Youth Help Florida Lawyers Develop a Free Foster Care Rights App
Thanks to a new mobile app called FosterPower, Florida youth in foster care can be better informed about their benefits, protections and legal rights. Taylor Sartor, an attorney with the Bay Area Legal Services’ L. David Shear Children’s Law Center in Tampa developed the app. Florida Youth SHINE (FYS), a council run by young people who are or were in foster care, helped edit the app’s content.
The app is based on Sartor’s Know Your Rights, a 66-page publication she wrote as a law student with a team of peers. Knowing that youth in foster care, especially those in group homes, often lose access to paper materials and records when changing placements, Sartor and her team turned Know Your Rights into a digital resource.
What Does FosterPower Do?
The FosterPower app — and its website — debuted in May 2023. It uses plain language to explain Florida’s child welfare laws. It also includes tips and guidance on several associated topics, including:
- independent living;
- physical health;
- mental health;
- LGBTQ rights;
- money benefits;
- education; and
- dependency court proceedings.
The FosterPower production team plans to add new topics and keep the app updated as laws change. Additionally, to ensure that the information is relevant to young people, Sartor and her team created videos featuring youth with experience in foster care. FYS council participants and other young people address frequently asked questions in the recordings.
The team hopes other legal rights organizations across the country will consider replicating the tool and collaborating with youth councils and young people who have experienced foster care.
“Most people don’t know that there are youth advocacy groups or that there are places for youth in the system to use their voices and to be heard on an equal standing [with adults],” says Diamond Whitley, a Florida Department of Children and Family hope navigator and one of the young adults featured in the FosterPower videos. She encourages youth in foster care to join advocacy organizations to gain more insight into their rights. “I know a lot of the things that I learned about being in care, and what I’m eligible for and what I can take advantage of, I learned because of the [advocacy] positions I had.”
Can Child Welfare Professionals Use FosterPower?
Though the platform is primarily designed for youth, it also educates families, caseworkers, judges, attorneys and child welfare professionals.
“FosterPower gives instant access to child welfare workers, allowing them to more quickly and easily answer questions children and youth may have about their rights and the services available to them,” Sartor says.
The product’s debut was timely: The free app launched this spring while Florida’s lawmakers were considering a bill requiring child welfare workers to educate young people about their legal rights. It passed, and now the Florida Department of Children and Families will also begin developing a legal rights curriculum for youth.
FYS is supported by Florida’s Children First, a Casey Foundation grantee.