The Children's Law Center of Minnesota has published a module entitled Critical Advocacy Tools For Attorneys Helping Foster Youth Clients Achieve Positive Outcomes During and After Preparation for Adulthood, written by Staff Attorney Julia Hillel Larsen. The Children's Law Center represents many youth in court hearings and works to make sure their clients are getting their needs met.
Many of the recommendations made in this module may be best practice but not explicitly required by law. Additionally, this module does not include the new language and changes that started on August 1, 2012; however, it provides valuable information about services for youth about to become the age of majority.
Recommendations based on statutory requirements
- Reviewing with clients their right to remain in foster care until age 21 and the likelihood of their case closing if they choose to leave foster care (this notice is required under statute);
- Making sure that clients are given a copy of any motions to dismiss the case, decision appeal rights, and the opportunity to be heard by the court (all of these are required by statute);
- Advocating for the assigned social worker to help the client collect and compile their educational, medical, and dental records (this is required by statute); and
- Helping the client find a caring adult who can be a lasting connection and potentially form a permanency pact with the youth (helping find lasting connections is required under the statute).
Recommendations based on best practices
- Using Youth in Transition Conferences (a youth version of a Family Group Conference) to create youth-driven plans to work toward independence (not required by statute, but commonly viewed as a best practice);
- Ensuring that the youth does not have any outstanding medical bills when the youth is about to turn 21 years old, and working with the social worker to resolve any outstanding debt (this is not required by statute, but the youth does qualify for public medical assistance as part of extended foster care); and
- Educating youth about the possibility of expungement of their juvenile records (if records exist) and how this would potentially help them, and assisting them in the expungement process (this is best practice for the attorney who is working with the youth).
Recommendations based on best practices AND statutory requirements
- Tracking a youth client's educational progress and making sure the assigned social worker is in contact with the school regarding the youth's progress or struggles (the statute requires the worker to help the youth with independent living skills, including education, but not to specifically be in contact with their school); and
- Requesting bus cards and at times a bicycle for the client if needed (transportation is one of the areas of independent living skills with which the worker is required to help the youth, but giving bus cards and bicycles are not required by statute).