New ABA Tools Help Engage Young People in Court Hearings, Case Planning

Posted October 1, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Young person talking with an attorney

The Amer­i­can Bar Asso­ci­a­tion recent­ly released a set of tools — devel­oped with fund­ing from the Casey Foun­da­tion — to help judges and lawyers more effec­tive­ly engage young peo­ple in fos­ter care in court hear­ings and case planning.

Fed­er­al and state laws increas­ing­ly sup­port mean­ing­ful engage­ment of youth in care in deci­sions that impact their lives — a wel­come shift as new­er lessons on ado­les­cent brain devel­op­ment show such involve­ment is crit­i­cal to a young person’s devel­op­ment and growth.

The new tools — which build on the Casey Foundation’s The Road to Adult­hood: Align­ing Child Wel­fare Prac­tice with Ado­les­cent Brain Devel­op­ment and Brain Frames — pro­vide judges and lawyers a roadmap to more effec­tive­ly engag­ing young peo­ple. It also teach­es adults how to lis­ten for and act on the exper­tise of youth, says Leslie Gross, direc­tor of the Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive®.

Equip­ping young peo­ple to take a hands-on role in their case plan­ning and court hear­ings helps them to learn crit­i­cal think­ing skills and influ­ence deci­sions that affect their lives,” Gross says. Giv­en the extra­or­di­nary brain growth that sci­ence tells us occurs well into our 20s, these kinds of mean­ing­ful expe­ri­ences can be life-chang­ing as young peo­ple seek to mature into adult­hood and heal from traumas.”

The Bar Association’s tools include:

View the youth in court tool kit

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