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In Famine, Vouchers Can Be Tickets to Survival

By Tina Rosenberg

The town of Dhobley, Somalia, sits at the gateway of hell.  Just west of Dhobley is the border with Kenya, and the road to Dadaab, which hosts a giant complex of refugee camps; Dhobley has become the last stop in Somalia for a growing stream of desperate, starving people in flight from famine.  In Dhobley, as well, drought has ruined crops and felled cows.   There is no government to help.  The town is a battleground; control of Dhobley has teetered between the Shabaab Islamist militant group and government forces.  Shabaab has blocked food aid from entering Dhobley and burned a food truck, but soldiers from all sides have stolen food meant for the destitute.   The usual street life of an African village — children playing, women laughing together — has vanished.   Gunshots are a constant background noise — “like birds singing,” said Tracy Stover, the emergency coordinator in Dadaab for the humanitarian group World Concern.
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Moving Beyond the Cold War Coach

By David Bornstein

Youth sports in the United States is a contradiction. In surveys, parents overwhelmingly say that youth sports should emphasize values like teamwork, honesty, discipline and fair play. But when adults are asked what values they think youth sports actually reinforce most, they say competitiveness and the importance of winning.
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The Power of Positive Coaching

By David Bornstein

Imagine you’re coaching a big soccer game, against an undefeated team that has beaten your team in all your previous matches. Your 11-year-olds are playing well and are ahead. Then, in the closing minutes, the official makes a bad call that goes against you and, because of it, you lose. After the game, the parents of your players scream at the official. The kids are disappointed, looking up at you. What do you do?

Or you’re coaching tee-ball and one of your 5-year-old players has failed to get a hit so far. Now, he’s up again in a crucial situation and is nervous. All eyes are on him. His first swing misses high. The second misses low and knocks the ball off the tee. You call him over to offer some help. What do you say?
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Where Teenagers Find the Jury Isn’t Rigged

By Tina Rosenberg

On Friday, Fixes examined the Youth Court of the District of Columbia, a forum where first-time nonviolent teenage offenders are judged by others who have been in the same situation.   The D.C. Youth Court is one of the largest of some 1,000 youth courts around the country.   These courts are designed to help minor offenders avoid a criminal record and stay out of juvenile justice — traditionally an efficient production line for criminality.

While most commenters praised youth courts for taking a humane approach, reader Beliavsky from Boston (7) wrote, “Letting young criminals (excuse me, ‘troubled youths’) be judged by other young criminals does not seem right to me. There should be a real, non-criminal, adult, judge.”
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For Young Offenders, Hope in a Jury of Their Peers

By Tina Rosenberg

Juvenile justice is a field where the cure aggravates the disease. Take a kid of 15 or who shoplifts, gets into a fight, is caught with marijuana or is out at night spray-painting graffiti with a gang. He’s no hardened criminal — yet. After a tour through the juvenile justice system, however, he may well be. He’ll be mixed in with real criminals, in an environment where violence is the only path to respect. He’ll understand what society expects of him: more crime. Perhaps most important, he’ll have a criminal record — a major deterrent to getting a job.

On Saturday mornings at the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse of Washington D.C.’s Superior Court, an alternative form of justice is at work. In the ground-floor courtrooms there are trials going on — with juries, defendants, bailiffs and judges. But everyone involved is a teenager.
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Forging a Life-Changing Bond

By David Bornstein

On Friday, I reported on an organization called Friends of the Children, which identifies children in kindergarten growing up in poverty and facing multiple risk factors at home and in their neighborhood — and then connects them with adult mentors for 12 years. The idea is to guarantee that these children have a consistent relationship with a caring and responsible adult whom they see at least four hours each week, from kindergarten until high school graduation.
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For Children at Risk, Mentors Who Stay

By David Bornstein

Samuel was out of control. He cursed at his teacher, refused to do school work, attacked other kids in the schoolyard — and Samuel was still in kindergarten. His home life was chaotic. He’d never met his father. His mother had emotional and drug problems and was unable to care for him. His grandmother did her best. His older brother was involved in violent crime and had been in and out of jail. He taught Samuel to smoke marijuana when he was 6 years old.

If this story had continued on its trajectory, Samuel (not his real name) would have likely been one of the million American students who drop out of school each year. He would be at serious risk of getting entangled in the justice system and becoming a young parent who perpetuates the cycle of neglect and violence.
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Quick Change That Lasts for the Long Term

By Tina Rosenberg

On Friday I wrote about Rapid Results Initiatives, bite-sized pieces of social change that a village, government office or business will choose and try to accomplish in just 100 days.   Rapid Results Initiatives have proven to be effective at various tasks: improving  health, infrastructure, education —  service delivery of any kind.  The urgent deadline provides focus.  It’s no longer business as usual, plagued by the usual list of reasons why nothing gets done.
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