Preventing Homelessness for System-Involved Youth
This journal article expounds on three of the 20 strategies presented in the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges Resolution titled Addressing the Needs of Homeless Youth and Families in Juvenile and Family Courts. The first strategy discussed is the need to improve coordination between the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, particularly related to transition and re-entry planning for youth who are involved in both systems. The second strategy discussed is the need for judges to ensure youth within their jurisdictions receive high quality legal representation and that courts and counsel are aware of the increased risk of system-involved youth becoming homeless. The third strategy discussed is for an increase in sound judicial leadership to improve outcomes for youth experiencing homelessness. The authors state that juvenile and family court judges can help change the prevailing public perception that all system-involved youth are “bad kids.” The article includes an excerpt from the personal story of Keyona Cooper, MSW, who entered the child welfare system at age 10, and later experienced homelessness when she aged out of the system. It also includes a case study about Davidson County, Tennessee, which is a system actively working to decriminalize youth homelessness. Information is provided about the concurrent efforts of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the American Bar Association’s Homeless Youth Legal Network to remove legal barriers and improve outcomes for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness.