Research shows that three years after leaving care, one in five former foster youths has experienced unemployment; one in four does not have a high school diploma; one in three has been incarcerated; and one in two is unemployed. These poor outcomes are often the result of legal barriers that an attorney could help remove, yet these youths leave care with no options for legal advocacy in civil matters that may arise as they transition into adulthood, including matters involving public benefits, housing, education and domestic relations.
To fill this gap, the Lawyers Fostering Independence (LFI) program recruits, trains, and deploys a cadre of attorneys to provide pro bono civil legal services to youth aged 17 to 23 who have been in foster care, group care, or kinship care at some point since their 15th birthday.
CCYJ created the LFI program in late 2008 in partnership with the American Bar Association and its Bar-Youth Empowerment Project. The ABA selected Washington as one of two state pilot sites nationwide based on the strength of CCYJ's presence in promoting statewide systemic reform.
Since LFI's inception, CCYJ has helped dozens of youths with civil legal issues ranging from entering parenting plans and modifying child support, to appealing DDD benefit denials and applying for SSI, to sealing juvenile records and negotiating community service in lieu of restitution, to clearing credit reports of identity theft and challenging wrongful evictions.
Through volunteer-staffed clinics and presentations, CCYJ works with service providers in King County to help youth understand their legal rights and thereby avoid civil legal problems in the future.
If you are a former foster youth needing non-criminal legal help, an attorney looking to volunteer, or someone just wanting more information, please contact the LFI program at 206.696.7503 x17 or email@example.com.
A Youth Dependency Guide: Know Your Rights! In collaboration with partners from Perkins Coie, Washington Defender Association, and Columbia Legal Services, CCYJ has produced a handbook for the ABA on the legal rights of youth in dependency.