Children’s Health

Cancer's New Battleground — The Developing World

Tuesday, December 4, 2012
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After a Tragedy, Life Jackets at Camp

By Sarah Birnbaum   |   Thursday, May 17, 2012
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May 18, 2012

Christian Frechette

BOSTON — A grieving father is calling for legislation at the Massachusetts State House aimed at preventing child drownings.
In 2007, 4-year-old Chrisitian Frechette drowned in a lake while attending a town-run day camp in Sturbridge. His body was found in just over 3 feet of water, in an area that was supposed to be off-limits for young and inexperienced swimmers. He was not wearing a life jacket.
Christian's father, Derek Frechette, and town officials disagree over the details of what exactly happened that day. But Frechette is sure of one thing: Life jackets should be available for kids at summer camp.
"You know, I can’t have other kids drown. My son’s memory has to be for something else. He put me here to do this. I have to make sure I save other children," he said.
Frechette is pushing for a bill known as "Christian’s Law" that would require state- and town-run camps to test kids for their swimming ability and have life jackets on hand for all minors. Sen. Steven Brewer of Barre is co-sponsoring the bill. He says Frechette’s tragedy hit close to home.
“I had a brother who was 4 years old when he drowned as well, so the loss of a family member is something that's very visceral," Brewer said. "There’s a lot of activity in swimming areas. To make sure that we can actually be helpful to people is very important. When you save the life of a child, you save the world.”
Christian’s bill has passed in the Massachusetts Senate, and supporters say they’re hopeful it will pass in the House too and become law.

Electroshock Therapy Under Fire

By Adam Reilly   |   Thursday, May 10, 2012
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May 10, 2012
BOSTON — A Canton school for individuals with serious behavior disorders is facing national criticism over its controversial use of electroshock therapy.
In a recent malpractice trial, graphic video of officials at the Judge Rotenberg Center repeatedly shocking autistic teen Andre McCollins was shown in court. The video quickly went viral, prompting more than 200,000 people to sign an online petition demanding that the Rotenberg Center end the practice. 
The error of his ways
The petition drive was launched by Gregory Miller, a former teacher’s assistant at the school. On Wednesday, along with McCollins’ mother Cheryl and a representative from the online-organizing site, Miller brought those names to the State House. 
“We’re taught to believe this is the only school that can help these children in the whole world,” Miller said. “And then you realize afterward — what was I thinking? Because all around the world, they have programs where they use … positive support for these children.”
Rotenberg: take it with a grain of salt
On Miller’s list of politicians to visit: House Speaker Bob DeLeo, whose chamber has repeatedly stopped attempts to make shock therapy illegal.
Mary Ellen Burns, a spokesperson for the Rotenberg Center, told WGBH that Miller’s criticisms should be taken with a measure of skepticism. According to Burns, Miller was a passionate advocate of electroshock therapy during his employment at the Rotenberg Center. In addition, she said, he left the school after being suspended for poor performance.

Leading the Fight Against Childhood Cancer

By Jordan Weinstein   |   Tuesday, May 1, 2012
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May 2, 2012

BOSTON — There's been a hopeful development in the fight against one form of cancer. Sarcoma is rare in adults but rather prevalent in children. For the first time in 30 years, a drug to treat soft-tissue sarcoma has been approved by the FDA. The news coincides with a fundraiser this Saturday in Hudson to raise money for the Jennifer Hunter Yates Sarcoma Foundation. WGBH News' Jordan Weinstein talked with Dr. Edwin Choy from Massachusetts General Hospital to see how fundraisers like these generate awareness and money. Choy said the foundation led the way.

An Innovative Approach to Help Troubled Teens

By WGBH News   |   Monday, April 30, 2012
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April 30, 2012
BOSTON — The conversation about education reform these days often centers on No Child Left Behind or "teaching to the test." But an innovative technique is playing out about 30 miles north of the Massachusetts border, at Somersworth High School in New Hampshire.

The school has adopted a one-on-one approach between teachers and student to develop education plans and provide counseling and life advice. The results: more kids are staying in school and grades are going up.
Filmmaker Dan Habib documented Somersworth High in his new film, "Who Cares About Kelsey," a profile of a struggling student who went from failing classes and selling drugs to a dramatic turnaround.
One reason for the success of Kelsey and other students at Somersworth High is that the school recognized the need for treatment, not punishment.
"Disproportionately, disciplinary issues do come from kids who, often, have emotional disabilities or are at risk of dropping out," Habib said. "Sometimes acting out, having challenging behavior, is a very effective way of getting attention." Over the 4 years of the program, the school reduced disciplinary issues by 60 percent.
True, it takes a lot of work to change the way a school system operates, but Habib thinks it's worth it. Within a school, programs like Somersworth's improve the climate for all students and give teachers more room to teach — without having to spend time disciplining unruly students.
But more than that, school disengagement is a societal problem, Habib said. In his research, he found that dropouts in the Class of 2008 alone cost the country "$319 billion in lost wages over the course of their lifetime." Another study showed that increasing the rate of graduation for male students by 5 percent "we'd save over $8 billion a year in crime-related costs."
So when you change the education system, "As a country and as a community and as a state, you find it yields much more success in terms of human capital," Habib said.

Newton Teacher 'An Isolated Case,' Official Says

By Toni Waterman & Wires   |   Thursday, January 26, 2012
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Jan. 26, 2012

BOSTON — This week, a second Newton public employee was arrested for possessing child porn. Peter Buchanan, who has worked for the city's public library, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Newton District Court to possession of child pornography and distribution of materials depicting a child in a sexual act. A library official said that Buchanan rarely had contact with children.
However, adding to parents' concerns is the news that David Ettlinger, 34 — the Newton second-grade teacher arrested on Jan. 27 on charges of possessing child pornography — advertised his babysitting services on national website Sittercity.
Newton superintendent of schools David Fleishman said there’s no policy against a teacher babysitting and said Ettlinger did in fact babysit for some Newton Public School children. He defended the policy:
"I employ babysitters myself and I actually look for people who have worked with children. To ban our teachers from babysitting, we would be taking a pool of people away," Fleishman said. "And, remember this is such an isolated case — that’s what I’ve been telling parents … most people can be trusted and are really good with children." 
Fleishman said Ettlinger underwent a CORI check last year and nothing alarming was found. Ettlinger's babysitting profile has been removed from the site and anyone who may have had contact with him has been notified. Fleishman also stated that the charges against Ettlinger are unrelated to other recent allegations that have surfaced in Newton.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

About the Authors
Sarah Birnbaum
Sarah Birnbaum is WGBH News' State House reporter. Send her a news tip.
Adam Reilly Adam Reilly
Adam Reilly is a political reporter and associate producer for WGBH's Greater Boston.
Jordan Weinstein Jordan Weinstein
Jordan Weinstein is a news anchor for NPR's All Things Considered on WGBH, 89.7 FM in Boston.
The WGBH News team comprises the WGBH radio newsroom, The Callie Crossley Show, The Emily Rooney Show and WGBH Channel 2 reporters and producers from Greater Boston and Basic Black. 


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