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Article of Interest - Foster Care

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Bridges4Kids LogoJuvenile Law Center Leads Amicus Effort for Foster Youth in College
Juvenile Law Center, 2005
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The Juvenile Law Center has taken the lead in advocating for state support for foster care youth enrolled in college by drafting an amicus brief to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. The brief is on behalf of S.J., a college student petitioning for the legal right to remain in the foster care system while she earns her degree. KidsVoice, a child advocacy organization based in Pittsburgh, represents S.J.

S.J. was ruled dependent and was in the foster care system before turning 18. After earning her high school diploma and before turning 18, she petitioned the court to allow her to remain in care while attending college. The court granted S.J.ís request and ordered the county children and youth agency (CYA) to provide limited financial support to S.J. and her foster parents during this time. CYA appealed the courtís decision.

Amici who have signed on to JLCís effort argue that the Juvenile Act, the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, the Foster Care Independence Act and Pennsylvania case law support the juvenile courtís decision. S.J.ís enrollment in college certainly constitutes being in a "course of instruction," according to the Juvenile Act. The court was also correct in considering financial support for the family necessary during college breaks because dormitories are closed and students are forced to leave campus. The purpose of the Foster Care Independence Act is to ensure that older foster youth achieve meaningful self sufficiency. By retaining jurisdiction of S.J. and continuing financial support of her family, the court can increase her odds of achieving this meaningful independence.

Amici also argue that continuing to support S.J. best serves the public interest. It is well documented that youth exiting state care have significant problems adjusting to an independent life. Research has shown that these problems, particularly during this adjustment period, often leave former foster care youth dependant on other state programs. By allowing S.J. to continue her education without the fear of homelessness and financial instability, the juvenile courtís order greatly enhances her chances of becoming a productive, self-supporting citizen and saves the long term financial costs to society S.J. may require if she does not receive the support she needs now. Youth in substitute care who receive comprehensive support and assistance are far more likely to succeed and avoid homelessness, reliance on public assistance and incarceration.


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