Abused, neglected and abandoned children are removed from their families each day and plunged into an under-resourced and overburdened system that strives to serve their best interests. To be empowered, children need more than just the protection of well-meaning adults; they need a voice in the critical decisions that will decide their future. Children need lawyers.
The one person with the most at stake is the person who does not have a fighter in their corner.
Numbers to know
Children in state care suffer poor outcomes*
- 47% report being unemployed one year after aging out of foster care.
- 45.4% report living on food stamps two to three years after aging out.
- 44.6% (male) and 16.4% (female) former foster children are incarcerated after aging out.
- 30.7% who grow up in foster care graduate from high school.
- 27% experience homelessness within a year after aging out of foster care.
- 3% have a bachelor degree.
*From the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee
Improving the lives of children and families
Staffed by attorneys from the front-lines of child law, ABA’s Center for Children and the Law partners with state and local stakeholders to address flaws in legal systems that serve children.
An example is the Permanency Barriers Program, in which staff identifies and removes legal obstacles to permanent placements for children in foster care.
Since its inception, the Permanency Barriers Program has helped 55 counties in four states reduce the time children spend in foster care by an average of nine months – time that could mean the difference between celebrating a birthday or holiday alone or with family.
More than 3,000 children have benefited from the program, and the participating jurisdictions saved a total of nearly $32 million.
The project is currently conducting work in Pennsylvania and has previously collaborated with partners in New York, Kentucky and Wyoming.
Resources lead to better representation
Justice for children can be better achieved by providing crucial resources for their lawyers. The ABA Children’s Rights Litigation Committee’s growing library of publications, tapes and podcasts gives attorneys who represent children the tools to successfully defend their rights.
Key assets in the library include the award-winning video, Interviewing the Child Client, which provides tips on how to assess a child’s developmental level and build rapport. Different strategies are presented to counter common challenges of counseling children.
Issues that youth face once they turn 18 and leave the foster care system are covered in Assuring a Successful Transition, a five-part series led by experienced litigators from across the country. The experts discuss real-life scenarios and solutions to help youth transition to independent living as smoothly as possible.
Legal representation isn’t required by every state for youth and children in the foster care system. The Committee maintains a webpage that maps representation requirements and lists organizations seeking volunteer attorneys.
Grandfamilies.org – an online legal resource to better educate individuals about state laws, legislation and policy in support of relatives and the children in their care. Designed for caregivers as well as policymakers, advocates and attorneys. Attorneys wishing to get more involved should explore the Legal Impact Network for Kin (LINK) found on the website.
Child Safety: A Guide for Judges and Attorneys – a publication that lays out standards that must be met before a child can return home after entering the child welfare system and provides guidance to help judges as they make decisions about family reunification.
Blueprint for Change – Education Success for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System – an online tool for stakeholders (youth, parents, educators, caseworkers, lawyers, etc.) to achieve the best educational outcomes for individuals and to spur broader system reform.
Directory of Children’s Law Programs – an online directory of children’s law program across the country for those wishing to volunteer. The list features law centers, children’s legal clinics (associated with a law school) and all children’s resources centers (that provide litigation support to children’s lawyers).