Juvenile Law Center

July 17, 2017

Making Sure Youth Are Seen - And Heard - In Court

posted by Juvenile Law Center

Above: Youth Fostering Change advocates, Anthony and Selena met with Sandra Moore and Stephenie Strayer from the Office of Children and Families in the Courts. Left to right: Marcia Hopkins, Youth Advocacy Program Manager; Stephenie Strayer, Judicial Program Analyst; Sandra Moore, Director; Anthony, youth advocate; Selena, youth advocate; Cathy Moffa, Youth Advocacy Program Manager; Jennifer Pokempner, Director of Child Welfare Policy; Dominique Mikell, Stoneliegh Fellow.

Last fall, members of Youth Fostering Change – youth advocates with experience in the child welfare system – kicked off their advocacy year with a discussion about how their attendance and participation in dependency court hearings had a huge impact on their lives. Some youth advocates said that being present and speaking up in court allowed them to be involved in the decision-making process in their cases. Others said their limited participation caused major disruptions in care, housing, and education. When youth did come to court, they said the experience was confusing and very intimidating. Everyone agreed there were many barriers to their court attendance and that their participation during hearings was rarely encouraged. In fact, our youth advocates were shocked to learn that Pennsylvania law requires court attendance for all youth in foster care.

Our youth advocates decided to focus their yearly campaign on empowering youth to attend and meaningfully participate in their own dependency court hearings. Youth Fostering Change surveyed other youth in care about their court experiences and met with stakeholders and city officials to understand their roles in the court process. Based on these meetings and the youth survey, Youth Fostering Change created youth-focused tools and a set of recommendations to remove barriers to youth’s attendance and participation in their own court hearings. We can’t wait to share their finalized project with you later this summer! Click here to make sure you get updates on our youth advocates’ campaign.

Click the thumbnails to view fill-size photos

Yesterday, Youth Fostering Change traveled to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to present their finalized court participation tools and recommendations to Sandra Moore, Director of the Office of Children and Families in the Courts, and Stephenie Strayer, Judicial Program Analyst. Ms. Moore and Ms. Strayer were excited to hear about the project and supported the youth advocates’ recommendations.

This summer, Youth Fostering Change also met with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, the Support Center for Child Advocates, and the Philadelphia Department of Human Services. These organizations voiced strong support for the youth advocates’ campaign, recommendations, and tools. In two weeks, Youth Fostering Change will present their final recommendations and full toolkit to Philadelphia Family Court Judges.

Our youth advocates hope that shining a spotlight on the importance of youth participation in court – in addition to implementing their recommendations and tools – will mean all youth in care will feel prepared to attend court hearings with confidence that their voices will be heard. Your support today means Youth Fostering Change can keep advocating for their peers in the child welfare system. Thank you!


Tags:Youth Fostering Change|Child Welfare and Foster Care|Youth Engagement Programs

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