ABA: Using the Law to Help Kids Who Are Aging Out of Foster Care
On March 12, the American Bar Association Section of Litigation Children's Rights Litigation Committee held the teleconference "From 17-21: What Lawyers, Judges, and Agencies Should Be Doing for Kids Aging Out of Foster Care."
Juvenile Law Center Supervising Attorney Jenny Pokempner served as faculty for this national teleconference, which reached over 700 participants. The teleconference addressed:
- How to ensure a successful transition from foster care to adulthood
- How to help youth who have left foster care and then return after age 18
- Older foster youth in the juvenile justice system
- Expungement of juvenile records
- Legal representation for post-18 youth
- Model state laws in place to ensure a smooth transition to adulthood
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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Issues Long-Anticipated Ruling in Juvenile Life Without Parole Case
On March 26, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Batts held that Qu'eed Batts, who received a mandatory life without parole sentence for a crime he committed when he was 14, was entitled to a resentencing hearing. At that resentencing, Batts can receive a sentence of life, leaving the trial court the discretion to set the minimum term that Batts must serve. (Read the majority opinion here.)
In setting the minimum term (or parole eligibility), trial courts must consider "appropriate age-related factors." The Pennsylvania Supreme Court relied in part on the United States Supreme Court's decision in Miller v. Alabama, which held that mandatory life sentences, without the possibility of parole, were unconstitutional when applied to juveniles.
The decision in Batts applies to juveniles whose homicide convictions were still on appeal at the time the United States Supreme Court decided Miller. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has yet to decide Commonwealth v. Cunningham, a companion case to Batts, in which it will rule on whether Miller should apply retroactively in Pennsylvania. Juvenile Law Center has taken the position that Miller should be retroactive, and should apply to the roughly 500 juveniles serving mandatory life sentences in the Commonwealth.
The next step for juveniles in Batts' position is a resentencing hearing before the trial judge.
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Case of the Month: State of Arizona v. Hon. Jane A. Butler and Tyler B.
The U.S. Supreme Court in J.D.B. v. North Carolina (2011) held that a youth's age must be taken into account when analyzing whether he or she is in custody. If youths are in custody, they must be given Miranda warnings if a statement from the interrogation is to be used against them. J.D.B. was a 13-year-old special education student who was removed from his classroom and questioned by police in a closed school conference room without having been given his Miranda warnings.
State of Arizona v. Hon Jane A. Butler and Tyler B. presents a similar scenario: Tyler B., 16, was arrested, questioned, handcuffed, and eventually subjected to a blood draw at school, after being held for two hours behind closed doors by five adults—including two law enforcement officers—without access to his parents. The trial court granted Tyler B.'s motion to suppress evidence derived from the blood draw, finding that Tyler did not voluntarily consent to the search.
Juvenile Law Center's amicus brief to the Arizona Supreme Court argued that the trial court's ruling should be upheld because of the U.S. Supreme Court's precedent in J.D.B.—that Tyler's age and other circumstances must be considered in assessing if he voluntarily consented to the blood draw.
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More Families Eligible for Extended Benefits for Adopting or Becoming Guardians of Older Youth
Now that the Pennsylvania General Assembly has passed Acts 80 and 91, extending provisions of the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act to foster youth across the state, families who want to adopt children or enter into guardianship arrangements can receive financial assistance and health insurance until the youth in their care turns 21, as long as they entered into these arrangements when the youth was age 13 or older.
Early interpretations of Act 80 held that families could only receive these subsidies if they entered into these arrangements after July 2012, when the law was enacted. That interpretation has now changed. Families may now be eligible for extended financial assistance and health insurance for arrangements they entered into before 2012, as long as the youth is under age 21 and, if between ages 18-21, meets the activity requirements (see our Fostering Connections webpage for a list of those requirements).
Families who think they may be eligible for these extended subsidies should contact the county children and youth agency with which they entered into the arrangement. Juvenile Law Center has created this form for families to use to get the process started.
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