what's at stake: Children's unique legal rights
Children have unique legal rights and interests. Children enter the juvenile justice system through child welfare or juvenile offender matters. When this occurs, a child’s right to an education, basic nurturing, physical and mental health, family relationships, liberty and a safe, stable and permanent home are at risk. Children involved in these systems also face cascading repercussions such as poor school attendance, low graduation rates, unemployment, involvement in the criminal justice system and homelessness. Children in the juvenile court system are in need of legal advocacy that goes beyond what is provided through today’s standard public defense. Multidisciplinary, holistic legal advocacy is essential to ensure each child’s legal rights, to break down barriers, and to expand opportunities for each youth to overcome the odds. The unmet needs of these children impact not just the child, but the child’s family and our community.
lcyc, responding to unmet needS
Legal Counsel for Youth and Children (LCYC) protects children’s unique legal rights and interests through multidisciplinary, holistic legal advocacy. Our direct services are both preventative and responsive to the needs of children and youth in King County, our holistic approach extends beyond what is provided and compensated for by county funds.
In terms of preventative advocacy, LCYC represents children in child welfare proceedings where we have an opportunity to help strengthen or rebuild families and prepare youth transitioning to independence. Strengthening families and preparing youth for adulthood can impact the number of homeless youth and young adults in King County. When representing children in child welfare or juvenile offender cases, we also provide educational advocacy, striving to increase school stability and expanding access to needed educational support. These services can have immediate and long-term effects on the child’s future graduation, employment and housing. In collaboration with Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) and Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), LCYC provides direct legal assistance to immigrant youth, proactively preventing deportation and expanding the youth’s opportunities in this country. In response to the 2016 elections, LCYC has become more engaged in community outreach and education on immigration issues impacting youth and families; learn more here.
LCYC is presently engaged in an eighteen month pilot program, in partnership with Street Youth Legal Advocates of Washington (SYLAW) and YouthCare. Through the new program, "Legal Services Partnership for Youth," LCYC is providing direct free civil legal services to youth, ages 12-24 years, who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness. We are providing direct legal advocacy to remove barriers to education, employment, public benefits, safety, and housing. By responding to the immediate legal needs of homeless youth and young adults, we hope to decrease the duration of their time without housing and to prevent its reoccurrence. Read more about the youth we are serving, family dynamics and systems involvement (juvenile justice and child welfare) in our December 2016 report.