By Tami Silverman, President & CEO, Indiana Youth Institute 

Indiana Youth Institute’s legislative summary is a review of child-and youth-centered legislation passed and proposed during the State’s most recent legislative session. Because this was a budget year for the Indiana Legislature, we also highlight significant funding decisions affecting Indiana kids. 

Some of the major budget changes include:

1.) School funding increases of 2.5% for each of the next two years were passed, with an additional $539 million in base funding for K-12 education

2.) An additional $74 million for other education programs, like the Teacher Appreciation Grant program and the Secured School Safety Grant program 

3.) $20 million per year of new funding for the Next Level Jobs Employer Training Program, and 

4.) Department of Child Services receiving a $256 million budget increase in 2020 and $246 million in 2021. 

Some new laws aim to address family and community conditions. Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 464, Homeless Youth, facilitates homeless youth access to government identification and education services through a designated representative other than a parent or guardian. House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1432, Parental Incarceration, stipulates that Department of Child Services case plans must consider incarcerated parents who have maintained a meaningful role in the child’s life, including but not limited to visitation.  

As noted above, education issues garnered significant attention, as lawmakers funded K-12 public education at the highest levels in over a decade. At the same time, many were disappointed that more was not done to close the State’s comparative gap in teacher compensation. Numerous education bills were passed including HEA 1628 which expands pre-K eligibility, while maintaining prior funding levels, to every Indiana county. Not surprisingly, several education bills, including but not limited to HEA 1004, HEA 1224, HEA 1398, HEA 1629, and SEA 002, addressed school safety issues. New this year, SEA 132, requires every high school to administer the naturalization exam for citizenship to students as part of the U.S. government course requirement. The bill also requires increased study of the Holocaust in a U.S history course.  

The State’s Department of Child Services (DCS) came under heavy scrutiny this session. In addition to the budget bill, SEA 1 and HEA 1006 cover several activities aimed at improving DCS operations including but not limited to setting new standards for timely responses, availability of telephone contacts, caseload limits, response requirements, and maximum age for collaborative care. The new legislation also includes a requirement that DCS report their progress to the general assembly before July 1, 2020.  

In juvenile justice legislation, proposed Senate Bill 279 would have allowed children as young as 12 to be waived into adult court after being charged with attempted murder. The bill met significant opposition, as the proposal runs contrary both to national trends and youth offender rehabilitation research.     

Two notable misses of this legislative session concerned addressing state smoking rates. With nearly 9 out of 10 smokers starting before age 18, and Indiana having one of the highest percentage of residents who smoke in the nation, nicotine use in all forms is a critical youth health issue that must be addressed by our state. This year, the Indiana Legislature failed to pass two bills – one to increase the state smoking age to 21, another to raise the Midwest’s lowest cigarette tax – which research shows would have had a significant impact on youth smoking rates. In addition, parents and schools continue to express frustration with rising vaping rates, and little was done this session to address this emerging public health issue.   

As we look to the summer study committees, we are monitoring the interim study committee on courts and the judiciary, focusing on reforms to laws and policies on the adjudication and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.Education interim study committees will address the impact and funding of school counseling programs while also looking at teacher pay 

We were encouraged by the many bills that were introduced and passed which aimed to increase child well-being in our state. At the same time, much work remains to move our state beyond our 29th place national ranking. Indiana Youth Institute will continue to provide data and research, collaborative conversations, and community convenings in our efforts to ensure that all Indiana children are safe, healthy and well educated.     

(Tami Silverman is the President & CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. She may be reached atiyi@iyi.orgor on Twitter at@Tami_IYI. IYI’s mission is to improve the lives of all Indiana children by strengthening and connecting the people, organizations, andcommunities that are focused on kids and youth.) 

We want you to have access to great data.

This data and research source guide lists some of our favorite trusted and reliable sources that you can use in your work with Indiana’s kids.

In addition to links to each source, the guide indicates whether:

  • Data is available at national, state, county and/or more specific local levels.
  • Data is disaggregated by race, gender, place, income, and/or other related indicators.
  • Data is accessible through dashboards, interactive visualizations, downloadable reports and/or raw data.

Read the Issue!

Social-emotional learning is a foundational approach to educating the whole child

This issue brief focuses on social-emotional learning (SEL) and how you can make SEL foundational to your work with Indiana’s youth.

SEL helps ensure students have the social, emotional, behavioral, and academic competence necessary for success in school and lifelong well-being.  This essential work focuses on educating the whole child and requires a cultural and mindset shift as well as a collective approach.

In this brief, you’ll find an overview of the Indiana Department of Education’s new Indiana Social-Emotional Competencies and the latest SEL research. Plus, you’ll learn how you can effectively implement SEL in your classroom, school and community.

Read the Brief! 

“Nobody has ever asked me what I value before, and if they have then they certainly have never asked me what I value when talking about deciding my future career.”

It was one of those statements that instantly made me stop in my tracks and appreciate the moments when I am given the opportunity to venture into the thoughts of my students and gain a better understanding of how I can I better serve them as a school counselor. I was delivering a lesson on career development to 11th and 12th graders and the activity was for them to identify what they value so we could start some career conversations around the significance of finding a career that aligns with their values and beliefs. I have done the lesson before and it is always a great conversation starter, but this was the first time a student was brave enough to admit she did not know what she valued because nobody had ever asked her that question before.

It was at that moment I brought myself back 20+ years ago and realized if I would have been asked the same question I was asking her, I would have felt the same exact way. As educators, we often assume our students come to us with this preconceived knowledge and perceptions that will help them decide their future destinies, but in all actuality, these are thought processes that have to be developed and will continue to be developed throughout their lifetime.

After some personal reflection, I had to admit that my own values and beliefs are still constantly evolving and what I value now may not have been the same thing I valued when I was a 16-year-old girl searching for direction in life.

This example serves as a perfect reminder of why it is imperative that schools offer a K-12 career development framework that is developed around student needs. This was the first time this question was ever posed to this student. Imagine the power of that question if this was an area of consideration that was introduced at an early age and the potential of how that thought process would have been able to develop so by the time this young lady was about to graduate high school she would have a very clear picture of her values and how they relate to her career goal.

Starting at an early age with career development opens the door for uninhibited aspirations that are driven by young minds that are getting to know themselves in regard to values, interests, strengths and ambitions. Acknowledging those aspirations has the potential to open up a world of wonder and excitement when young students start to think about not what they want to do but what type of person they want to become when they grow up. The connection to a career can come later.

The middle and early high school years can continue to drive this self-reflection home for students as they begin to research potential careers that align to the values and strengths they have already identified within themselves. This can become a time when they start to develop more defined goals and career planning conversations with the hopes that by the time they graduate high school they will be able to gain experiences in their areas of interest and connect with employers on a deeper level so they can develop a more well-rounded understanding of how these careers look and feel.

As counselors, we are in a unique position to guide our students through this K-12 career development system and I cannot think of many more careers as important and fulfilling as this one. We are given the opportunity to help our students discover the people they are striving to become!

So, I ask you, what are your values and beliefs? How do these values and beliefs relate to your current career? Without even knowing each of you individually, I would venture to say that all of us value the success of our students and have a belief that our responsibility as counselors is to help them become fulfilled, striving, successful members of society. . . and that pathway to success starts in Kindergarten.

To learn more about K-12 Career Advisement Strategies, join me at the Indiana Youth Institute’s College and Career Conference on June 5 and 6 in Indianapolis. Register here: http://bit.ly/IYICollegeAndCareer

About Terri Tchorzynski

Terri Tchorzynski is a Professional School Counselor at the Calhoun Area Career Center (CACC) in Battle Creek, Michigan, and has been named the 2017 National School Counselor of the Year by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). Through a data-driven, comprehensive, and student-centered approach to school counseling, Terri and her team have received both state and national recognitions. Behind Terri’s leadership, the CACC’s counseling department has been recognized by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) for exemplary practices in college/career readiness, and was the second school in the state of Michigan to receive the nationally recognized achievement of being a Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP). Terri has also been recognized as a Top Presenter for MDE’s Career and Technical Education Conference, an Honorary Counselor by the Michigan School Counselor Association, as well as being named the 2016 Michigan School Counselor of the Year. Connect with her on Twitter at @ttchorzynski.

 

Additional Resources

“Five Things Parents Need to Know About Career and Technical Education.” NBC Universal Parent Toolkit, February 2018.

“Launch Into the Field of Aviation.” ACTE Techniques, January 2018.

“Creating a Culture of College and Career Readiness.” ACTE Techniques, September 2017.

By Tami Silverman, President & CEO, Indiana Youth Institute

An increasing number of our children and youth have mental health disorders, encountering challenges with school, within their peer groups, and at home. Unfortunately, most of them are not getting the care they need. Signs of mental health disorder may be difficult to recognize, and unfortunately mental health disorders continue to be stigmatized. These, combined with a lack of access to services for many, create substantive barriers to care. More must be done to combat widely-held myths, connect children with treatment, supports, and services, and work to build strong support networks for all our young people.

A February 2019 study in JAMA Pediatrics estimated that 7.7 million American children, one in every 6 children, have at least one mental health disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children, and some of these conditions, such as anxiety and depression, commonly occur together. The JAMA Pediatrics study also showed that roughly half of children do not receive any kind of treatment from a mental health professional.

Last year, 11.6% of Hoosier children received treatment or counseling from a mental health professional, a significant number, and yet still only a portion of Indiana children in need. The National Survey of Children’s Health indicates that 5.2% of Indiana children have ever been diagnosed with depression, and 11.0% have been diagnosed with anxiety. We know that accessibility remains an issue in Indiana. Among our neighboring states, Indiana has the lowest ratio of mental health providers available to serve the population, approximately 1 per every 700 people, and nearly 60% of the state’s population lives in designated mental health professional shortage areas.

Identifying mental health issues may be less obvious than physical ailments, such as broken bones, asthma, or diabetes. Occasional bouts with emotional distress, anxiety, stress, and depression are normal experiences for all children and youth. It can be difficult to distinguish between behaviors and emotions that are related to typical child development, and those that require extra attention and concern.

The national nonprofit Child Mind Institute describes seven myths about childhood mental illness that need to be debunked. These include recognizing that childhood mental illness is not caused by personal weakness or poor parenting. Children and youth cannot overcome mental health problems through willpower, nor will they grow out of their disorder. Instead, understanding that most psychiatric disorders begin before age fourteen provides additional incentive to screen and intervene during childhood. Children who receive early interventions and treatment have a good chance of managing or overcoming their symptoms.

How do you know when a child’s behavior is cause for concern? You should always seek immediate help for a child or teen who harms themselves or others or talks about wanting to do so. While short term stress, anxiety or depression can be developmentally appropriate, the National Institute of Health (NIH) advises that you should also seek help if a child’s behavior or emotional difficulties last more than a few weeks and are causing problems at school, at home or with their friends. Young children may exhibit symptoms such as intense worry or fear, frequent tantrums, complaints about frequent stomach or headaches with no known medical cause, and a lack of interest in playing with other children. Symptoms in teenagers include a loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, spending increasing amounts of time alone or avoiding social activities, sleeping too little or too much, and engaging in risky, destructive or self-harming behaviors. The NIH recommends talking with your child’s teacher and consulting your pediatrician, asking either for a recommendation to a mental health professional who has specific experience in dealing with children, when and if possible.

Caring adults and a strong support network, including family members, teachers, coaches and mentors, can serve as protective factors for mental health. Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration Division of Mental Health and Addiction manages our state’s Systems of Care, a model framework used to coordinate services and supports. Schools throughout the state continue to expand their services and expertise, understanding the importance of prevention, intervention, positive development, and communication to families.

While many agree that progress has been made regarding how mental health is viewed, stigma and negative connotations still keep far too many children from getting critical care and support. It is important to understand and work to reduce the barriers of stigma and access to mental health care. It is equally, if not more important, to understand that, for most youth, childhood mental disorders are episodic rather than permanent. Just as with physical illnesses, keys include ensuring children in need can receive appropriate screening and treatment. We would not ignore a child’s physical ailment, and it is time that we consistently take the same approach to their mental health.

(Tami Silverman is the President & CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. She may be reached at iyi@iyi.org or on Twitter at @Tami_IYI. IYI’s mission is to improve the lives of all Indiana children by strengthening and connecting the people, organizations, and communities that are focused on kids and youth.)

With the buzz about “collective impact” over the last few years, a quick Google search will yield a wealth of tools, resources, forums and organizations dedicated to helping ignite a group of local leaders from various community sectors toward a common agenda to resolve a complex social problem using a specific framework. However, weeding through this abundance of resources to identify rural collective impact models proves to be a bit like searching for a four-leaf clover in a grassy field.

Although rural collective impact models may be more difficult to identify, they are beginning to take their place on the stage as rural communities are identifying the intrinsic value of using this framework to improve community outcomes amidst the scarcity of resources that often exist in their rural economies. As rural communities embrace a collective impact framework as a way of authentically collaborating for social change, one critical question leaders should consider is how collective impact implementation must be adapted for a rural setting versus an urban setting to achieve the maximum output.

If I have learned anything working in rural communities for more than 20 years, it is the power of people and relationships. The rich heritage of Appalachian Kentucky is chocked-full of people who persevered, finding strength in some of the most challenging circumstances while also calling on their network of people to help them overcome the challenge at hand. It is this fabric of tight-knit relationships that must be woven into the rural collective impact tapestry. As we strive to align contributions around a shared result, it may mean utilizing personal one-to-one communication to engage stakeholders. It may also require relying on another community member with a personal relationship to activate another stakeholder. My experience is that it does not mean creating new community groups, but meeting people where they are in their existing community networks and helping them to see themselves in the data and recognize that they all have a contribution to the solution.

Implementing collective impact in a rural community is not without risk. With the lack of available resources and educational supports in many rural communities, carrying out new strategies or approaches may be perceived as hazardous. We are often asking leaders to risk the marginal footing they currently hold for nothing more than a possibility – a possibility of standing on a mountain of results. As we ask stakeholders to join us in the cause, we must remain transparent about the potential risks.

As a transformational leader, I have often found myself utilizing my passion to petition leaders, but was then left wondering why I was standing alone in the trenches of the work. Charisma and passion may have seemed to work on the surface, but in reality stakeholders were left with more questions than answers as they weighed their potential losses against the possible outcomes. When I employed the tool of transparency and helped leaders identify their potential losses while also helping them see a new vision, they were far more likely to join those in the trenches working toward a common result for their community.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention the importance of acknowledging time as a resource that is often scarce in our rural Appalachian Kentucky communities. It is the lack of people resources that lead many stakeholders to wear more proverbial hats than they can count. As such, it is imperative to remain transparent about the time obligations required while also allowing leaders sufficient time to consider and process their commitments.

In a recent community leadership meeting, I recognized that the group was struggling to align because they had not been given ample time to consider all the factors and implications, individually or collectively. I recognized through the conflict that the group was crying out for one thing – time. Rather than moving the group to a decision within the confines of the meeting, I gave them time to dialogue outside of the meeting, connect with their networks, and reflect on the information provided.

Within a one-week time frame, leaders had very thoughtfully reviewed the data, engaged additional stakeholders, and all aligned around a common result for the next year. Without the additional time, I can tell with you with complete confidence that today we would not have a group of local leaders willing to take a risk in service of the results they want for their community.

Using the collective impact framework, informed by local context while utilizing the power of relationships and naming the risks, are what I believe to be the fundamental elements to achieving the most impactful cradle-to-career results in a rural setting.

To learn more about the “Pipelines to Success in Rural Communities – From Community Vision to Creating Cradle-to-Career Results,” join me at the Indiana Youth Institute’s College and Career Conference on June 5 and 6 in Indianapolis. Register here: http://bit.ly/IYICollegeAndCareer

About Sherry L. Scott

Sherry Scott serves as the organizational results and data officer for Partners for Education. Scott has more than twenty-five years leadership experience working in the non-profit and education sectors. She has extensive experience directing federal grant programs, developing partnerships and key coalitions, designing data-driven continuous improvement systems and leading cradle-to-career, place-based initiatives in Appalachia Kentucky. A first-generation graduate, Scott earned both her bachelor’s degree of business administration in marketing and her master’s degree in corrections and juvenile services from Eastern Kentucky University.

Additional Resources

Learn more about Partners for Education at Berea College: https://www.berea.edu/pfe/

Click here for more information on Results CountTM and the Annie E. Casey Foundation: https://www.aecf.org/work/leadership-development/results-count/

By Tami Silverman, President & CEO, Indiana Youth Institute

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, and 2019 is the year Indiana must take significant additional steps to protect our youngest and most vulnerable residents. Indiana has the third highest rate in the country of substantiated child abuse and neglect cases per 1,000 children. That’s far too many Hoosier kids.

Last summer, the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group (CWG) conducted a six-month assessment of DCS, publishing their findings along with 20 specific recommendations. The recommendations range from improving treatment and support for families struggling with substance use disorder, to enhanced coordination among state agencies, to transforming the culture at DCS to encourage better staff decision making and responsiveness. Since the report was released, local and state leaders have pressed for action and additional ways to keep our kids safe. A number of responsive bills have since been proposed in the Indiana General Assembly, and the Governor’s budget includes increased funds to address the Department of Child Service’s (DCS) high caseloads, low salaries and turnover rates. We need to build upon these proposals.

A child may be declared by an Indiana court to be a Child in Need of Services (CHINS) if they are seriously impaired or endangered by abuse or neglect, and the child’s parents are unable or unwilling to correct the problem on their own. In 2017, 29,630 Hoosier children were designated as Children in Need of Services (CHINS), more than twice the number of kids so designated just three years earlier. Scott county has the highest rate of CHINS, followed by Perry and Spencer counties, while Hamilton, Hendricks and Washington counties have the state’s lowest rates. These children often face court hearings, new foster homes, and school transitions. In such cases, a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) or guardian ad litem (GAL) volunteer plays a critical role, ensuring that our most vulnerable children have with them a supportive adult to speak up for their best interests. Indiana has certified CASA/GAL programs in over 80 of our 92 counties. Yet nearly 6,000 children are waiting for a CASA/GAL volunteer.

Interestingly, new research shows that one of our state’s on-going efforts to increase child well-being, increasing access to high quality pre-K, can also help reduce child abuse and neglect. The Child Trends study examined records from children in Early Head Start programs in 14 states. While they were not expecting to find this result, the researchers discovered that participating three-year-olds experienced less family conflict and parenting stress, more supportive parenting and home environments, and better child cognitive and self-regulation skills. These positive factors made the preschoolers 10- 22% less likely to become involved with the child welfare system before age 16. It is understandable, and encouraging, that by engaging parents and helping families develop supportive habits, high quality pre-K programs can also reduce child abuse and neglect rates.

In addition to encouraging the passage of promising new legislation, and supporting increased funding and impactful community programs, we must remember that protecting our children is a responsibility we all shoulder. Every Indiana adult is a mandatory reporter of suspected child abuse and neglect. The Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, 1-800-800-5556, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Reports can be made anonymously.

In the words of the late President Kennedy, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” Throughout April, communities across the state will be holding prevention and awareness events. To find out what’s going on in your community go to the Prevent Child Abuse Indiana’s website at https://pcain.org/. This month, and every month, we must do more to provide the basic need of safety to all Hoosier children.

(Tami Silverman is the President & CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. She may be reached at iyi@iyi.org or on Twitter at @Tami_IYI. IYI’s mission is to improve the lives of all Indiana children by strengthening and connecting the people, organizations, and communities that are focused on kids and youth.)

By Tami Silverman, President & CEO, Indiana Youth Institute 

It’s basketball season in Indiana. The Pacers are playing their hearts out, March Madness is around the corner, and high school hoops are heating up. Basketball, like so many sports and activities, offers a way for young people to connect, compete, and have fun. Coaches also often play a defining role in youth growth and development. Basketball and MENTOR champion Bill Russell said it well when he once described our collective responsibility toward kids: “There is no such thing as other people’s children.” 

It is also KIDS COUNT Data Book season. As in previous years, in this 25th Anniversary Edition of the KIDS COUNT Data Book, the Indiana Youth Institute provides objective, reliable information on the status of Indiana’s children and youth. Looking at the whole child, and our whole state, we examine indicators in the categories of family and community, economic well-being, education, and health. 

A child’s development is critically impacted by their home life, yet many kids face harmful family and community challenges. The data shows one out of every 11 Hoosier children (9.2%) have lived with someone who had a problem with alcohol or drugs, slightly higher than the national average of 8.5%. In 2017, parental drug and/or alcohol abuse was the primary cause behind the majority of Indiana Department of Child Services cases in which children were removed from their homes, and this rate continued to rise over previous years. The rate of child abuse and neglect again increased in our state, placing Indiana as having the third highest child maltreatment rate in the country. On a positive note, our understanding of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) continues to grow, equipping youth-serving professionals with additional tools to help all children.  

Children who experience poverty, especially during early life or for extended periods of time, are at risk for adverse health and developmental outcomes. Our data shows that economically, the basic needs of most Indiana children are being met, and the number of children living in poverty has decreased over prior years. Housing costs in Indiana are relatively low, placing us 10th nationally. At the same time, there are significant racial and geographic differences in the share of Hoosier families with children living in poverty.  

High-quality early childhood education, math and reading proficiency, and school engagement contribute to college and career readiness. Expansion of high-quality early childhood education remains a state priority, yet the number of Hoosier three-and four-year-olds are enrolled in pre-K fell slightly, and Indiana lags when compared to the national average of enrollees. Meanwhile, on average, Indiana 4th and 8th grade students scored better in math and reading than their peers nationally.  

Postsecondary success improves individual outcomes, builds stronger communities, and strengthens the economy. Our data shows the commitment made by schools, community agencies, and the state to make college and career planning a priority has contributed to a slight increase in the number of Hoosier 12th graders (80.7%) planning to pursue education after high school, whether through a college/university, community college, apprenticeship program, or career-technical college. Our data also indicates students and families are making plans and preparations for college and career earlier than in previous years.  

Childhood physical and mental health affects other critical aspects of a child’s life, including school attendance and performance, and can have lasting effects on a child’s future health and well-being. Our data unfortunately confirms Indiana children and youth face a variety of health challenges, with too many kids dealing with substance abuse, lack of health care, inadequate insurance, and/or poor health habits.  

Infant mortality remains a critical concern. Indiana infants are more likely to die in their first year than those in 42 other states, and black infants are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday than white infants. Children with health insurance tend to be healthier than their uninsured peers. Indiana ranks 40th nationally in covering kids, with 93.7% of Indiana youth having some type of health insurance (the national rate is 95.0%). 

Tragically Hoosier youth are more likely to consider suicide and engage in suicidal behavior than those in other states. Indiana ranks 2nd out of 34 states in the percentage of students who made a suicide plan and ranks 3rd out of 36 states in the percentage of students who seriously considered attempting suicide. Nicotine use among Indiana students also remains concerning, and this year we saw an increase in the average percentage use of electronic vapor products in all middle and high school grades.  

To improve the well-being of our children and youth, we must first understand their current reality. All of Indiana’s 1,573,409 children deserve a safe, productive, healthy environment where they can learn, grow, and thrive. IYI’s 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book is a starting point for community conversations and activation. Let’s all act to improve the well-being of our children.   

 

 

teenager vaping

Indiana’s children face many significant health issues, with our opioid crisis and an alarming increase in nicotine use being two of the most urgent. Our state needs all its children to be healthy and have the opportunity to become the strong workforce and leaders of tomorrow.

Children are often the unseen victims of the opioid crisis, with kids of all ages both directly and indirectly affected. Family and community opioid abuse often affects younger children, while older youth may combat opioid addiction themselves. Hoosier children whose parents struggle with substance use disorder are more likely to experience abuse or neglect than other children.

Research shows a clear connection between parents’ substance abuse and child maltreatment, and the number of Indiana kids negatively affected by substance use disorder is growing. Parental substance abuse is the primary factor in more than half (52.2%) of Indiana cases where a child was removed from their home. The addictions crisis also has contributed to a crisis in foster care for the state, with the number of children in foster care having risen 50.2 percent from 2012 to 2015.

Although we may not hear as much about Indiana’s alarmingly high rates of tobacco use, the toll it is taking on our kids is no less dire. The use of any type of tobacco product is unsafe for young people. Experts agree that whether a teen smokes or vapes, the nicotine is both addictive and damaging to their developing brains.

Youth are sensitive to nicotine addiction and feel dependence earlier than adults. Each year, over 3,500 Hoosier children under 18 become new daily smokers. Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers start before age 18, and three out of four teen smokers become adult smokers. The brain continues developing until age 25 and adolescent use of products containing nicotine can harm the part of the brain responsible for mood, learning, and impulse control.

Today, the most commonly used tobacco product among teens are e-cigarettes. When adolescents use vaping products, they are both more likely to use cigarettes, and more likely to increase their use of cigarettes and vaping products over time. Teens who would otherwise be deterred from tobacco cigarettes may be attracted to e-cigarettes because of their unique qualities such as flavorings, design, and perceived social acceptance. The top reasons why teens use e-cigarettes are the use of the product by a friend of family member, availability of flavors, and the belief that vaping is less harmful than other forms of tobacco.

Smoking and substance use are just two of the health issues impacting young Hoosiers – overall, we rank 34th in kids health. We can, and must, do better. We will not change these trends without investing in our kids and our communities. Distressingly, we are 49th out of the 50 states in per-capita spending on public health issues like smoking, drug addiction and obesity.

The Indiana Youth Institute is part of a broad coalition of health, business and youth leaders that are coming together around a plan that calls for improving health outcomes by raising the state cigarette tax as part of next year’s biennial budget. A $2 increase in the state cigarette tax—which is currently under $1 and even lower than Kentucky—would significantly lower the appeal of cigarettes to young, price-sensitive people. It also would generate $360 million in the first year alone that could go toward funding opioid treatment and prevention, educating and protecting youth from e-cigarettes and smoking, addressing our state’s infant mortality concerns and strengthening the Healthy Indiana Plan.

Kids and families benefit from these initiatives. We have the potential to move from bottom ten states in public health spending to the top 10. By raising cigarette user fees in next year’s budget, we can make meaningful and transformative investments to improve our kids’ health.

Our kids are our future. They have limitless potential. Let’s ensure they have the good health needed to become Indiana’s next generation of citizens, innovators, and leaders.

(Tami Silverman is the president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute)

Three-year grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. will support program integration to activate communities, expand The Promise and build hope for widespread postsecondary achievement.

Indianapolis, IN — The Indiana Youth Institute is excited to share the news that Promise Indiana and its talented staff will be joining our organization.

Since 2003, we have worked throughout Indiana to build college and career pathways. The addition of Promise Indiana adds a network of communities that are focused on building a culture that encourages students to pursue higher education. To date, more than 13,000 elementary students around the state have started a CollegeChoice 529 direct savings account through The Promise, with more than $10 million in total savings for postsecondary education.

“Our schools and communities have told us loud and clear that college and career readiness needs to begin earlier –  ideally in elementary school. Promise Indiana is an innovative and successful program that builds future identity from a young age. We are delighted to add this thriving program to our existing services,” said Tami Silverman, President and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute.

As the number of local Promise initiatives has grown, so too has interest from other communities around the state. Through Lilly Endowment’s support, IYI will lead the activation of 18 new Promise Indiana communities during the next three years. “Communities are searching for strategies to help students succeed in the classroom and in life. The Promise model is community-centric and designed to help students shape identity and build hope for their future,” said Clint Kugler, Co-Founder of Promise Indiana.

The transition will begin immediately. A formal launch is planned for IYI’s Kids Count Conference on November 27 and 28, 2018. We expect the integration to be completed by early 2019.

With support from the Indiana Education Savings Authority and Lilly Endowment, Promise Indiana began its operations in 2013, as part of the Wabash County YMCA, which has served as the home and backbone organization for the Wabash County Promise. Twenty-four additional communities have launched local initiatives in the five years since the Wabash County effort began.

Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) has been focused on college and career for 15 years, with a track record of launching successful initiatives, including Trip To College Alerts and the annual College and Career Conference.  Founded in 1988, IYI is a statewide organization that champions kids and strengthens communities through services and tools that focus on professional education, organizational capacity building, data and impact solutions, and statewide engagement and advocacy. IYI places an emphasis on increasing P–16 student success including graduation rates and postsecondary planning, achievement, and attainment.