Zero Youth Detention: New resources map the path, track progress

Two new resources support the goal of attaining Zero Youth Detention in King County:  (1) a comprehensive Road Map to Zero Youth Detention and (2) a dashboard for tracking progress.

MAPPING THE PATH

Firmly grounded in evidence, the Road Map acknowledges that:

  • Restorative and community-driven strategies are effective and more likely than involvement with the criminal justice system to foster the development of happy, healthy adults.
  • After almost 20 years of progress in reducing juvenile detention in King County, the disparity between youth of color and white youth was larger in 2017 than in 1999.
  • In large part, this disparity persists due to the cumulative disadvantages of systemic racism related to housing, education, human services, and the juvenile legal system — systems that are meant to improve the lives of people in all communities.

What were the report’s key objectives and recommendations?

  • Lead with racial equity: Presented in the context of historic and ongoing systemic racism at every level of U.S. society, the report recommends two strategies: (a) identify and eliminate policies that result in racial disproportionality in the juvenile legal system and detention and (b) invest in training for any staff who work with youth (training covers topics such as adolescent brain development, trauma-informed services, restorative mediation, interpersonal communication, and direct supervision).
  • Prevent youth from entering the juvenile legal system. For the greatest impact, focus upstream and on systems. To enhance positive youth development and position youth for success, strong partnerships are needed between youth and families, schools and communities, and the County.
  • Divert youth from further law enforcement, formal legal processes, and secure detention into community-based options. To achieve this objective, partners in the legal system and community will need to work together to create a continuum of community-based approaches that provide for community safety and developmental needs of youth.
  • Support youth and families to reduce recurrence of legal system involvement and increase healthy outcomes. Outcomes are generally better when youth remain in their own communities rather than becoming involved with the juvenile legal system. When this has not been possible, however, family engagement and reentry supports are essential to fostering positive outcomes after youth have been in secure detention.
  • Align and optimize connections between systems to increase effectiveness. Everything works better when legal, community, social welfare, and health/mental health systems are working together.

Zero Youth Detention in Action

 The Superior Court, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and the King County Executive have taken steps to achieve these goals. They include:

  • Screen-and-release as an alternative to detention, which enables on-call juvenile judges to review cases and release low-risk youth to responsible adults during hours when court is not in session.
  • Expansion of “Tier 2 warrants” so police do not have to book low-risk youth into detention if they miss their first court hearing; instead, after a call to the Court’s screening unit, officers may be able to get a new court date without detention.
  • Calling on techniques of “restorative justice– swift and fair accountability for harmful behavior that brings together those harmed by criminal behavior, those who caused the harm, and members of the larger community to discuss how they’ve been affected and what should be done to repair the harm.

In addition, many King County school districts are taking a less punitive approach to school discipline – something that is expected to slow the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

TRACKING PROGRESS

Launched on the final day of 2018, The Zero Youth Detention Dashboard is a public-facing tool to track progress on zero youth detention. The headline metrics for the dashboard are organized into 4 categories:

  1. The average daily number of youth in secure detention. For youth not charged as adults, this number is down from 51 per day in 2016 to 46 per day in 2017.
  2. Annual counts of youth in secure detention. While the total number is down, racial disparities have gotten worse.
  3. Annual counts of referrals (alleged new crimes) or police reports received by the Prosecuting Attorney’s office. From 2016 to 2017, total referrals were down by 144 (from 3,688 to 3,544); referrals by school districts were down by 99; and referrals for low-level or misdemeanor offenses were down by 191. Changes in referral rates differed by race/ethnicity.
  4. Annual counts of filings of charges (cases with sufficient evidence for the court to resolve) by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Total filings declined from 2014 to 2016, and plateaued in 2017; again, changes varied by race/ethnicity.

With the Dashboard now available publicly, it’s possible to look at the numbers in different ways. The public is encouraged to provide feedback by email (zydinfo@kingcounty.gov) or submission of an online form. Like the Road Map, the Dashboard is a work in progress, and public scrutiny of the data from multiple perspectives should help the county move toward the goal of Zero Youth Detention.

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Tracking the soda tax

Because voters passed Washington State Initiative 1634 in November, Seattle is the only city in the state that can legally tax sugar-sweetened beverages. But the Seattle tax remains in place, and its effects are being evaluated by researchers from Public Health – Seattle & King County, the University of Washington, and Children’s Hospital. According to the Seattle Times, the first 9 months of the tax generated almost $17 million in new revenue – considerably more than the original $15 million estimate for the entire year.

Photo by Josh McLain on Unsplash

The tax took effect one year ago, on January 1, 2018. Before the tax was implemented, the evaluation team collected baseline data, which they presented to Seattle City Council in August. Briefly, the report found:

  1. Beverage prices were similar in the City of Seattle and comparison areas in King County. When there were differences, Seattle prices tended to be higher. Across all areas and types of beverages, large stores had lower prices than small stores.
  2. Consumption of sugary beverages was lower in Seattle than in comparison areas and lower than the national average. The top 2 beverages consumed by Seattle children were water and flavored milk (neither subject to the new tax); among taxed beverages, Seattle children were most likely to consume soda and sugary fruit-flavored juice. These results differed from the popular impression – reported by consumer and business representatives who participated in focus groups – that sugary beverage consumption among children was common.
  3. Economic impact of the tax. While Seattle adults participating in surveys did not believe the tax would negatively affect small businesses or result in job loss, representatives of some businesses and elected officials expressed the opposite view. Business representatives gave mixed responses about whether they would absorb the tax or pass it on to clients and consumers. While consumers had mixed opinions about how the tax would affect their own purchasing and consumption behaviors, they felt the tax would financially impact low-income people and communities of color.
  4. Support for the tax. Most Seattle adults surveyed supported the Sweetened Beverage Tax and believed the tax would help improve the health and well-being of children and of the general public. Support for the tax was lower among survey participants with lower incomes and those who were non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic Asian.  While representatives of consumer and business groups expressed mixed support for the tax, they more consistently supported putting tax revenues toward programs to improve healthy food access for lower-income populations.

Besides raising money for nutrition education and assistance to low-income residents for the purchase of healthy foods, has the tax affected purchasing and dietary behaviors of people in Seattle? The first (6-month) evaluation report was submitted to the City in September and should become available to the public early in 2019. As reported in Community Health Indicators, results of the 2016 Healthy Youth Survey showed a decline in daily consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages by King County’s middle- and high-school students before the tax took effect.

For additional data on healthy (or unhealthy) eating, see Community Health Indicators, especially sugar-sweetened beverage consumption by adults and children who drink soda or SSBs daily (8th, 10th, and 12th grades).

LGBTQ youth talk about healthcare experiences

By Communities Count in collaboration with Public Health Insider

Photographer, Ned Ahrens

In a first-of-its-kind effort, King County hospitals reached out to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth and young adults to learn about their experiences with healthcare. King County Hospitals for a Healthier Community, which is a collaborative of 11 hospitals and health systems, joined with Public Health – Seattle & King County to identify the greatest needs and assets of the communities they serve and develop plans to address those needs. More than 1 in 10 King County youth identifies as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

A series of listening sessions with LGBTQ youth and young adults age 13-24 living throughout King County, plus interviews with advocates who work with LGBTQ youth, revealed consistent themes that were also supported by survey data. The themes at the heart of the just-released LGBTQ Community Spotlight include:

  1. Lack of control of their own health

For many LGBTQ youth, lack of family support affected mental health, self-esteem, and their ability to effectively navigate the healthcare system. Youth who had stable and nurturing relationships with their families and trusted adults felt safe and supported. Those without these trusting relationships had extreme difficulty getting their health and healthcare needs met. One youth said, “… this is my body, this is my mental health, this is me; I feel like I’m not in control over any of it.”

Many youth would like more opportunities to speak privately with their providers, without family present, and feel strongly that providers should take the lead in suggesting this option. A listening session participant offered a positive example: “One thing my [provider] does to make me feel safe is asking me about telling my mom. He’ll always give me the option, ‘Do you want your mom to come along?’ or if she’s there [he’ll ask] if she should leave. He always leaves it up to me.”

  1. With providers, a need for safety, trust, and information

Youth said they needed to feel safe and develop trusting relationships with their providers before they could comfortably talk with them about their physical, mental, and emotional health needs – all topics that are broader than just sexual health. According to one participant, “[My pediatrician]’s really supportive of everything. Before she asks questions, she says ‘do you feel comfortable if I ask this?’ and it’s really nice.”

Participants also stressed the importance of a safe and supportive clinical environment where inclusive language on intake forms and behaviors from staff and providers acknowledge the possibility of gender diversity

Youth also said they needed more information – about diverse aspects of human sexuality and healthy interpersonal relationships, as well as patient rights, confidentiality, and the kinds of services that can be accessed without parental consent.

  1. Kudos for school-based health centers

Middle and high school students with access to one of the 23 King County School Based Health Centers  greatly valued the services and the privacy they provided. This is one of many enthusiastic endorsements: “They’re not only treating what’s wrong with you internally – they care about you all the way.”

  1. Safety concerns across multiple settings

In addition to explaining their need for “non-judgmental safe spaces” for healthcare services, youth expressed strong concerns about safety in their responses on a statewide survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. Compared to students who identified as heterosexual, those who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual were significantly more likely to report feeling unsafe at school and on dates; they were also more likely to report that they had been bullied and that an adult had intentionally hurt them.

These safety concerns were echoed by the finding that more than half of LGBTQ+ respondents to the 2018 Count-Us-In survey of King County’s homeless population reported a history of domestic abuse or partner abuse.

Acknowledging the universal challenges of transitioning from childhood to adulthood, the report highlights the considerable variation in the ways this plays out with LGBTQ youth.  Findings from the report can raise awareness among the parents, teachers, healthcare providers, and other trusted adults whose support is important to these youth as they navigate a vulnerable stage of development. Check out the full report to learn more about the findings and to read more from the participating youth and advocates.

For interpreted data about LGBTQ youth in King County, click the “demographics” and “custom demographics” tabs on the following Communities Count indicators:  teen binge drinking, teen obesity, teen overweight, teen physical activity,  teen cigarette smoking and tobacco use, teen depression, teen substance use, and teen marijuana use.   The same information, without interpretation, is presented on King County’s Community Health Indicators website.

How are guns stored in King County homes?

Across all of King County, more than 1 in 5 adults reported keeping a gun in or around their homes, including in a car or other motor vehicle.  But where they lived made a big difference: Keeping a gun at home was least likely in Seattle neighborhoods (14%) and most likely in rural areas in east and south King County, with the highest rate (43%) in Covington / Maple Valley and Newcastle / Four Creeks.

To help gun owners protect their children and neighbors against accidental shooting, access by children, firearm suicides, and firearm theft, Public Health – Seattle & King County is partnering with firearms retailers, elected and tribal leaders, local hospitals, and law enforcement on the LOK-IT-UP safe storage initiative.

The same survey that asked about keeping guns around the home also asked how those guns were stored. In 2015 —

  • 43% of respondents with guns at home (about 150,000 people) said they stored at least one gun unlocked
  • 31% (about 105,000 people) stored at least one gun loaded
  • 15% (about 51,000 people) stored at least one gun unlocked and loaded

So we have room for improvement. While opinions are divided about gun legislation, we are united in wanting our children, families, schools, and communities to be safe.  

For more information about LOK-IT-UP, see the 10/31/2017 Public Health Insider blog; for background information about gun-violence prevention, see King County’s Gun Violence Prevention Initiative. Communities Count has just introduced two new indicators, with interpretive narrative, under the Public Safety topic: Homes with guns  and Carrying weapons at school.  These indicators, plus data on Not feeling safe at school, are also available at Public Health’s Community Health Indicators site. The LOK-IT-UP site provides information on how to get discounts on storage devices and lock boxes through December of 2018.

Child poverty moves south from Seattle

Twenty years ago, 1 in 5 Seattle children aged 5-17 years old (>12,000) lived in poverty. Poverty among school-aged Seattle children peaked in 1997 – 13 to 16 years before all school districts in the county experienced recession-linked surges in student poverty.  By the “post-recession” year of 2016, the picture had changed dramatically, according to data prepared by the Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE).

The rates and numbers of school-aged children living in poverty have continued to decline in Seattle, and have returned to pre-recession levels in many King County school districts.  But the overall number has increased – from 28,971 in 1997 to 31,259 in 2016 – with most of the increase coming from a cluster of South Region districts that are accommodating the county’s re-distribution of poverty.

On one end of the see-saw, Seattle’s share of the county’s low-income children dropped from 42% in 1997 to 21% in 2016.  On the other end, the South Region school districts of Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, and Tukwila, which together contributed only 39% of school-aged poverty in 1997, are now responsible for educating 55% of the county’s students living in poverty.  All 6 districts have double-digit rates of student poverty, from 13% in Kent to 29% in Tukwila.  And none have returned to pre-recession levels of school-aged poverty.

Given the stratospheric rise in Seattle housing costs, it seems likely that child poverty in Seattle schools has declined (down to 10%, from a high of 19%) because poor families couldn’t afford to stay.  Families – and school districts – in Seattle and many East Region cities benefit from the region’s strong economic recovery. In future blogs, we will look school funding, health, and academic progress to see how South Region school districts are coping with an influx of children whose families aren’t doing as well economically.

See recent updates by school district to Communities Count education indicators and Best Starts for Kids indicators.