Children’s Law Center: Changing to Meet the Needs of Today’s Foster Youth
Foster youth today face many challenges. To better address these challenges, CLC is focusing efforts on providing a more holistic approach to better support its foster youth clients. CLC is committed to finding and providing legal support in areas where these children need it, in addition to their child protection case. Looking out for the health, wellbeing and future of our foster clients is a big job. Some foster youth need help with their immigration status. Others are having trouble in school, or are getting into trouble after school. Some have serious mental heath issues, and/or have experienced severe trauma, which may or may not have been addressed in an effective way. In many of the cases where these issues arise, CLC has begun working collaboratively with attorneys who have specialized legal expertise, and other professionals and organizations to address these issues.
To increase the scope of CLC’s legal representation of foster youth, CLC has implemented pro bono partnering connections with Twin Cities lawyers who specialize in fields such as criminal defense matters, expungement of juvenile records, immigration, appellate advocacy, health law, and public benefits, just to name a few. These specialists partner with our CLC child protection volunteer attorneys to address the full range of legal needs a foster youth might be facing.
In addition, representation of the whole child requires a lot of work on the part of CLC staff and social worker to identify pertinent issues for each child, to locate appropriate resources to address those needs, and to inform the CLC volunteer attorneys of the options available for their clients. Issues such as finding mentoring programs or tutors, finding a new therapist, getting a mental health evaluation for a client, or finding the appropriate treatment facility to address a client’s needs, are all issues that our staff social worker, Weida Allen works tirelessly to do for our clients. This allows CLC volunteer attorneys to come to court with requests and solutions to address the specific needs and wishes of their client.
CLC also is working to identify opportunities for all of its foster clients, such as summer camps, scholarship opportunities, mentoring programs, and skill development classes in subjects like financial management and job training, and are notifying our volunteers as new opportunities arise.
Why is CLC doing this? Because it’s not just about the law; it is about a child. It is about identifying all of the needs and wishes of the foster youth clients, and finding the resources both legal and non-legal, to address them. It is about informing our volunteers about those legal and non-legal options so that they can adequately represent their client. Ultimately, it is to ensure that each client has all of the resources, skills and tools they need to grow, to heal, to form permanent lasting connections with people, and to succeed in taking care of themselves as adults.