what's at stake: Children's unique legal rights
Children have unique legal rights and interests, such as education, basic nurturing, physical and mental healthcare, family relationships, liberty, safe and stable housing, and permanency. Children involved in the child welfare or juvenile offender systems, and unaccompanied homeless youth face substantial barriers in realizing these legal rights and interests. They are at risk of permanently losing relationships with siblings and parents. They are at risk of incarceration. They may experience multiple placements and school changes or the inability to access safe shelter or healthcare. Children involved in these systems face cascading repercussions such as poor school attendance, low graduation rates, unemployment, involvement in the criminal justice system, and homelessness. There is an over-representation of youth of color and LGBTQ youth within the child welfare and juvenile offender systems and among homeless youth. Holistic, community-based legal advocacy is essential to ensure children’s legal rights, to break down barriers, and to expand opportunities for youth to overcome the odds.
lcyc, responding to unmet needS
Legal Counsel for Youth and Children (LCYC) protects children’s rights, interests, and safety through four main programs: child welfare, juvenile justice, immigrant youth and families, and homeless youth. LCYC was created, and has continued to evolve, in response to gaps in legal services for children and youth in King County. LCYC serves approximately 400 youth per year. The age ranges vary based on program, child welfare (birth - 21 years), juvenile justice (up to 18 years), immigrant youth (up to 21 years), youth at risk of or experiencing homelessness (12 - 24 years). The majority of youth served are youth of color. Roughly one-fifth of youth served through our homeless advocacy program self-identify as LGBTQ.
We provide community-based, holistic legal advocacy. We meet youth where they are - geographically, developmentally, emotionally, culturally, and linguistically. We collaborate with the youth, family members, educators, service providers, and other community partners to ensure that the legal and non-legal needs of the youth are met. We provide legal counsel to youth in crisis. We empower youth by helping them understand and engage in complex legal systems impacting their lives and their families. We help youth understand and assess legal issues, options, potential consequences, and opportunities, before the youth determines the path forward. For pre-verbal children, or those otherwise unable to cognitively direct legal representation, we delve into the child's world, connecting with key supports and professionals to understand the child's needs and family, advocating to protect the child's legal rights.