Know Your Rights Guide: Introduction and Chapter List

Jennifer Pokempner,
An image of a young man sitting at a table looking at his laptop.

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We hope that this guide will help to empower you by explaining what rights you have when you are in the foster care system, how to get the resources you need and the way you should be treated in care.

We hope this guide shows you how you can begin to be the writer of your own story and step into your own power as an advocate for yourself and your peers.

No one should expect you to know right now exactly what you want out of life and how to get there, but YOU have more power than you think. We hope this guide helps you recognize, respect and share with the world the greatness within you and use your voice and rights to achieve your goals and the future that you want.

In this guide you will find:

  • Information about your legal rights and services and benefits you are eligible for under the law,  
  • Steps to take to protect your rights and get the support and services you need, and 
  • Tools and advice on navigating the child welfare system and advocating for yourself.

The specific topics covered by the Guide can be found in the Chapter List below.

We also hope this guide helps the rights within these pages become reality for all youth in Pennsylvania’s child welfare system. To do that we need YOU to take action. We hope you will: 

  • Share: Please share this guide with your friends and peers!  
  • Return: Come back often! We will continue to update the guide with information, rights and resources. 
  • Talk to us! Let us know how we can improve this guide and make it easier for you to use! 

Come back often – learn and share – YOUR VOICE matters.


This Guide was developed in collaboration with many partners and we are grateful to them for their expertise and commitment to older youth in and leaving the child welfare system. We could not have developed this Guide without them!  We are grateful to many advocates and organizations across the state but wanted to give special thanks to the following organizations and people who were instrumental in developing this edition of the Guide, providing feedback and advice: KidsVoice, the Pennsylvania Youth Advisory Board (YAB), Youth Fostering Change, and the Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center.  At Juvenile Law Center, Christina Sorenson, Marcía Hopkins, and Karen Lindell played key roles in developing the Guide and making sure the feedback of youth and alumni was included. Sue Mangold, Katy Otto, and Chelsea Lewis from Juvenile Law Center were also instrumental in producing this Guide. Meghan O’Hare and Lucinda Gore from the Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center committed countless hours of their time to provide  feedback and get input from youth and Independent Living Coordinators throughout the state. Marvin Butts, Youth Quality Improvement Specialist, and Haundray Muir, Youth Ambassador, from the Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center provided valuable feedback and helped coordinate feedback from the Regional YABs.  Finally, we also are grateful to the many staff and young people from the Regional YABs, including Steven and Blaze Tressler, Tiana Lopez, and CiCi Griffin. We appreciate all of your work and commitment to youth in and leaving foster care and hope this Guide will be useful to you and the young people you work with.


Guide Chapters