How will we as neighbors, employers, co-workers and citizens cope with an entire generation of young people whose brains are wired differently? Through the eyes of Justin Canha, an autistic 20-year-old looking for independence, we see a universe. By taking us deep into one vibrant life, Amy Harmon shows us the challenges autistic young adults face as they come of age, as well as the ways society must evolve to accommodate and integrate differently abled adults. Harmon followed Justin during his last year of public high school in Montclair, N.J., where a community-based program under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act effectively helps him transition to adulthood. Harmon documented Justin’s monumental achievements: learning how to use public transportation, finding a job, and making his first real friend. The judges called this piece “excruciatingly well-written,” and said, “this story is moving and funny and unforgettable and important, and full of the kind of detailed character reporting and grace notes to which more explanatory narratives should aspire.” High school educators told the New York Times they were using the stories to strengthen their supportive transition programs for autistic teens.
Child prostitution is a very real, urban issue that most overlook because they can, but McKim takes the time to see it, understand it and reveal its underbelly. She studied court records, talked with federal and local law enforcement and gained the trust of “Jessica,” a young woman who took on her seeming protectors-turned-tormentors in court. Jessica’s story could have been one of victimization, but in the reporter’s hands, it becomes one of realistic triumph and taking back control. McKim’s eye-opening story is an unsentimental cautionary tale for would-be runaways and, at the same time, a hopeful story for those already on the streets.
This story shows incredible reporter initiative and was movingly, masterfully told. In depth without being prying, the subjects and sources are treated with the utmost respect and sensitivity. The report delves deeply into the life of a teenager who has dealt with tragedy and reveals that family love and support can do wonders in helping to withstand it.
Kim Horner highlights the risks of untreated and undertreated mental illness in young adults. Horner spent seven months getting to know a couple struggling to help their mentally disabled grandson using their story to highlight a senseless state system that throws money away on superficial solutions.
This portrait tells the story of one of the most notorious murders in Chicago history – from the perspective of one of the young boys, now a grown man, who committed it. The culmination of a 15-year-long series, the sordid tale shows how two young perpetrators were victims as much as victimizers. A compelling read and a sad testimony to the damage the legal system can inflict when trying to enforce justice on young criminals who commit heinous crimes.
This heartbreaking story endears 14-year-old Acia Johnson to strangers who have never met her. Acia and her sister lived a life of neglect in a troubled home, ultimately dying in a house fire. Once emotionally connected, readers are primed to grasp the shortcomings of the state’s system for protecting its children – usually from the children’s own family. Letters to the editor and an investigation of Acia’s case by the state’s new Child Advocate show the impact of this moving story. The piece brings home the tragedy not only of Acia’s life, but also those of countless children like her.
This story is explanatory journalism at its best, offering a fresh way to tell an all too familiar tale about accessing health care. Anand reports on a novel set of circumstances facing Amish and Mennonite communities: They reject participation in health insurance and government-assistance programs for religious reasons, paying for medical care in cash. In the end, however, the challenges they face don't sound that much different than the ones facing millions of Americans who struggle to afford the cost of health care.
Farley's investigation revealed stunning numbers of toddlers and children being prescribed antipsychotic medication not recommended for their use. With powerful details of families' everyday struggles to cope with very challenging children, he details a complex problem that finds parents relying on heavy-duty drugs while worrying about the long-term affects. A smart editor's note illustrates that this story only reflects Medicaid patients, and thus is likely a small sampling of a much bigger problem.
A provocative report on deployed service members losing custody of their children shed light on a problem that's nearly invisible to the civilian world. Most important may be this story's impact: legislation to better protect those involved in custody disputes.
By pouring through juvenile justice records, the reporters found unintended consequences for children from a law designed to catch hard-core criminals and gang members.
Exhaustive investigation and skilled storytelling combine in a devastating account of systemic problems within Washington’s child welfare system. The story goes beyond one terrible anecdote, giving sweep and lasting impact. It’s an increasingly rare example of a newspaper investing brawn and real resources in its watchdog role.
The reporter dug deep into a difficult-to-access story of vulnerable children being passed among a little-known network of parents.
This piece stands out for its remarkable narrative about a mother’s agonizing decision to give birth to a terminally ill child.
An unsparing, searing account of a single child custody case that illustrates the tenuous nature of life in the underclass, and the obstacles confronting both parents and those charged with ensuring child welfare. The sustained nature of the two-year reporting focus was the key to the drama of the story; the reporter didn't know whether he would be telling a story of tragedy or triumph, but simply showed the unraveling of the couple's hopes to be reunited with their child.
A fascinating inside look at a culture where a North Face jacket can become the center of a death struggle. Excellent reporting allows the writer to deliver a vivid picture of this world.
An up-close examination of the advantages and stresses of mainstreaming disabled students. A smoothly flowing narrative captured in exquisite detail the inevitable conflicts that occur.
A sweeping look at a high school student's life as he helps raise his two sisters while his mother works two jobs; White shows that a child's grace and determination can help assure a family's survival. She brings some clarity to the collision between housing policies and homelessness in a way that only good writers can.
Solomon uses in-depth, unsentimental reporting to create a moving, authoritative portrait of a teenager aging out of foster care.
Delson (formerly Mena) adroitly shows how cultural and immigration dilemmas exacerbate stresses for a mother and daughter living on opposite sides of the border.
O'Connell examines why there are no simplistic answers to the teen-drinking problem.
The tragic results of massive funding cuts to Oregon’s mental health system are illustrated in this painful look at the final days of Farrah Russell, a 22-year-old suicide victim who suffered from schizophrenia. The story features incredible reporting on an important topic, buttressed by powerful writing.
Stack exposes a gross violation of civil rights and due process committed by a child welfare agency in the wrongful seizure of two children from their mother.
While many people know that children are fatter today than ever before, this comprehensive and enlightening package probes the causes of childhood obesity and its effects on society. The reporters introduce us to children whose health problems mirror those of middle age; provide eye-opening information about the fat content in fast foods; explore the role of race and class in obesity; and reveal the alarming opinion, especially among teenage boys, that being fat is okay. The “Diary of a Teenage Diet” graphic, charting a week’s meals for two high school students, adds a great finishing touch.
Eli has spent seven years in foster care at a cost of $400,000, but Washington state still can’t find a permanent home for him and other behaviorally disturbed children. The 14-year-old is so violent that no one — not even in group homes — wants him around. Fryer takes a dispassionate but sensitive look at Eli and his fractured life. He does a masterful job delineating the efforts and choices made on the boy’s behalf without vilifying his mother or social workers.
Sullivan uses tight, descriptive writing and nice pacing to totally engage the reader in this tale of an exasperated mother trying to care for three autistic daughters.