Our Vision

We envision a world where system interventions and approaches prioritize children’s humanity and needs.

Our Mission

The Youth Law Center advocates to transform foster care and juvenile justice systems across the nation so every child and youth can thrive.

Our Evolution

Since 1978, the Youth Law Center has been a thought leader in advocacy for children and youth in the nation’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

  • The Late 70’s and Early 80’s: Ending Harmful Practices

    The Youth Law Center led advocacy efforts to end harmful and destructive practices such as, incarcerating children in adult facilities, isolating children for extended periods of time, shackling and hog-tying children, and incarcerating children for disobedience or running away. YLC’s multi-systemic, whole-child approach addressed issues common to the juvenile justice, child welfare and mental health systems, eliminating silos and tailoring services to each individual child.

  • The 1990’s to Today: Working to Transform Systems

    While we continue our work to stop harmful practices such as reliance on incarceration and group care, we also work to transform systems to nurture the inherent health and potential of children. YLC has led efforts to:

    • Bring the voice of youth and families to policymakers.
    • Apply the latest brain and developmental science to child welfare practice for babies.
    • Focus on excellent care driven by evidence-based and participant-driven policies and practices.
    • Ensure that all youth, whether in foster care, or the juvenile justice system, have access to needed transition, health and educational supports.
    • Bring faith communities together to support and advocate for children in state custody.

Core Principles Guiding Our Work

  • Our Unique Approach
    • Listening to the voices of clients and consumers including children and youth, their birth families, and foster and kinship families when deciding what problems to approach and designing solutions.
    • Integrating research in the design of litigation, system change approaches and solutions from diverse fields including child development, psychology, behavioral economics, marketing and branding, and adult learning.
    • Using advocacy that is based on a standard of “advocating for children in care as if they are our own”. This results in advocacy focused on high expectations, and an individual approach.
  • Our Values
    • Knowledge of the law, research and the facts on the ground.
    • Integrity to do what is best for our clients regardless of financial or social consequences to ourselves, and to be deserving of the trust of our supporters and clients.
    • Commitment to pursue solutions urgently and relentlessly.
    • Respect for the individuality of children and families and their potential to thrive, and respect for the efforts of those who strive to serve them.
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Where We Work

YLC has advocated for positive systems change nationally, including 37 states plus the District of Columbia.


States and DC benefit from YLC advocacy (YLC)


States have adopted the Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI)


States have Just Beginning facilities (JB)

Our Staff

Our team is a group of creative, flexible, strategic advocates, driven by a deep knowledge of systems, and informed by a diversity of backgrounds and experiences.

Our Board

The Youth Law Center’s Board of Directors includes a talented, committed group of legal professionals and advocates from California and around the country.


Joy Singleton

Attorney at Law

Senior Vice Chair

Howard F. Fine

Attorney at Law (Retired)

Vice Chair

Matthew R. Gemello

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP


Heidi Foreman

Foreman Consulting, Inc.


Mehrzad Khajenoori

Court Appointed Special Advocate

Members of the Board

Nicholas Lupisella

Merck & Co., Inc.

Mark Soler

Center for Children's Law & Policy (Retired)

William S. Koski

Stanford Law School

Katee Peek

LinkedIn Corporation


The Youth Law Center is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization. We invite you to review the tax documents filed on behalf of the Youth Law Center.

Join Our Team

If you share our values and are excited about joining a team of advocates dedicated to system change in an organization utilizing both traditional and innovative advocacy strategies based on the actual and evolving needs of system involved children and youth, we’d like to talk to you.

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