbullying with dangerous results.  Parents need to monitor their children’s actions in school, online, on buses and in classrooms. Parents must be proactive and communicate with their children high expectations of good behaviors; parents should observe behaviors, mannerisms, changes in eating habits, mood swings and  importantly communicate with teachers and administrators. Signs that parents need to observe and question are in changing behaviors. The Best of B.O.L.D is just one organization that is involved in schools, there needs to be more and additional support in the community, from educators, administrators, guidance counselors and importantly parents.

B.O.L.D has conducted several Bullying trainings for parents provided by William Jackson; he has a passion for preventing Bullying, Cyberbullying, harassment, and other forms where children feel threatened and fearful. STOP Bullying Now efforts should grow with the help of attending organizations like Jacksonville Public Education Fund, Boys and Girls Clubs, War On Poverty, Habitat for Humanity and New Town Success Zone, organizations working to raise the learning levels of students, provide parents more opportunities to be involved.

B.O.L.D has worked with parents and students to continue to send a message through the building of a mural made from tiles, each tile was designed to send a positive message that will resonate throughout the school as it hangs honorably at S. P. Livingston. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dr Mike Robinson at Western Kentucky University Panel Discussion on Fathers

P.G. Schools CEO Maxwell to Represent Md. in National Superintendent Competition: by Courtney Jacobs AFRO Staff Writers

Prince George’s County Schools CEO Kevin M. Maxwell has been named Maryland Superintendent of the Year for 2014 by the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland (PSSAM) for his work as chief of Anne Arundel County’s schools.

Maxwell, hired in June to turn around the Prince George’s school system, was applauded for narrowing the achievement gap in Anne Arundel and for forging strong ties with the Anne Arundel community.
He will represent the state in February at the National Conference on Education in Nashville, Tenn., at which a national superintendent of the year is to be named.

News of Maxwell’s award to represent the state came during the annual Maryland Negotiating Service Awards Banquet in Ocean City Nov. 1.

“This is one of the highest honors I have received during my 35-year career in education,” Maxwell said in a press release. “When you are selected by your peers for such recognition, it is both a thrilling and humbling experience. I extend my sincerest thanks to my colleagues for their nomination.”

“This award is well deserved and speaks volumes of Dr. Maxwell’s accomplishments and his on-going contributions to the field of education,” Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said in a news release. “He brings the type of innovation and creativity to the job that we were looking for in our new Chief Executive Officer and our school system is fortunate to have him as our leader.”
In June, Baker appointed Maxwell as CEO for Prince George’s County.

To read more of  Courtney Jacobs article click here.

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