The Boston Globe’s wrenching profile of a mother who gave up her two sons for adoption; The Oregonian’s incisive look at how massive cuts in mental health services led to the suicide of a 22-year-old woman with schizophrenia; the Los Angeles Times’ stunning photographs of the journey taken by a Honduran boy who slipped into the United States in search of his mother; and an evocative MSNBC documentary about four homeless families were among the winning stories in the 2004 Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism contest.
After a brutal rape sent her into depression, Barbara Paul struggled with an already tenuous grip on motherhood. Neither an addict nor an abuser, Paul nonetheless was found by the state of Massachusetts to be an unfit mother. Charges of parental neglect led her two sons, ages 8 and 13, into foster care and then adoptions to which she reluctantly agreed. Wen’s account is carefully detailed and beautifully, sparingly written, illuminating a rarely seen corner of the child welfare system and its effects on a lost family.
A decade ago, West Virginia officials pushed through a massive school consolidation plan, resulting in the closing of hundreds of rural schools. Eyre and Finn focus on the overlooked sufferers: children who endure long and arduous bus rides that grossly violate state guidelines. The reporters provide a thorough look at a scandalous situation far below the national radar and, in the best traditions of journalism, give voice to a community’s most vulnerable people.
The series offers a disquieting account of how economic and racial segregation contribute to educational inequalities in California’s public schools. A familiar topic comes alive through vivid reporting and shows how differences large and small – from spending on teacher salaries and textbooks to cleanup of graffiti-covered walls – affect students and their education.
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.
Stickney profiles Grand Junction’s homeless children – a group rarely in public view – without stigmatizing them. Though the topic is familiar, this article goes beyond statistics with compelling details: the 11-year-old girl doing homework in her mother’s car; a teenage boy sharing a cramped motel room with his mother, two sisters and a kitten; and a family’s steady diet of hot dogs and ramen noodles in a motel kitchen that lacks a stove or refrigerator.
Chapman investigates why an institution run by Florida’s Department of Children and Families had treated an emotionally disturbed 6-year-old as a “psychotic adult.” She examines the hospital’s use of full-body restraints, psychotropic drugs and a quiet room for Isaiah White’s discipline. The harrowing and utterly absorbing account of his barbaric treatment poses hard questions but provides no easy answers.
Ramos spent a year reporting and writing editorials that probe Louisiana’s problem-ridden juvenile justice system. He illustrates, by example and also wide-angle reporting, that the state’s policies have been both expensive and ineffective; the prisons are ill-equipped to provide the rehabilitative services these youths so desperately need. His work produced significant reforms in a state where powerful district attorneys and corrections officials had long resisted change.
Written with care and restraint, Humes’ story skillfully depicts the problems besetting MacLaren Children’s Center for abused and neglected children. Through interviews with wards and workers, and solid historical reporting, he explains in distressing detail how the center became a dumping ground for children it was not prepared to handle, and the focus of public outrage when the inevitable tragedy struck. The center’s rules seem to have been written with a goal of failure; Humes details the absurdity.
The story chronicles the struggle of an adoptive family to obtain mental health services for their severely emotionally troubled son. It touches on funding of the mental-health system, high-risk adoption and the various mental disorders and conditions linked to fetal alcohol syndrome. It’s a compelling subject done nicely.
During the three months he spent retracing the path of a Honduran boy, Bartletti accumulated a striking compilation of photographs depicting the perils of an estimated 48,000 children who enter the United States from Central America and Mexico each year. The series offers a close look at what children must face to get a piece of the American dream. Barletti’s photographs are excellent – some nice moments, beautiful light.
A deftly told story of a Florida juvenile court that considers research on the emotional needs of very young children in decisions affecting troubled families. Through excerpts of courtroom proceedings rarely made public, the report invites the listener’s interest and empathy without violating family privacy.
WATE-TV investigates conditions at a mobile home community where mostly Mexican families are subjected to substandard and unsafe living conditions. This crusading story of how slumlords are protected by legal loopholes reveals the limits of government protection for those in privately owned housing. This poignant story raises a timely social issue.
In an evocative and sensitive documentary, the producers allow homeless people to tell their own stories without the intrusion of a narrator. The producers didn’t settle for partial access to a homeless shelter, didn’t set up sit-down interviews and didn’t shoot for the moment. This is television at its best, John Steinbeck with a video camera.