Former Foster Youth to Child Welfare System: "Don't Push Us Out, Stand Up For Us"
Each year, approximately 30,000 youth in the United States age out of care in the child welfare system without the support of family.
In 2011, Breonia (pictured above with her daughter, Armani), a former foster youth from Philadelphia, was one of those youth.
"I did not age out of foster care. I was pushed out, and too many kids are pushed out of foster care each year before they are ready. Without a real plan and support, I have struggled. As a young woman who spent many years in foster care, I am used to facing challenges, but I think the child welfare system could do much more to help us face the challenges involved in becoming an adult. Rather than pushing us out, I wish the child welfare system and those who run it would stand up for us, fight for us.
The system should show us much more tolerance, care, support, and humanity than it does. It is pretty simple: we want the court, caseworkers, and lawyers to treat us as they would their own children. The child welfare system gave up on me. To this day, the words of my caseworker at my last court hearing when my case was closed ring in my ears: 'Close her case. If she wants to be grown, let her be grown.' When you hit 18, you do want to be grown, but you need support and guidance to be a successful adult."
Breonia is a member of Juvenile Law Center's Youth Fostering Change program and Youth Speakers Bureau. She wrote this blog post as part of our series on National Foster Care Month, featuring blog posts from current and former foster youth. Read more posts in the series here.Read Less >
Shackling Youth, Strip-Searching Adults: PA Legislature Leans Forward While U.S. Supreme Court Leans Backward
Pennsylvania just took a giant step forward with respect to its treatment of youth in the juvenile justice system while the United States Supreme Court recently took a giant step backwards in declaring the strip searching of adults—arrested and detained for even the most minor offenses—a valid practice under our Constitution.
In Pennsylvania, one of the last pieces of legislative reform emerging from the Luzerne County juvenile court judges' scandal fell into place this week. Governor Tom Corbett signed Senate Bill 817 into law, prohibiting the shackling of children in juvenile court unless there are extreme or exceptional circumstances. The law, sponsored by Senator Lisa Baker (R-20), reinforces a juvenile court rule adopted last year by Pennsylvania's Supreme Court.
In a dis-similar vein, the U.S. Supreme Court recently rejected a challenge to routine strip searches of adults. Like shackling, routine strip searches, without probable cause, are an affront to human dignity.Read Less >
New National Standards Protect Youth From Sexual Abuse in Jails and Prisons
Good news from the Department of Justice (DOJ): In accordance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, the DOJ has released a final rule to prevent sexual abuse in prisons and jails that sets national standards to protect incarcerated youth. Two key standards: Youth will be prevented from being housed with adult inmates and from having unsupervised contact with adult inmates in common spaces.
Last year, when this rule was not yet finalized and open to comment, Juvenile Law Center and other advocacy organizations submitted public comments that suggested ways to better protect youth in correctional settings. Many of these suggestions were included in the final rule.Read Less >
Newly Introduced Legislation Would Allow Child Welfare Agencies to Help Foster Youth Succeed in School
The bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth—which includes Juvenile Law Center Supervising Attorney Jessica Feierman, co-chair of the Caucus' policy committee—recently introduced the Access to Papers Leads to Uninterrupted Scholars (A+ PLUS) Act of 2012. If implemented, this Act would allow child welfare agencies to help foster youth succeed in school.
Currently, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) unintentionally hinders the educational success of students in foster care by creating a barrier between school records and child welfare agencies. Without access to a student's records, those agencies are limited in their ability to advocate for the youth's educational success. The A+ PLUS Act would rectify this situation by granting child welfare agencies direct access to school records for youth in care.Read Less >