ABA Adopts Three New Child-Related Policies

Vol 33 No 3

At the ABA’s February 2014 Midyear Meeting, the ABA House of Delegates approved three new child-related policies. Use these policies to garner support where you practice.

Youth Transitioning from Care

Recognizing the high numbers of youth in foster care who exit to homelessness, the ABA urges governments to adopt legislation and policies to prevent youth in foster care from becoming homeless, or leaving the foster care system without a permanent connection. 

The policy supports eliminating the child welfare case goals of “Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement” and emancipation, and replacing them with “Safe and Secure Housing/Permanent Significant Adult Connections” for youth leaving care.

The policy asks courts and governments to improve transition outcomes for youth by: 

  • Providing support for housing for youth who turned 18 while in foster care and have aged out.
  • Requiring that dependency cases not be dismissed without a hearing that confirms: 
- The youth has housing, including the option of family placement.
- The youth has at least one permanent adult connection.
- If the youth is disabled, the youth will be transitioned to a facility that provides health care and support for youth with disabilities.
- Avoiding use of congregate group care as a permanent placement, recognizing that youth with chronic disabling conditions may require long-term residential treatment when other placements are not in their best interests.

The policy also asks the legal profession to develop resources to support youth transitioning from foster care, particularly on establishing permanent adult connections and securing housing.

Trauma-Informed Advocacy

The ABA urges the legal profession to adopt trauma-informed, evidence-based practices for court-involved children and youth who have been exposed to violence, including victims of child abuse and neglect or other crimes and those subject to delinquency or status offense proceedings. These practices should:

  • recognize the impact of trauma on children, 

  • ensure legal representation reflects awareness of the harm of trauma on court-involved children, and

  • use a multidisciplinary approach to support the recovery and resiliency of the child and family.

The policy also asks bar associations to support training for legal professionals on trauma-informed advocacy for children and youth, as well as training on secondary trauma and strategies for addressing it for legal professionals who work with children and youth in the courts.

Appellate Representation for Juveniles

The ABA urges governments to ensure juveniles receive effective appellate representation and access to appeals as provided by state statutes and constitutions. The policy supports efforts to strengthen appellate representation for juveniles, including: 

  • Training for attorneys and judges on appellate advocacy for juveniles in juvenile court.

  • Providing resources that ensure juveniles’ access to appellate representation.

  • Ensuring a timely appellate review process for all juveniles.

  • Collecting data on juvenile delinquency appeals to identify barriers and compare state performance on juvenile appellate practice.

Claire Chiamulera, CLP Editor