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Summaries of 2015 National Fellowship Projects

Summaries of 2015 National Fellowship Projects 

Lane Anderson, Deseret News National

An investigative series is exploring sex trafficking of children—mainly former foster youth, runaways and undocumented Mexican immigrants--in the United States. The first piece focused on efforts in Los Angeles to prevent the estimated 4,800 to 10,000 homeless youth from falling prey to sex traffickers. Subsequent pieces will explore myths about sex trafficking and describe the sex-trafficking pipeline that links Los Angeles and New York.

Virginia Lynne Anderson, Atlanta Journal Constitution

In a multi-story project, Anderson examined the financial and emotional challenges facing the more than 100,000 grandparents and other non-parental relatives in Georgia who care for  128,000 children who have been orphaned or abandoned, or whose parents are unable to care for them because they are incarcerated or  suffering from addiction or mental illness.

JoNel Aleccia, Seattle Times

Aleccia’s multimedia project investigated whether government inaction contributed to a cluster of devastating anencephaly cases in Latino families in a three-county area of Washington state. Her reporting produced an immediate response from the state government, including a decision to begin providing folic acid supplements, which play a role in preventing anencephaly and neural tube defects, to all women of childbearing age who are covered by Medicaid (previously, Medicaid only paid for folic acid supplements for women who were already pregnant, which is too late to prevent neural tube problems). State officials also agreed to inform families whose infants have died of anencephaly about genetic research into the possible causes. And more than 40 members of Congress signed a petition urging the FDA to approve the fortification of corn masa with folic acid, which the FDA did in April. To make sure that her series reached Latino families, the Seattle Times translated it into Spanish and also enlisted Catholic churches in the impacted counties to distribute 10,000 bilingual postcards advising women of childbearing age to take folic acid supplements.

Jessica Belasco, San Antonio Express-News

“Behind from the Start,” a three-part multimedia series published in mid January, explored disparities in prenatal care and pre-term births in San Antonio, the city with the highest rate of premature birth in Texas and one of the highest in the country. Belasco found that 39 percent of all births in Bexar County were to women who had either had late-starting or no prenatal care. “Richest country in the world, and we have this kind of rate. It’s just a travesty, to be honest with you,” Dr. Thomas Mayes, head of pediatrics at the UT Health Science Center, told her. Belasco found that in some ZIP codes, more than half of pregnant women received late or no prenatal care, and that most of them were Hispanic and low-income. Belasco’s reporting has already led to the convening of a county work group to explore solutions.

Ada Calhoun, Quartz, Fusion (freelance)

In a long-form article for Quartz, a new online publication with 15 million unique monthly visitors, Calhoun explored the brain science and spirit of reform behind the nation’s new “baby courts,” where the emphasis is on meeting the needs of young children rather than rushing towards reunification with—or permanent separation from—their parents. A second piece for Fusion, a joint Web and broadcast venture between Univision and Disney/ABC, examined the power of storytelling to help parents accused of abuse or neglect understand what events in their own childhoods led to their harmful parenting practices.

Nancy Cambria, St. Louis Post Dispatch

Cambria’s produced "The Crisis Within," a 10-part special section, with striking photos by photographer Laurie Skriven, that explored the role that toxic stress plays in Ferguson, Missouri and nearby disadvantaged communities, with an emphasis on its impact on children.  It reported on evidence-based programs to build resilience in children suffering from chronic toxic stress and examined how gun violence contributes to toxic stress.

Melody Cao, Sinovision

Autism spectrum disorder poses a special burden on Asian families in New York City because of cultural feelings of guilt and shame, and barriers to early diagnosis and intervention. Cao produced a series for a Chinese-language cable channel in New York City (English subtitles) that explored Chinese parents’ attitudes towards autism and their difficulties in obtaining services for their children.

 Maggie Clark, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

“Two million kids, $24 billion battle” looked at barriers to pediatric preventive care in Florida's new Medicaid managed care program and the effects on kids’ health.  Additional stories will run in the coming months.

Chad Day, Arkansas Gazette

A two-part-story series examined why Arkansas is locking up 500 to 1,000 children a year -- so-called "status offenders" who haven't committed crimes-- and how this practice disproportionately affects black youths. The first story looked at the evolution of the law on detaining status offenders, as well as research showing how damaging it can be to their development. The second story documented varying detention patterns in different judicial districts and included an interactive mapped database of lock-ups by judicial district and judge so that the community could identify which judges are detaining youths who haven’t committed crimes.Karen Falla, Univision Dallas

Karen Falla, Univision Dallas

"Indelible Impact,"  a three-part TV series that was broadcast in November, explored the challenges faced by families and unaccompanied minors from Central America who continue to stream across the border.  The gripping series explained the scope of the surge of unaccompanied minors and the reasons behind it; the response of local authorities; the psychological impact of the often-harrowing journeys; and the social, educational and health services available to families and unaccompanied minors.

Lottie Joiner, The Crisis magazine and TheRoot.com

Joiner reported on the impact of father absence on mental health and stress in African American boys in TheRoot.com. A second piece in The Crisis magazine examined promising solutions.

Olga Khazan, The Atlantic

“The Hardest Job” described efforts by an innovative nonprofit in Baltimore to strengthen bonds between homeless parents and their children to prevent child abuse, based on attachment research, which posits that insecure or disorganized attachment during childhood is the root of many problems in adulthood. A second story, “The Second Assault,” described the growing board of research on the impact of childhood adversity, particularly sexual abuse, on health in adulthood, including a strong link to morbid obesity. Subsequent stories will explore whether an abusive childhood predisposes children to committing crimes.

Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton, Native American News Health Alliance

In “Growing Up Hungry,” the first of three articles for the Native Health News Alliance, Lenzy chronicled the impact of food insecurity on Native American children who grew up in food deserts, dependent on sporadic deliveries of often culturally inappropriate federal food commodities. Krehbiel-Burton is currently on material leave. Subsequent pieces explored the physical effects of hunger and economic development as a long-term solution to food insecurity. 

Michael LaForgia, Tampa Bay Times

In “Failure Factories,” a five-part multimedia series of articles, LaForgia and a team of reporters from the Tampa Bay Times investigated why African American students in Pinellas County, one of the state’s most affluent counties, do more poorly academically than students almost anywhere else in Florida. The project spurred community outrage and action.  The Florida Department of Education opened an investigation into the district’s use of federal Title I dollars, and the school district hired a special administrator to oversee the turnaround of the five troubled schools, made plan to convert three of them to magnets and created a program to stabilize the five schools’ teacher ranks.  U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., called for a federal review of how the school district has spent federal dollars intended to help poor children. The series led Education Secretary Arne Duncan and incoming Education Secretary John King to visit the schools and meet privately with parents, students, teachers and community members. Duncan said: " "What has happened to too many kids, for too long, is unacceptable. It's heartbreaking. Part of me wants to cry. Part of me gets very, very angry. There are some horrific things that happened here. Let's be clear." King said: "When you read that Tampa Bay Times story, you come away with the sense of how much is at risk for the kids and for the community.” LaForgia’s project has won several national journalism awards, including the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting.

Rob Perez, Honolulu Star-Advertiser

“Hawaiians at Risk,” a solutions-focused multimedia investigation, explored the factors that contribute to the overrepresentation of Native Hawaiians in Hawaii's foster care system, including poverty and possible bias, and why the state has made so little progress over the years.  Perez conducted “talk story” sessions with Native Hawaiians to get their perspectives on family challenges and the state’s response to them. A second story, “Healing Efforts Return to Roots,” described how Wahi Kana‘aho, a Hawaiian culture-based initiative, is helping Hawaiian youths in foster care and the juvenile justice system as well as their parents, heal by reconnecting with their culture. The series inspired many Hawaiians to volunteer at programs that serve at-risk children and families and several local foundations to reach out to nonprofits that serve troubled families to discuss possible grants. 

Daisy Rosario, Latino USA

In a multi-part series for NPR’s Latino USA, 2015 National Fellow Daisy Rosario is exploring the effects of toxic stress on children, which public officials view as an emerging public health concern. Her first piece, “Do Babies Need Psychologists?” examined efforts by the Montefiore health system to help young children who have experienced adversity avoid lifelong effects on their health. Subsequent pieces looked at stress from the point of view of a social worker in the foster care system and the growing realization among people who work with vulnerable children that toxic stress threatens their health over a lifetime.

Alex Smith, KCUR Public Radio (Kansas City)

“Crossing to Health,” a five-part multimedia series, examined health disparities in adjoining Johnson and Wyandotte counties in eastern Kansas. Among the disparities Smith examined are the staggeringly high rate of infant mortality among African Americans in Wyandotte County and the lack of recreational fields and facilities there, which contributes to a higher obesity rate. Besides being broadcast on KCUR and published on its website, Smith’s stories were published on the websites of the station’s partners: Kansas City PBS station KCPT, Kansas NPR station KPR and the Kansas Health Institute News Service and were offered to national outlets, including The Pulse (WHYY in Philadelphia) and/or Here & Now (WBUR in Boston). KCUR ran an extensive promotion campaign involving promos and social media and a call-in talk show to discuss the project. In late spring, the station will launch a fitness promotion campaign featuring large community bike rides that will go through both counties. The station plans to work with health and biking organizations in both counties on a bike donation drive to get bikes to people who can’t afford them. 

Jackie Valley, Las Vegas Sun

“Children in Crisis,” a five-part multimedia series published in late fall, explored the reasons behind the growth in the number of children in Las Vegas requiring treatment for mental illness and the increasing demand for mental health services in public schools and the juvenile justice system. A public forum on December 2, organized in partnership with UNLV’s Lincy Institute, the Clark County Children’s Mental Health Consortium and Nevada PEP, a parent advocacy organization, drew a standing room audience of 200 to discuss the series and possible solutions.

Patty Wight, Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

Wight produced a five-part radio and Web series on the connections between childhood poverty, obesity and malnutrition in Maine, particularly among low-income children, and innovative approaches to the problems.

Dr. Seema Yasmin, Dallas Times-Herald and  NBC5 TV

“Hidden Threat,” a multimedia series on the growing threat of tropical diseases in the United States, largely as a result of climate change, ran from mid November through early January.  Yasmin’s first piece looked at how Chagas disease, a series bug-borne infection, is spreading through Texas. Her second piece examined the reasons why the nation’s blood supply is vulnerable to contamination by Chagas. An interactive third piece provided details about seven tropical diseases that have recently become problems in Texas and other Southern states. A final piece explored the disproportionate impact of these illnesses on low-income populations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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