ABA Resolution Seeks to Prevent Foster Kids Becoming Homeless

The ABA House of Delegates met last Monday, February 10, 2014, at the Midyear Meeting in Chicago, Illinois to debate and vote on a wide range of public policy issues.

One Resolution on the table, which was submitted by the Commission on Youth at Risk, “urges governments to enact and implement legislation and policies which prohibit youth from transitioning from foster care to a status of homelessness, or where a former foster youth will lack a permanent connection to a supportive adult.” This Resolution, Resolution 109A, was adopted.

The Resolution says governments and courts should provide support for housing assistance for children who turn 18 while in foster care and that dependency cases should not be dismissed until a Court finds that the child has (1) housing, (2) a permanent connection with at least one supportive adult, and for youths with disabilities, (3) a transition to adult systems that provide health care and other support.

The Resolution cited a report that followed over 700 children who had been in the foster care system in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. 36% of the former foster care children reported at least one instance of homelessness by the age of 26. The Resolution explained that “further action is needed to help former foster youth find safe and secure housing and avoid homelessness,” suggesting that Courts “simply forbid a child leaving foster care from becoming immediately homeless.”

In support of the second requirement (that the Court find the child has a permanent connection with at least one supportive adult), the Resolution explains that, “youth need stable and caring relationships with committed adults in order to transition smoothly into adulthood and avoid negative outcomes like poverty and unemployment.” In 2009, 80% of eighteen-year-olds who aged out of foster care through emancipation had no permanent family to turn to.

As it relates to the disabled youth in foster care, the Resolution argues that states “pay special attention to the transition needs of youth with disabilities because youth with disabilities are over-represented in the child welfare system and are at greater risk for poorer outcomes than their non-disabled system-involved peers.” Special transition planning requirements must be put in place because the successful transition of youth with disabilities requires accessing benefits, services, and supports in adult systems that operate by rules and eligibility criteria very different than the child serving systems.  Many of these services and supports have long waiting lists, are not entitlements, and require careful and early planning to ensure that the youth can access them upon discharge.  In addition, because many of these youth cannot rely on a parent or caregiver to help them navigate this complicated transition, clear requirements and procedures for transition planning for these youth is essential to their health and well-being.

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Saturday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Here’s a look at today’s top stories affecting children’s rights, juvenile justice, and education:

Cultural Considerations Rejected in N.Y. Private Placements, Education Week

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have required school districts to consider cultural factors when deciding on private placements for students with disabilities.

In a statement cited by the New York Times, Cuomo, a Democrat, said, the bill would have meant “an overly broad and ambiguous mandate” to send more students to private schools, burdening taxpayers with “incalculable significant additional costs.”

Some New York districts—like many across the country—don’t have the capacity to teach all of their students with disabilities in their own schools, so they often turn to private schools to educate these students instead. Typically, these placements are based solely on the students’ educational needs.

It seems it will stay that way in New York.

Romney’s education plans target of new Obama ad, CNN

Mitt Romney’s stance on class sizes in public schools came under fire Wednesday from President Barack Obama’s campaign, which released a television spot featuring parents who say their children benefit from lower student-to-teacher ratios.

The ad, called “Children,” will air in Ohio and Virginia on Thursday, the campaign said. Those states are key battlegrounds where Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman running as Romney’s vice presidential pick, has campaigned this week.

ACLU Tells Public Schools It’s Monitoring School Prayer Complaints, Wall Street Journal

As the new school year begins, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of South Carolina are hoping to educate the educators – as well as students and parents — about religious liberty through a new campaign encouraging schools to protect students’ rights to remain free from governmental promotion of religion.

“It’s important that all students know that they’re going back to school to a place where they will be welcome no matter what they believe,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, in a statement Monday. The group claims to have received numerous reports of religious freedom violations, including complaints that many South Carolina schools impose religion on students.

One in Four Black Students With Disabilities Suspended Out-of-School, Education Week

Students with disabilities are suspended about twice as often as their peers, a new analysis from the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at the University of California, Los Angeles, has found.

Analyzing data that districts submitted to the federal Education Department’s office of civil rights, researchers found that the rate of suspension for students with disabilities was about 13 percent, compared with 7 percent for students without disabilities.

Most alarming, they said, was that one in four black students with disabilities was suspended at least once during the 2009-10 school year. That figure is 16 percentage points higher than for white students with disabilities. (Nearly one in six African-American students without disabilities was suspended from school during the 2009-10 academic year.)

New Reports Show Massachusetts Failing to Protect Children in Foster Care, Children’s Rights

A massive review of Massachusetts foster care shows that nearly one in five children who have been in state care for at least two years have suffered confirmed abuse or neglect — all while in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families (DCF), according to one of five reports issued by independent child welfare policy experts and released today by national advocacy group Children’s Rights and local counsel.

Homeless Foster Kids Finding New Life in Los Angeles, Children’s Rights