There are more than 500,000 children in foster care in the United States and nearly 30,000 young people “age out” of the foster care system each year. Aging out increases the risk of poverty, unemployment, poor education, early pregnancy, substance abuse, and future incarceration, but there is hope. Pro bono attorneys can help these young adults in securing education, employment, safe housing, healthcare, and financial stability in a variety of ways.
Here are a few inspiring examples, among many, of pro bono work to help youth aging out of foster care:
- Greenberg Traurig† provides pro bono legal representation to children and young adults who are aging out of the foster care program in Palm Beach County, Fla. Greenberg Traurig’s Independent Living Review is a collaboration between the firm, the Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society, and former Greenberg Traurig Equal Justice Work fellows. The firm helps 16 to 20 year old youths in foster care navigate the road to legal and financial independence and secure opportunities that can put them on the path to success. Firm attorneys and paralegals advocate on behalf of Independent Living Review clients to support them in their transition into adulthood.
- Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.*† works with The Alliance for Children’s Rights to aid youths who are transitioning out of the foster care system. The firm represents individuals with identity and credit theft problems and provides legal services to secure social security and other public benefits, special education rights, and to finalize necessary appointments of legal guardians. Additionally, attorneys have provided educational clinics on basic contract, employment, and tenant rights to individuals transitioning from foster care to independent living.
- Baker & McKenzie*† has been recognized for its advocacy on behalf of a specific group of foster care youth who were aging out: children with a promise of a scholarship to attend school full-time that will not provide enough money for them to sustain themselves and be successful. Baker & McKenzie is currently working with Lawyers for Children America to shed light on these cuts for youth that have no family or financial support.
- Fulbright & Jaworski LLP*† played an integral role in recommending changes to the foster care process in Texas. The firm assisted in the completion of a report by Texas Appleseed on the challenging legal process of transitioning Texas foster care children into permanent homes. According to the report, Texas is doing a poor job of raising foster children, with many of them aging out at 18 and never finding a permanent home. The Appleseed study recommends procedures to increase the number of permanent placements and lower the rate at which children age out.
Do you know of any other pro bono work aimed to serve individuals transitioning out of foster care or to reform the foster system? Leave us a comment below!