31 March 2009

Juvenile Crime Prevention: Proven Programs Promote Pro-Social Development in Young Children

Earlier this month, a 16-year-old male suspect was arrested and charged in the shooting death of a local high school student. Additionally, warrants have been issued for two more Shelby County teens (ages 17 and 15), both of whom will be charged with first-degree murder (Dudding, 2009).

Unfortunately, too many children in our community commit criminal acts and become involved in the justice system. In 2006, the number of Shelby County Juvenile Court referrals exceeded 14,000+ (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2006).

The Future of Children recently released a paper that provides a review of promising practices designed to prevent juvenile crime. Cost-effective primary prevention designs include the Nurse Home Visitation Program and the Perry Preschool Program, both interventions designed to enhance parenting skills and inspire families to maximize their child’s social, cognitive and language development during a child’s first years of life. Both programs have been found to reduce delinquency rates in participants throughout their lifetimes.

How can we reduce juvenile delinquency and promote pro-social development among children in our community? Implement evidence-based programs that emphasize family interactions and promote healthy brain growth and improved learning environments for vulnerable young children. To reach a preferred future for our city we must act now to invest wisely in the well-being of young children and their families.

For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, please visit The Urban Child Institute webpage at: http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Home; and The State of Children in Memphis & Shelby County Databook, available at: http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Databook.php


The Annie E. Casey Foundation, KIDS COUNT Data Center, www.kidscount.org.

Dudding, H. (2009, March 26). 16-year-old charges in teen’s shooting death; 2 other suspects shot. The Commercial Appeal, Retrieved March 31, 2009 from http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2009/mar/26/crime-report-resident-answers-knock-door-finds-sho/

The Future of Children. (2009). Best Practices in Juvenile Justice Reform. Princeton University and The Brookings Institution. Retrieved March 31, 2009 from http://www.futureofchildren.org/newsletter2861/newsletter_show.htm?doc_id=863194

23 March 2009

Dire Poverty and Recession-Induced Homelessness in Memphis and Shelby County

Dear Friends:

I’d like to call your attention to a recent brief produced by the Center for Urban Child Policy at The Urban Child Institute. The policy brief- Dire Poverty and Recession-Induced Homelessness in Memphis and Shelby County- projects likely changes in the dire poverty rate among children (those living below one-half the federal poverty line) as a result of the current economic climate, and details estimated increases in housing instability among local families with children. Some highlights:

- In Memphis, almost one in four preschool age children live in households with incomes less than half the federal poverty line. These children are more likely than their less impoverished peers to live in unstable households and receive lower scores on tests of IQ and achievement.

- Based on current unemployment projections, we estimate that the number of Shelby County residents in dire poverty will rise by at least 1, 190 people. Distress in the housing sector will place this extremely impoverished population at an increased risk of homelessness.

- Recession-induced housing instability could mean over 1,600 Shelby County children and their families will lose their homes. Family homelessness heightens toxic stress in childhood and can negatively influence brain development and academic achievement.

- Families confronting housing insecurity are more likely to experience residential transience and be separated from neighborhood level resources that can provide improved beginnings for our most vulnerable children.

The Center for Urban Child Policy conducts policy analysis and outreach as part of The Urban Child Institute in Memphis, Tennessee. The Center is committed to building public will and a sustained political voice for children in order to improve the well-being of all children and families.

We welcome your comments and questions.


Doug Imig, Ph.D.

Frances Breland, M.A.

Katie Devlin, M.S.

18 March 2009

Car Safety Seat Usage in Memphis and Shelby County: Local Resources and Action Steps

On January 22nd of this year, a three year-old girl was killed in an automobile accident in North Memphis. Officers report that the child was not safely secured in her car seat (Holmes, 2009).

In 2006, 5 children in Shelby County under the age of five were killed in motor vehicle accidents. Furthermore, the most recent data regarding restraint usage among Shelby County children aged 0-4 in motor vehicle accidents suggest that improper child safety seat usage happens far too often in our community. In 2003, 164 (7%) of Shelby County children under age 5 involved in motor vehicle accidents were either restrained improperly or not restrained at all (Memphis and Shelby County Health Department, 2009).

Tennessee State Law requires that children under age 9 or smaller than 4 feet, 9 inches must be restrained in some type of car safety seat when traveling in a motor vehicle. This law is designed to save lives and protect our youngest citizens from catastrophic brain, head and spine injuries that can occur from safety seats that are defective or improperly used.

Currently Available Local Resources:

Parents receiving financial aid from the State of Tennessee can obtain a regulation child restraint seat for a reduced price at the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department. For more information, contact the Car Seat Safety/Loaner Program at 901.544.7687.

LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center and Safe Kids Mid-South is hosting a workshop designed to teach parents how to correctly install and secure a car safety seat. The workshop will be held March 21, 2009 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at Babies R’ Us, 3525 Riverdale, Memphis. For more information, visit www.lebonheur.org/safekids.

The National SafeKids Campaign provides the following recommendations to regulators and legislators:

- State legislatures, governors and citizens should work to close the gaps in existing child occupant protection laws.

- State child care licensing agencies should revisit their regulations and ensure that children are securely restrained in size-appropriate restraint systems in all child care settings.


Helms, S. (personal communication, February 2009).

Holmes, K. (2009, January 22). Child seat safety: Confronting parents. Eyewitness News. Retrieved March 18, 2009 from

Mickalide, A.D., Colella, J.M., Korn, A.R., Ross, T.C., & Paul, H.A. Transportation in child care settings: Parent knowledge and state regulations. Washington, DC: National SAFE
KIDS Campaign, February 2003.

Memphis and Shelby County Health Department. (2009, March 17). Motor vehicle accidents, Shelby county, children under 5 years of age. Dyer, K. (personal communication, March 2009).

06 March 2009

Making the Case for Child Abuse Prevention: Action Steps for Memphis and Shelby County

Sadly, the local news is reporting this week on the death of 11 month-old Midtown Memphis boy. Investigators believe that the boy is a victim of child abuse and died after sustaining severe head injuries (Holmes, 2009).

Unfortunately, too many children in our community become victims of child abuse and neglect. Between October 2006 and September 2007, 8, 698 children in Shelby County were the subject of child maltreatment investigations (fosteringcourtimprovement.org). In 2008, 14 children in our community were killed in domestic violence related incidents (Holmes, 2009).

Child abuse can result in extreme physical injury and death; furthermore, science shows us that early childhood trauma - physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect - dramatically affects both the structure and chemistry of the developing brain, thus causing the behavioral and learning problems that plague about three-quarters of the children mired in the child welfare system (Kendall, 2002). Maltreatment increases a child’s risk of developing self-destructive behavior, alcohol and drug problems, delinquency and more. An abused child is not incapable of healthy functioning later in later; however, the expenditures (in human distress and suffering, loss of potential, and real money) of attempting to mend, remediate, or restore these children far exceeds the costs of preventing these issues by promoting healthy development in the first few years of life (Hawley, 2000).

The FRIENDS National Resource for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention offers a summary of cost effective best-practice child abuse prevention strategies. The full report can be accessed at http://www.friendsnrc.org/download/Report1.pdf.

Given the importance of preventing child abuse and neglect and the wide range of strategies for prevention available, there is no reason to delay investments in order to protect our youngest citizens from harm and neglect.

Consider the following steps:

1. Build effective partnerships with important partners in prevention, including community based child abuse prevention programs, the faith community, early childhood programs, schools, health care providers and other relevant entities.

2. Engage parent leaders who have experience using services to strengthen their families as key partners in planning, implementing and evaluating prevention activities.

3. Review national models of prevention programs and incorporate those that best fit the community’s needs and interests.

Fostering Court Improvement. (2008). “Statistics for Shelby County.” Retrieved March 6, 2009 from http://fosteringcourtimprovement.org/tn/

Hawley, T. (2000). Starting smart: How early experiences affect brain development. Zero to Three/Ounce of Prevention Fund. Retrieved March 6, 2009 from http://www.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/startingsmart.pdf?docID=2422

Holmes, K. (2009, March 5). Memphis man charged with beating 11 month-old to death.
Eyewitness News. Retrieved March 6, 2009 from http://www.myeyewitnessnews.com/news/local/story/Memphis-Man-Charged-With-Beating-11-Month-Old-To/QLmaR_jfxEuBIiKIYfHGzw.cspx?rss=59

Kendall, J. (2002, September 24). How child abuse and neglect damage the brain. The Boston
Globe, pp. C1.