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Youth Engagement in Court: How The Meaningful Involvement of Youth Can Improve Transition Planning Kristin Kelly, American Bar Association Center on Children.

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Presentation on theme: "Youth Engagement in Court: How The Meaningful Involvement of Youth Can Improve Transition Planning Kristin Kelly, American Bar Association Center on Children."— Presentation transcript:

1 Youth Engagement in Court: How The Meaningful Involvement of Youth Can Improve Transition Planning Kristin Kelly, American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law Jenny Pokempner, Juvenile Law Center Meagan Soll, Jim Case Youth Opportunity Initiative Young Fellow

2 Workshop Goals Understand the role of court in planning for and with youth. Addressing barriers to meaningful involvement systemically. Promoting engagement at the individual and program level.

3 Why is court an important forum and opportunity for youth engagement?

4 Law requires youth input. – All states must put in place procedures to ensure that the court “consults, in an age-appropriate manner, with the child” on the permanency plan and “any hearing regarding the transition of the child from foster care to independent living,” 42 U.S.C. § 675(5)(C)(iii). – A transition plan must be developed with the youth during the 90-day period prior to discharging from care, court jurisdiction, or receipt of Chafee services and must be directed by the youth, individualized, and include specific options on housing, health insurance, education, local opportunities for mentors and continuing support services, and work force supports and employment services 42 U.S.C. § 675(5)(H).

5 Also… Important decisions are made in court. It is a regular opportunity for participation. It is a place where the people involved in the youth’s case should be. Judges have the authority to make things happen.

6 A Quick Note about “Case Review” and Court The law requires case reviews, but not all case reviews happen in court. Case reviews can occur in administrative forums. This workshop focuses on court because it is a powerful a forum (and your presenters are lawyers!). All tips and strategies can be used in any important decision making forum. Youth should be part of all decision making forums (meetings, hearings, etc) about their lives.

7 Activity: Why is youth engagement in court a good thing? Rank the 5 most important the reasons your group thinks youth involvement in court is helpful (and add others): – For Youth – For the Court and the System

8 Benefits of Youth Engagement in Court for Youth They will have a better understanding of their cases and how the system works. They will have the opportunity to advocate for themselves. They will feel like they have some control of their own lives. They will be assured that everyone is doing their job and that they will be held accountable if they are not. They will feel that the system is fair, even if they do not like the outcomes.

9 Benefits of Youth Engagement for the Court and System Having the youth present reminds all parties of the main focus of the case and makes people more accountable. More information improves decision making. Observing the youth can provide helpful information about safety and well being. The youth’s understanding of the process and decisions being made can foster trust in the system by the youth that can result in more cooperation and progress in the case. Modeling behavior and setting high expectations for the youth supports Independent Living and permanency goals.

10 Research Children with more advanced general legal understanding are less distressed about their hearing and understand more about decisions made in their cases. Overall, most children do not experience negative emotional reactions to court participation and prior knowledge about the court process may make the experience even more positive. Children need help understanding the legal system, particularly the decisions made on their behalf. Teens consider fairness in their overall satisfaction with case outcomes. Positive perceptions about legitimacy of legal system were associated with lower rates of delinquent behavior.

11 Research Children who attended hearings felt: – They were given a chance to tell their side of things. – The judge listened to them when they talked in court. – They were treated fairly during the hearings. – Their GAL and their case worker did a good job telling the judge about their situation. – Trust in the judge to do what’s best for them. – Felt nervous about hearings but not upset in court and felt comfortable answering judge’s questions.

12 Research Children who did not attend hearings reported: – Lower ratings about whether they were given a chance to tell their attorney about their situation. – Less positive perceptions about whether the judge knew enough to make the right decision. – Less confidence about whether someone at the hearing told the judge what they think. – Less positive perceptions about whether their perspectives are valued.

13 Barriers to Meaningful Youth Involvement In your experience, what are the barriers to meaningful youth involvement in court?

14 Common Concerns/Barriers to Youth Engagement in Court Identified by Adults 1.It will upset the youth. 2.The hearing will not be meaningful to the youth. 3.Transportation is hard to arrange. 4.Court facilities are not youth friendly. 5.It will disrupt the youth’s schedule. 6.Court will take longer if the youth is there. 7.Youth do not want to attend.

15 Barriers to Youth Engagement in Court—Youth Perception of Court 1.Seeing parents 2.Not knowing if they would ever get to see parents again 3.Getting placed somewhere far away and for a long time 4.Getting locked up, being in trouble 5.Not knowing what to say 6.Not knowing what is happening 7.Not knowing what court it is going to be like 8.That the judge would not like the youth or be strict

16 How Can We Address These Barriers? Before court… During court… After court…

17 Prepare youth for court Familiarizing youth with the court and court process Prepare youth for what to expect in court Dispel misunderstandings and misperceptions Provide ample notice and time for questions

18 Prepare court for youth Make courtroom child and youth-friendly and empowering Logistical and scheduling issues Help adults understand the benefits of youth empowerment

19 Invited vs. Being Present vs. Meaningful Participation How do we put youth in a position where they can meaningfully engage in court?

20 Making Sure Participation is Meaningful Relies on: Developing a trusting relationship with the youth, Determining the most appropriate and effective means of participation given the youth’s wishes, needs, and any other special factors related to the case, Making arrangements with the court and parties to implement the plan, and Adequately preparing the youth.

21 Providing Multiple Ways to Participate Preparing a colloquy (Q & A) that the youth is ready for. Writing a letter that the youth reads in court. Writing a letter that the judge reads at court. Speaking to the judge in chambers.

22 Making Time for Preparation and Practice Allocate time – To work with youth on writing letters and developing a Q & A. – To PRACTICE! – To answer all questions. – To de-brief after the hearing.

23 Making Arrangements in Advance Let the court and all parties know of special arrangements and requests you have: – Presenting a letter – Preparing a Q & A – Allowing the youth to leave the room at certain points. – Asking that the parents be out of the room at certain points. – That a support person will be attending with the youth.

24 Jasmine Just turned 17. She has mental health challenges and is in treatment. While she has been stable for several months and is benefiting from consistent treatment with a good therapist, she has a history of being hospitalized due to severe depression and anxiety. Jasmine gets overwhelmed in crowded, noisy places and does not like to be put on the spot. She is a good student and writer, but does struggle with some social skills. She has improved in school in the last few months and is now involved in the track team and school paper. Jasmine has been in many placements in the last few years and is currently in a group home. She is the oldest resident and most of the other youth are years old. She broke curfew on a few occasions when she was out with friends after celebrating a track victory and when she had trouble getting a ride home after staying for the school paper meeting.

25 Jasmine very much wants to be with a family or, at least, in a more independent and less restrictive placement. The agency is not sure she will be able to make it in a foster home because of her mental health needs and have had difficulty in finding something for her given her age. Jasmine also is worried about making sure she is on track to graduate and move on to college because she has had so many school moves. Because of her placement instability, not much transition planning has been done and this has upset Jasmine who has been told often not to worry about transition planning and to focus on treatment.

26 She is very scared about aging out and is worried about what will happen to her at age 18. She is very anxious about going to court, but wants to go because she is worried about aging out and wants to know what is going on with her case.

27 Activity: Preparing Jasmine In your group, brainstorm: – The type of participation that may work best for Jasmine. – Action steps to implement the plan for participation. – The issues that are most important for her to address.

28 What are States Doing to Foster Meaningful Youth Engagement in Court? JCYOI Youth and Stakeholder Surveys – Gauge where states are – Educate professionals on the state of affairs – Help bring stakeholders together – Should be used continuously to measure effectiveness of any reforms Tools for Youth Tools for Professionals (Advocates, Judges, Caseworkers) Strengthening youth advocacy opportunities and rights education

29 Tools & Resources ABA Bar Youth Empowerment Project – projects/empowerment.html projects/empowerment.html – Youth in Court Benchcards, Training Templates Legal Center for Foster Care and Education – Juvenile Law Center – court-involved-youth/permanency-and-transition-adulthood court-involved-youth/permanency-and-transition-adulthood

30 Contact Kristin Kelly – American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law – Jenny Pokempner – Juvenile Law Center –


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