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January 22, 2021 Practice Points

Five Resources for Lawyers Representing Transition Aged Youth

Some tips and resources to help you prepare your client to age out of the child welfare system.

By Cathy Krebs

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

Lawyers who represent transition-aged youth (ages 16–24) have unique challenges to ensure their clients are prepared as they age out of the child welfare system. Here are some tips and resources to assist you in this work (note that many of these tips and resources are equally applicable for youth transitioning from the juvenile justice system):

  1. Think of Us has produced the groundbreaking report Aged Out which focuses on how we are failing youth transitioning out of foster care. The report draws on research gathered from interviews with 206 people, including a wide range of foster youth, former foster youth, child welfare staff and leadership, supportive adults, foster parents, and more. The concrete and practical recommendations focus on healing and dealing with trauma, centering youth in their preparedness, and helping youth build a supportive network. One of the key takeaways from this report is that it is essential to ask your child client: What do you need? What are your goals? These basic questions are critical to ensure that you are advocating for what your client actually needs, rather than the needs that the system may assume that they have.
  2. The Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) initiative, which was spearheaded by foster care alumni from ACTION Ohio, synchronizes existing federal programs to eliminate gaps that lead to homelessness for youth transitioning from foster care. Through FYI, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides housing choice vouchers for youth eligible under the Family Unification Program. These are an important resource in preventing homelessness for transitioning youth. To learn more about the program and eligibility, visit the HUD website or visit the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare.
  3. Learn how the COVID relief and spending package passed by the U.S. Congress on December 22, 2020, impacts transition age youth in and leaving foster care through the Juvenile Law Center’s Summary of the Provisions Impacting Transition Age Youth in the Recently Passed Federal Stimulus and Funding Package. Provisions include an increase and expansion of chafee, education and training vouchers, preventing youth from aging out and providing re-entry, making FYI permanent, and several sections that impact higher education for foster youth.
  4. COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on youth transitioning from the foster care system. To learn more about how COVID-19 is impacting transition-aged youth and for a list of resources for this population, visit the Foster Club website for a list of national and state resources.
  5. Is your youth client connected to a foster youth advocacy group? If not, you might ask them if they would like to be. Many former foster youth describe the empowerment and connection that comes through involvement in a state or national level foster youth advocacy group (for example, the Mockingbird Society in Washington State or Foster Club nationally).

Cathy Krebs is the director of the Children's Rights Litigation Committee.

Copyright © 2021, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).