Photo: Harry Cutting

The National Center for Youth Law uses the law to ensure that low-income children
have the resources, support, and opportunities they need for a fair start in life.

State and Federal Foster Youth Legislation Advances

NCYL's legislative efforts on behalf of foster youth are advancing at the state and federal level. NCYL's was part of a successful effort to include groundbreaking provisions for foster youth in the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), a reauthorization of the key federal law governing education. The ECAA has been approved unanimously by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. 

In California the Assembly Education Committee has given unanimous approval to AB 854 which expand access to the state's Foster Youth Services (FYS) Program for tens of thousands of foster youth currently ineligible for the supplemental educational services provided by FYS.

And NCYL's legislative package to curb the overuse and misuses of psychtropic drugs on children in foster care also met with unanimous approval at the Senate Human Services Committee. As reported in the San Jose Mercury, the "powerful testimony" of former foster youth was instrumental in moving the legislation forward.

State Offers Guidance to Help Counties Opt Into New State-funded Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Program

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has released guidance to help counties opt into the new state-funded Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Program created last year with the passage of SB 855. The Model Interagency Protocol Framework (Model Framework) provides a structure for counties to coordinate the multiple systems that serve this vulnerable population.

The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) worked with the Child Welfare Council’s CSEC Action Team to create the Model Framework, which provides guiding principles for how counties should structure their CSEC protocol, which agencies/organizations should be involved (both required and suggested according to statute), and the responsibilities of each participating agency. 

Read the full press release

Foster Youth Secure $2 Million Settlement And Forge New Legal Precedent

The Federal District Court in Nevada has given final approval to a $2.075 million dollar settlement for seven former foster children injured while in Clark County (Las Vegas) custody. The settlement follows a long fight about the county’s foster care system by the National Center for Youth Law and Morrison & Foerster LLP on behalf of their clients.

Read the full press release

Officials of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) have announced a groundbreaking effort to identify the causes of disparities in school discipline by examining the subtle, complex, and often unintentional ways in which race, disability and discipline intersect.

Director John O'Toole Announces Plan to Retire

I plan to retire this summer, probably in August.  By then I will have been at the National Center for Youth Law for 35 years. While I still love my work, I want to leave while I’m healthy so that my wife Jean and I can enjoy ourselves and do the things we don’t have time for now.

Looking back, I feel good about what NCYL has accomplished over my 35 years here. We have won landmark victories on behalf of children in foster care and adolescents ensnared in a broken juvenile justice system.  We have helped hundreds of thousands of children in need and improved the systems intended to serve them: troubled teens whose problem are exacerbated by confinement in juvenile prisons; abused and neglected children living in a foster care system that does not meet their needs; adolescents who need access to health care; immigrant children in this country without their parents, who were being mistreated by callous immigration officials;  traumatized children denied mental health services that could put them on a path to a healthy and productive life; and many other groups of children whose voices are often not heard.  I don’t deserve the credit for this work.  Credit belongs to the talented, dedicated, and hardworking lawyers and staff who have always been the core of our success and who will continue to do this work long after I leave NCYL.

Read the full statement here

NCYL is hiring a new Executive Director. See the job description here

New Report from NCYL on the Intersection of CSEC and the Child Welfare System

From Abused and Neglected to Abused and Exploited takes a deeper dive into the link between the child welfare system and the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The paper highlights many of the issues faced by the child welfare system in addressing the problem, possible risk factors and vulnerabilities, and recommendations and opportunities for the technology sector. This is a valuable resource for those working in each of these fields, as well as a road map for ways the technology sector can get involved in tackling the issue. 

Read the full report

A new report on foster youth and California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) finds that most school districts are just beginning to grapple with how to address the needs of foster youth, despite the fact that foster youth have the lowest educational and life outcomes of any student group. SRI Education and J. Koppich and Associates conducted the research and produced the report, Foster Youth and the Early Implementation of the LCFF: Not Yet Making the Grade, on behalf of the National Center for Youth Law. It revealed serious gaps between the state’s intent to highlight foster youth as a target group and the state’s, counties’, and districts’ systems of support for this particularly under-performing group of students.

Read SRI's press release here

Read the full study here

NCYL's Anna Johnson and Bill Grimm testify at California Senate Hearings on the Misuse of Psychotropic Medication in Foster Care

Declaring the debate on whether psychotropics are misused in California's foster care system over, NCYL policy analyst Anna Johnson told a California Senate Oversight Hearing that the state is lagging in its efforts to address the issue. Ten years after the California legislature first held oversight hearings and three years after the Federal Government ordered states to develop new protocols governing the use of these medications on children in foster care, the State is still struggling to produce baseline data.

Senior attorney Bill Grimm described for the Senators, NCYL's legislative package to address this issue including bills to support the judiciary in applying medical standards to the evaluation of prescriptions for psychotropic medicines recommended for foster children, and a bill granting public health nurses greater authority to oversee baseline testing and monitoring of children approved for these powerful drugs.

Read full coverage of the hearing from the San Jose Mercury News here.

NCYL Sponsored legislation would expand California's Foster Youth Services Program

NCYL is sponsoring legislation in the California legislature, authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber, to expand the Foster Youth Services program. FYS provides supplemental educational services to foster children in non-relative placements. Currently the program only covers 1/3 of the state's foster children. Weber's legislation could expand the program to cover an additional 40,000 students including those placed with relatives.

Read the Press release

Read EdSource for full coverage

NCYL's Kate Walker and her colleague Allison Newcombe, a staff attorney and Skadden Fellow at the Alliance for Children’s Rights in Los Angeles, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on the continuing criminalization of CSEC victims. "Children like Nikki are not criminals or prostitutes, but they are often treated this way because the child protection and juvenile justice systems have not understood the abuse, trauma and violence they have endured. As such, a majority of court services have been created under the juvenile-justice umbrella —meaning a child must be arrested to access such services. A system that cannot adequately assist victims without criminalizing their behavior is a flawed system."

A Trinity County Superior Court Judge has blocked the California  Interscholastic Federation (CIF) and its Northern Section (NSCIF) from taking any action to prevent Trinity High School Senior Zach Sanchez from playing basketball pending a final ruling in a lawsuit filed by NCYL on February 4, 2015.

Sanchez, who lost his mother to cancer and was abandoned by an abusive father, has been homeless since 2012. Since moving to Weaverville, CA his life has stabilized and his grades have improved dramatically. He applied to NSCIF for a hardship waiver in order to gain eligibility as a fifth year senior. After months of stalling, the NSCIF denied Sanchez’s application claiming that CIF’s by-laws allowed a different standard and higher standard for homeless youth than all other students. 

“We were disappointed by the CIF’s inaction and unfair decision.”, said Leecia Welch, Senior Attorney at the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL). “We are very pleased that the court intervened to allow Zach to play basketball. It should never have come to this.”

Read our full press release

Petition for a Writ of Mandate

NCYL attorneys Fiza Quraishi and Hannah Benton have a new article in the Journal of Applied Research on Children. From the Abstract:

Between 65 and 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have mental health disorders, with some studies estimating that at least 20 percent of these youth have severe disorders that significantly impair functioning. Many of these youth are entitled to adequate and responsive mental health services through federal programs like Medicaid’s Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment Program (EPSDT), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). Despite these entitlements to care, by and large, the systems that serve youth fail to provide mental health services that address the individualized needs of justice-involved youth.

There is tremendous potential for advocates and system actors to use these entitlements to get youth individualized, appropriate care. Each actor in the juvenile justice system can play a critical role in helping to ensure youth get the services they need. This paper will discuss how advocates and court partners can better meet the mental health needs of children in the juvenile justice system through these entitlements.

Read the full article here.

District will implement programs to increase inclusiveness, ensure fair discipline

Eureka City Schools has reached a settlement agreement that resolves a lawsuit filed last year by the National Center for Youth Law and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.  Under the agreement, the district will implement a community-wide collaborative process aimed at cultivating a positive and inclusive school climate where all students feel welcome and safe.

Read the full press release here

Bay Area Lawyers and Allies Hold “Die-In” for Racial Justice at San Francisco Courthouse

A large contingent from NCYL joined an estimated 200 attorneys, law students, professors, and allies holding a symbolic “die-in” protest on the steps of the California Supreme Court in San Francisco.  Participants remained on the steps in protest of police violence and racial profiling of communities of color.  The protest highlighted the unique role the legal system has played in recent high-profile grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the killing of unarmed Black men and women.  The die-in was an act of solidarity with national and local protests that have taken place to affirm that Black lives matter. 

NCYL co-sponsored legislation, California's SB 138 - The confidential Health Information Act - is drawing attention as a national model for closing a loophole in the Affordable Care Act.

“We know from our work in the community that there are young folks who will go to their college health clinic and say no to that HIV test, or say no to pregnancy counseling services, because they know it will show up on a parent’s insurance bill,” Rebecca Gudeman, a senior attorney at the National Center for Youth Law, another co-sponsoring organization, told ThinkProgress. “We think the law is really going to make a huge impact pretty quickly.”

Read More

In Memoriam, Alba Witkin (November 15, 1919 to December 26, 2014)

The National Center for Youth Law recently lost one of its most treasured and stalwart supporters. Alba Witkin died December 26, 2014 at her home in Berkeley, at the age of 95.

Mrs. Witkin and her husband established the Bernard E. and Alba Witkin Charitable Foundation, through which they gave away millions to Bay Area organizations including schools, legal programs, and children’s organizations. She had a particular interest in helping children with special needs, such as foster children.  Her late husband, Bernard Wiktin, was an eminent attorney and author.

NCYL is grateful for her support, her humble approach to charitable giving, and her friendship over the years.

Read More

Photo credit: Alameda County HEAT Watch

The Chronicle of Social Change is reporting that California's effort to address the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) has received a boost with new funding from the Federal and State Governments. The initiative is being led by the California Child Welfare Council's CSEC Action Team, formed in the wake of a report by NCYL Attorney Kate Walker. Walker, who serves as project director for the Action Team, is spearheading efforts to establish protocols for California's CSEC Program which she hopes will serve as a model for other states. These protocols promote a victim- centered approach to the problem that emphasizes support and ends the criminalization and persecution of sexually exploited children. According to Walker, the five year $250 thousand dollar grant to California's Department of Social Services through the Administration of Children and Families, the new requirements contained in the recently signed Federal Bill H.R. 4980, Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, along with California's annual appropriation of $14 million starting in 2015 will put the efforts to address CSEC on a stronger footing. 

The Fort Worth Weekly has a cover story about the growing backlash against the criminalization of truancy in Texas. NCYL Senior Attorney Michael Harris told the Weekly “It’s a system that is designed for the benefit of the bureaucracy that runs it, not to help kids do better at school.”

NCYL together with Texas Appleseed and Disability Rights Texas has filed a Federal civil rights administrative complaint against the Dallas truancy courts and four Dallas area school districts which contends that the truancy courts violate students’ constitutional and statutory rights.  The complaint also alleges that Dallas, Mesquite, Garland, and Richardson school districts (all in Dallas County) employ “inconsistent and inflexible” attendance policies and practices that violate the civil rights of students with disabilities and limited English proficiency.  Dallas ISD’s alleged violations of the civil rights of pregnant students in truancy proceedings are also detailed in the complaint. 

The use of misdemeanors to criminalize student conduct is also the subject of a Federal civil rights administrative complaint brought by NCYL against another Texas school district. That complaint focuses on the Bryan Independent School District's use of school resource officers to issue criminal tickets for a range of minor student misbehavior and its unlawful impact on African-American students, who are "cited" at a rate four times that of other students.  Students who receive these tickets are required to attend court dates in adult courts, often missing school to attend court on multiple days. 

The San Jose Mercury News is running a powerful investigative series about the over use of psych drugs on California children in foster care.   NCYL’s Bill Grimm is a member of the State’s expert panel charged with developing protocols to monitor and regulate the use of psychotropic drugs in foster care. In the article he discusses California’s failure to make progress on this critical issue. 

The Mercury News has an accompanying Editorial echoing NCYL’s criticism of California regulators for failing to make the necessary changes to how and when these powerful drugs are given to foster children. You can read the editorial here.  

For several year’s NCYL has campaigned to end the inappropriate and harmful sedation of tens of thousands of foster children. You can learn more and get involved at  NCYL’s PsychDrugs Action Campaign.

Court Orders Washington State to Finish Foster Care Reforms in Braam v. State

In a significant decision this week that is good news for foster youth in the State of Washington, Judge Charles Snyder of the Whatcom County Superior Court ruled that the state must finish the job of reforming the foster care system as it promised to do in a 2011 settlement agreement in Braam v. State.

Noting that the “essence” of the class-action lawsuit was about “inappropriate and insufficient levels of care and services,” the court rejected the state’s request to significantly weaken the settlement agreement. 

The state will be required to tell the court how it plans to comply, and the court will review progress in 12 to 14 months.

Read the full press release about the court’s decision

Read last year’s Youth Law News article about Braam

The East Bay Express' cover story this week featured NCYL Attorney Kate Walker, along with other youth advocates, talking about commercially sexually exploited children, how they are revictimized by the juvenile justice system, and how new legislation in California could be the first step in changing the situation.

In the midst of a U.S. Department of Education (DoED) investigation of racial discrimination and physical and verbal abuse against Native American students, the superintendent of Loleta Union Elementary School District, a small district in Northern California, announced that she will resign. The investigation began in response to complaints by NCYL, the ACLU of Northern California, and California Indian Legal Services. The investigation by the U.S. DoED's Office of Civil Rights remains ongoing.

Read the complete Eureka Times Standard article here.

California Governor Jerry Brown, signed new legislation into law that will provide $5 million in the 2014-15 budget and $14 million annually beginning in fiscal year 2015-16 to fund prevention, intervention, and other services for children who are sexually trafficked and to provide training to child welfare and foster caregivers. By signing SB 855, the governor is creating a Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Program, to be administered by the State Department of Social Services.In addition, the law will allow for a child who is sexually trafficked and whose parent or guardian is unable to protect her, to be served through the dependency system rather than the juvenile justice system.

California Supreme Court Decision In Step with Miller v. Alabama

The California Supreme Court put an end to California’s sentencing scheme that tipped the scales in favor of a life sentence without parole for certain crimes committed by 16 and 17 year olds.   In overturning this two-decade old sentencing “presumption,” it followed the guidance of the United States Supreme Court in its 2012 Miller v. Alabama decision, which banned mandatory sentences of life without parole for crimes committed by juveniles.  The California Supreme Court further said that sentencing courts must consider the “distinctive attributes of youth” and how they weigh against imposing harsh sentences on juvenile offenders.  This decision is part of a broader national trend of turning away from imposing the harshest sentences on juvenile offenders given their ongoing development and capacity for change.

RTI Releases Year One Report on FosterEd: Santa Cruz County

RTI International, an independent research nonprofit, this week released an evaluation of FosterEd’s first year of work in Santa Cruz, Calif. “The launch and first year of implementation of FosterEd Santa Cruz has been remarkably successful,” according to the RTI evaluation. “Rarely do complex initiatives involving many partners and multiple system changes achieve so much so early.” FosterEd is an initiative of NCYL that works to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of foster youth. FosterEd's work in California is part of the Education Equals Partnership, a statewide effort dedicated to improving educational outcomes for students from foster care, starting with preschool and extending across the entire education continuum.

NCYL Senior Attorney Michael Harris on NPR

In this All Things Considered interview with NCYL Senior Attorney Michael Harris, Michael talks about the promise and the failure of zero tolerance policies in schools and how implicit and oftentimes unconscious bias can have profound negative consequences for students.

NationSwell Article on NCYL's FosterEd Initiative

This excellent article in NationSwell (an online publication focused on American renewal) delves into the work being done by NCYL's FosterEd initiative. The article quotes FosterEd's Director, Jesse Hahnel, "The state has a unique moral and legal responsibility to these children. Improving the educational outcomes of foster children cannot be accomplished by education, child welfare or judicial agencies working by themselves. These agencies must take joint responsibility."

In addition to the considerable media attention garnered by the launch of FosterEd: Arizona, the staff received a glowing congratulations from a wide variety of supporters, including this letter from Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.

In this KTVU TV 2 news segment that aired Feb. 5, 2014, NCYL Senior Attorney Bill Grimm provides perspective and commentary on the legal aspects of Napa County Child Protective Services' decision to withhold information in the recent death of three-year-old Kayleigh Slusher. 

Fighting to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children is a priority at NCYL, and we applaud the proclamation by President Barack Obama and the resolution by California Governor Jerry Brown aimed at renewing commitment to the cause of fighting slavery and human trafficking, and encouraging agencies, organizations, and individuals to become involved in that effort.

National Center for Youth Law, Pima County Launch Project to Help Foster Children Succeed in School

The National Center for Youth Law, together with Pima County education, child welfare, behavioral health and judicial agencies, launched FosterEd: Arizona’s Pima County pilot project today. The project, part of the national FosterEd Initiative, will improve the educational outcomes of thousands of school-age foster children living in Pima County and serve as the model for a statewide program that will support the educational success of all Arizona foster children.

Systemic Overhaul of Medicaid for Youth with Mental Illness: Settlement for statewide class action approved by court today

Earlier today (Dec. 19, 2013), in the case T.R. et al. v. Quigley et al., a class action lawsuit calling for reform of Washington’s children’s mental health system, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly approved an agreement obligating Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services and Health Care Authority to develop and provide intensive, individualized mental health services to Medicaid-eligible young people in their homes or communities. 

Attorneys from the National Center for Youth Law, the ACLU of Northern California, and California Indian Legal Services filed lawsuits charging that school officials in the Humboldt County towns of Loleta and Eureka, home to some of the state’s largest Native American communities, intentionally discriminate against Native American and Black students, and students with disabilities, levying disproportionate levels of discipline for minor infractions and forcing them out of mainstream schools at disproportionate rates.

Press Coverage

On September 27, 2013, the U.S. District Court preliminarily approved a proposed settlement agreement in T.R. v. Quigley regarding in-home and community-based services to children in Washington who receive Medicaid.

Compelling expose in the Huffington Post on the horrific conditions and abuses in for-profit juvenile justice facilities in Florida and how authorities often look the other way. The article also talks about the rise in for-profit juvenile facilities nationwide.

Governor Brown Signs NCYL Co-Sponsored Bill to Close Insurance Loophole

Governor Jerry Brown today signed into law California Senate Bill 138, closing a longstanding loophole in insurance confidentiality law. Co-sponsored by the National Center for Youth Law, SB 138 will require that insurers take steps to protect the confidentiality of an insured individual's medical information for purposes of sensitive services or if disclosure will endanger an individual.

Governor Brown issued the following statement upon signing: “While extreme radicals in Washington shut down our government, here in California we’re taking action to extend decent health care to millions of families."

Look for an in-depth analysis of 138 in the next issue of Youth Law News.

National Academies Release Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Report and Video

The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council recently released Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States. The report from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) examines current approaches to addressing commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of children, identifies causes and consequences for victims and offenders, and highlights recommendations to prevent, identify, and respond to these crimes. An online video accompanied the public release of the report.

SB 138 Poised to Close Insurance Privacy Loophole

A longstanding loophole in insurance confidentiality law means individuals enrolled on another person's health insurance can have their private health information disclosed to the insurance policy holder without their consent or knowledge.  This leads to foregone and delayed care, particularly when insured dependents need "sensitive" services such as mental or reproductive health care or services in response to assault or abuse.  The problem impacts adolescents as well as young adults under 26 enrolled on a parent's health plan and adults insured on a partner's health insurance policy.  

California Senate Bill 138, co-sponsored by NCYL, will close this confidentiality loophole and ensure all people feel safe using their insurance to obtain necessary health care. SB 138 just cleared the California legislature and now awaits signature by California Governor Jerry Brown. Check out the video below put together by Choice USA.

A joint brief published this week by the National Center for Youth Law and the California Department of Education, summarizes a collaborative project that brought together local leaders, policy experts, and stakeholders in California who are focused on improving the educational outcomes of foster youth in the state. The goal of the collaboration was to identify types of data needed to support the educational success of students in foster care; the types of people who could support educational success if given access to such data; and the general categories of data each type of user would need to support the educational success of California’s foster youth.

The brief outlines 17 critical core data areas, as well as four major types of users who have a role in supporting the educational success of children in foster care. In addition, the report recommends next steps aimed at carrying on the work of the collaborative. 

Read the full brief here.

Attorneys in a class action lawsuit representing thousands of young people in the State of Washington who use Medicaid insurance and need mental health services, filed a proposed settlement agreement this week that outlines a plan to deliver intensive in-home treatment to youth. The plaintiffs were represented by attorneys from the National Center for Youth Law, Disability Rights Washington, National Health Law Program, and the Young Minds Advocacy Project, as well as the law firm of Perkins Coie.

Director John O’Toole Talks About the National Center for Youth Law

NCYL just launched a new three-minute video in partnership with the Giving Library. The video features NCYL Director John O’Toole talking about the work we do at the National Center for Youth Law to improve the lives of low-income children. The Giving Library, established by Laura and John Arnold, features video of leaders from nonprofit organizations across the country talking about their organization’s mission, objectives, and needs. You can view NCYL’s video below, and please feel free to share it with friends and colleagues.

NCYL Joins Civil Rights Leaders in Letter to Gov. Jerry Brown

The National Center for Youth Law joins many civil rights leaders in signing a letter urging California Governor Jerry Brown to sign AB 420 into law.   California schools currently issue more suspensions—more than 700,000—than diplomas each year.  This is a shocking fact, because two decades of research has shown that out-of-school suspension as a punishment is educationally unsound for those students most likely to be suspended.  One out-of-school suspension can make it:

  • 5 times more likely that a student will drop out of school
  • Nearly 3 times more likely that a student will end up in the juvenile justice system within a year, as compared to similar students 

Our state education code is causing the problem. One section, 48900(k), a.k.a. “willful defiance,” is the most serious grounds for nearly half of all suspensions, yet it is so subjective and vague that it is being applied disproportionately and disparately to students of color and students with disabilities.

AB 420 limits such suspensions in elementary school, where the state’s youngest children need extra chances and support; it also revises the definition of willful defiance so that it is more objective; and finally it focuses attention on alternatives.

See the press release and the letter for more information.

FosterEd's Rachel Velcoff Hults on Action News 8 in Santa Cruz

After spending more than half her life behind bars for a crime she committed at the age of 16, Sara Kruzan has been tentatively granted parole and may soon be going home.

Now 35 years old, Sara was originally sentenced to life in prison without parole when, after years of sexual, physical and mental abuse, she shot and killed her pimp. In early 2011, outgoing California Governor Schwarzenegger, in response to pressure from a wide swath of groups, including the National Center for Youth Law, reduced Sara’s sentence to 25 years to life, allowing for the possibility of parole.

Sara’s sentence was again reduced in January of this year to 19 years to life when her conviction was reduced from first-degree to second-degree murder, making her eligible for parole now.  While her release is all but assured, the full state Parole Board and governor’s office both could reverse the decision, though attorneys involved in the case think that unlikely.

The budget bill passed today by California's legislature would make it the first state to hold schools and school districts accountable for the educational outcomes of foster children.

The No Child Left Behind act requires states to evaluate schools and school districts based on the progress of different subgroups of children, including students of color, students with disabilities, and students who primarily speak a language other than English. California’s budget bill adds foster youth to this list, creating an incentive for schools to focus on the educational progress of the approximately 42,000 school-age foster children in California.

girl looking at prescription drugs

PsychDrugs Action Campaign:
An Invitation to Action

The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) invites you to participate in a campaign to end the inappropriate and harmful sedation of tens of thousands of foster children.  High doses of psychotropic “antipsychotic” drugs produce lethargic, “zoned out” children, preventing their normal development. Medical guidelines do not sanction such sedation. The year 2012 may be the year that federal and state governments act to curb excessive drugging of our nation’s foster children.

Students in Dallas County truancy courts are being denied their constitutional rights, handcuffed and arrested for missing school, and subjected to substantial fines, according to a complaint filed June 12, 2013 with the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of seven Dallas area students. 

Attorneys with the National Center for Youth Law, Texas Appleseed and Disability Rights Texas serve as legal counsel to the Complainants.


Press Coverage

              California Child Welfare Council Approves Project Plan to Combat Sex Trafficking in California

              June 5, 2013 — Kate Walker, attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow at the National Center for Youth Law and Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie, Presiding Judge of Juvenile Court in Sacramento, presented a project plan to the California Child Welfare Council, outlining the strategy to combat the growing problem of sex trafficking of California's youth. The project plan provides guidance on implementing recommendations contained in the report Walker wrote entitled "Ending the Commercial Sexual Explotiation of Children: A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in California." The Council unanimously approved the project plan and adopted the recommendations. As a result, the CSEC Action Team will be formed and co-chaired by the CSEC Action Team, co-chaired by Secreatary of Helath and Human Services, Diana Dooley, and co-chaired by Secretary of Health and Human Services, Diana Dooley, and Executive Director of the Children's Law Center of California, Leslie Heimov.  A segment featuring Walker was aired on NPR's California Report. 

              Report cover: Ending Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

              February 28, 2013 — Today the National Center for Youth Law released a new report, "Ending Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in California." 
              Worldwide, human trafficking is a $32 billion industry, involving 100,000 children in the U.S. The FBI has determined that three of the nation's thirteen High Intensity Child Prostitution areas are located in California. Studies estimate that between 50 and 80 percent of commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) are or were formally involved with the child welfare system.

              View Press Release

              Download Report

              Report cover: At Greater Risk, California Foster Youth and the Path from High School to College

              March 1, 2013, the Stuart Foundation released a report entitled, "At Greater Risk, California Foster Youth and the Path from High School to College," that provides compelling data establishing that California children and youth in foster care need intensive and tailored services to support their educational goals. The data makes a strong case to require state and local agencies to count foster youth when allocation needed services, an issue currently under consideration by the legislature with the elimination of Foster Youth Services under Governor Brown's new education plan. 

              View "At Greater Risk"

              boy reading

              February 22, 2013 - 
              The National Center for Youth Law, together with Santa Cruz County Human Services Department, Santa Cruz County Office of Education, and the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Cruz, Juvenile Division, launched FosterEd: Santa Cruz County today.

              The project, part of the national FosterEd Initiative (, will improve the educational outcomes of the hundreds of school-age children in foster care living in Santa Cruz County.

              AUSTIN, Texas — Bryan Independent School District's use of school resource officers to issue criminal sanctions for a range of minor student misbehavior unlawfully impacts African-American students, who are "cited" at a rate four times that of other students, according to a complaint filed Feb. 20, 2013 with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), on behalf of the public interest law center Texas Appleseed and the Brazos County branch of the NAACP.

              Attorneys with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the National Center for Youth Law serve as legal counsel to the Complainants. 

              View Press Release

              View Complaint and Appendices

              The California legislature has passed State Senate Bill 9, the Fair Sentencing for Youth Act! This bill, authored by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) allows inmates who were sentenced to life without parole as juveniles the chance to request a resentencing hearing after serving 15 years.

              girl in classroom

              Program Modeled on National Center for Youth Law's Foster Youth Education Initiative

              May 15, 2012 - The Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) has announced the creation of FosterEd: Indiana, a statewide program to improve the educational success of children in foster care. The DCS program will employ 16 education specialists and a statewide manager to ensure foster children receive the educational opportunities they need to succeed in school, and in life.

              May 4, 2012 - The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) won a major victory today on behalf of foster children in Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned a lower court’s dismissal of the foster care reform case brought by NCYL on behalf of Clark County's abused and neglected children, ruling that these children have a constitutional right to safety and adequate medical care. The appeals court also said that the county, and county and state officials, are liable if they fail to ensure that those constitutional rights are protected.

              young woman, reflecting

              Spearheading Efforts to Protect Children with Histories of Abuse and Neglect from Sexual Exploitation

              By Kate Walker

              The thought of a 12-year-old girl being sold to older men to perform sex acts on a nightly basis is deeply disturbing. Even more troubling is the fact that it happens every day in cities throughout this country.

              More than a year of negotiation with the State yields a collaborative agreement to suspend litigation and build a framework for reform of the mental health system for children on Medicaid.

              Two state agencies and several advocacy groups have reached an interim agreement to develop a framework for reforms in the Washington state mental health system for children and youth enrolled in Medicaid.  The agreement temporarily suspends litigation in a class action lawsuit filed against the Department of Social and Health Services and the Health Care Authority. View press release

              RSS subscribe

              Sign up for an RSS feed and receive timely updates from the National Center for Youth Law.

              About RSS

              Youth Law News

              Rampant medication use found among L.A. County foster, delinquent kids

              In California, 51% of children on psychiatric medications are taking the most powerful class of the drugs — antipsychotics — which have experienced explosive growth in foster care over the last 15 years, according to data obtained by the National Youth Law Center through a Public Records Act request.

              "To me, this rate for antipsychotics is extraordinarily disturbing," said Bill Grimm, a senior attorney with the law center.

              Los Angeles Times, February 17, 2015

              Eureka City Schools settles in student discrimination case

              “I’m really glad that the Eureka City Schools has agreed to take these very monumental steps to improve school climate and I’m looking forward to working with them to help make that happen,” NCYL Senior Attorney Michael Harris said.

              Eureka Times-Standard, January 30, 2015

              Clark County OK's $2M Settlement in Foster Children Abuse

              Seven former foster children alleging abuse and neglect in the child welfare system will receive a settlement in excess of $2 million from Clark County.

              Las Vegas Review Journal, November 18, 2014

              Clark County May Settle Child Welfare Lawsuit for $2 million

              NCYL Senior Attorney Bill Grimm calls settlement "a positive outcome for our clients."

              Las Vegas Review Journal, November 17, 2014

              California Learning About LCFF and LCAP Implementation in Local School Districts

              NCYL's California Director of FosterEd Jackie Thu-Huong Wong says Local Control Funding Formula should "serve as guidepost for" expanding eligibility of State's Foster Youth Services Program.

              Imperial Valley News, November 14, 2014

              Monitoring Truancy

              NCYL Senior Attorney Michael Harris says Texas' criminalization of truancy is not about helping kids.

              Fort Worth Weekly, October 29, 2014

              Group Wants Statewide Foster Child Education Plan

              NCYL's FosterEd Arizona Director Pete Hershberger briefs lawmakers on the success of the Pima County pilot project and urges the state to replicate as a statewide program.

              Arizona Capitol Times, September 18, 2014

              Drugging Our Kids

              NCYL Senior Attorney Bill Grimm decries the lack of state action to ensure that children in California's foster care system only receive psychotropic drugs appropriately.

              San Jose Mercury News, August 23, 2014

              There's No Such Thing as a Child Prostitute

              NCYL's Kate Walker explains that it is a mistake to treat children who have experienced intense trauma as lawbreakers.

              East Bay Express, July 2, 2014

              Obama and Tumblr's Karp Avoid 'Orange is the New Black'

              NCYL's FosterEd initiative is highlighted in this Huffington Post, as a vital solution to improving the educational outcomes of children in foster care.

              Huffington Post, July 1, 2014

              Viewpoints: State Takes First Steps to Help Sex Trafficking Victims

              This Op-Ed, co-authored by NCYL's Kate Walker, sheds light on California's new efforts to help juvenile victims of sex trafficking in the state.

              Sacramento Bee, June 28, 2014

              Foster Parents, Child Advocates Demand Better System

              NCYL's Pete Hershberger, director, FosterEd: Arizona, weighs in on Arizona's broken foster care system and the need for real reform.

              Arizona Public Media, May 30, 2014

              Clark County School District Amends Child Abuse Reporting Regulations

              NCYL Senior Attorney Bill Grimm provides perspective on upcoming changes in Las Vegas.

              Las Vegas Review Journal, April 24, 2014

              Tackling Racial Bias in the Juvenile Justice System

              NCYL Senior Attorney Michael Harris adds his insight in this compelling article from the Public Welfare Foundation.

              Public Welfare Foundation, April 23, 2014

              Legislation Would Make Child Abuse Reporting Training Mandatory in California Schools

              NCYL Senior Attorney Bill Grimm provides his perspective on the legislation

              Contra Costa Times, February 20, 2014

              FosterEd Launched in Pima County

              Coverage of the launch of FosterEd's presence in Arizona.

              Tucson Weekly, January 23, 2014

              Native Americans Take Stand for Education Against California's Humboldt County Schools

              The latest in the continuing media coverage of NCYL's federal lawsuit against Humboldt County schools.

              Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, January 23, 2014

              Unequal Opportunities: Behind the ACLU's Allegations of Racial, Sexual and Disability Discrimination in Local Schools

              On Dec. 18, the ACLU, in conjunction with the National Center for Youth Law, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging "years of intentional discrimination" by the Eureka City Schools District.


              Flores v. Reno Stipulated Settlement and Extension



              STAY INFORMED!

              Click here to receive news and updates from NCYL

              NCYL INITIATIVES

              Ensuring foster children receive the education support they need.

              A site for all people helping children and youth in California's foster care system succeed in school.

              A site designed to help CA adolescent health care providers understand the many laws that affect their work, with a focus on reproductive health. 

              Photographs that appear on this website were produced independently of articles and information, and bear no relationship to cases or incidents discussed therein.