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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 16, 2007

UI center holds sixth annual conference on racial disparities

Less than three weeks ago, Iowa Gov. Chet Culver ordered the establishment of the Youth Race and Detention Task Force to address the over-representation of minority youth in Iowa's juvenile detention centers. Recent reports have also drawn attention to the fact that minority students are more likely to be suspended or expelled from school and be involved in the child welfare system.

State and national leaders in the fields of juvenile justice, child welfare, education, health, and family and human services will gather Nov. 28-30 in Des Moines to discuss the disproportionate numbers of minority youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and ways to address the disparity. They will pay special attention to how the issue connects with school systems.

The sixth annual conference organized by the University of Iowa School of Social Work's Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Resource Center, which is part of the National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice, is called "Investing in Iowa's Youth, Investing in Iowa's Future-Chapter 6: Linking Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice, Education and Health to Reduce Racial Disparities."

The conference will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 28 and 29, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30 at the downtown Holiday Inn in Des Moines. The media is invited to cover the conference or to interview organizers about the issue. Nearly 300 people have registered to attend, and a limited number can still sign up.

"We're pleased that the timing of this conference coincides with acknowledgement of the significance of the problem we've been working to solve," said Brad Richardson, director of the DMC Resource Center. "Gov. Culver's Executive Order No. 5 noted that minorities are over-represented in Iowa's juvenile detention facilities, that most of those incarcerated are there for misdemeanors, that incarceration of these offenders increases the odds of repeating criminal behavior, and that African-American youth are more likely than White youth to receive harsher legal outcomes when they make mistakes."

With increased input from youth, including presentations from a variety of youth perspectives and a host of nationally known speakers, Richardson said this year's conference will examine the issues, explore potential solutions and facilitate learning about the best ways to address the problems.

The conference features presentations by nearly two dozen speakers, including:

--Shay Bilchik, director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and Systems Integration at Georgetown University.

--Karl Dennis, one of the country's leading experts and pioneers of community-based care for the hardest-to-serve children and families, including "wraparound services," an approach founded on the belief that the hardest to serve youngsters can best be served if you wrap services around them instead of walls.

--Bart Lubow, director of the Program for High-Risk Youth known as the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative at the of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which fosters public policies and makes grants that help states, cities, and neighborhoods fashion more innovative, cost-effective responses to the needs of vulnerable kids and families.

--Gary Blau, chief of the Child, Adolescent and Family Branch of the Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and a clinical psychologist and author of "Handbook of Childhood Behavioral Issues: Evidence-Based Approaches to Prevention and Treatment."

--Jeremy Kohomban, president and CEO of The Children's Village in New York, which was recently featured on "The Today Show." Founded in 1851, The Children's Village serves more than 1,000 children in residential programs and provides services in the community to about 8,500 children and families per year.

Culver will speak at the conference at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 29.

For more information about the speakers and a complete conference schedule, visit:

Funding for the conference comes from the Iowa Department of Human Rights, Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning, Iowa Department of Human Services, and the UI School of Social Work, which is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Established in 2002, the DMC Resource Center works to address over-representation of minority youth detained or confined in secure detention and correctional facilities, jails and lock-ups. The center supports state and community efforts to reduce over-representation of minority youth in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. It conducts research, assists communities and schools, and last year began focusing attention on health-related disparities.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Brad Richardson, DMC Resource Center, 319-335-4924,; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,