One of the Youth Law Center’s basic values holds that children are best served in their home communities where family support is easier; connection to a broader range of services is possible; and disruption is less pronounced than in institutional settings. Much of our work has centered on assuring that children have access to community-based services through the health care system, education system, child welfare and juvenile justice systems. YLC staff have become experts on use of public funding streams as a way to assure that such services are avaialble. YLC staff have also worked in a variety of ways to reduce unnecessary incarceration, and to assure consideration of alternatives to incarceration.
Youth involved in the juvenile justice system have enormous health care needs. As a group, they suffer disproportionately from acute and chronic health problems. Many have not had adequate access to health care before coming into contact with the system, and many suffer from conditions that develop or worsen while they are in state custody — sometimes resulting in protracted or unnecessary incarceration.
The Youth Law Center has a long history of focusing on educational equity issues impacting foster care and juvenile justice youth. Unfortunately, these youth comprise two of the most educationally disadvantaged and academically at-risk student groups enrolled in our schools.
Financial support through programs such as AFDC-FC (foster care benefits), Kin-GAP (Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program) and Adoption Assistance, is essential to maintain appropriate placements for children and to ensure they receive the services and care they need.
A primary goal in YLC’s juvenile justice work is to reduce unnecessary incarceration of children, and staff have used a variety of strategies to achieve this goal.