Legal Assistance for Transition-Age Youth
The Alliance for Children’s Rights provides free legal services for current and former foster youth.
Contact the Alliance for Children’s Rights: 213-368-6010 or request assistance online.
We can help with:
As of Jan. 1, 2012, California extended foster care up to age 21. If you are 18 years or over, keeping your case open is a choice (unless you are still on probation). If you are eligible for extended foster care, you can re-enter as many times as you need to until you are 21 years old.
The challenges experienced by youth exiting foster care are compounded further for youth with serious physical and mental disabilities. One important resource is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a federal benefit that provides a monthly income to individuals with physical or mental disabilities and entitles them to additional supportive services. In addition, individuals who are eligible for SSI benefits also receive Medi-Cal, which provides health coverage.
If you are looking for a job, you will probably face a question on the application about whether you have ever been arrest and/or convicted of a crime. Answering “yes” can impact your chances to get hired. If you have a juvenile record, the truthful answer is “no you have not been convicted” of a crime, because juvenile crimes do not result in a conviction. This can cause confusion because if you have a felony on your record, an employer can see that on your record if it is not sealed. Also, you would have to answer “yes” to whether you have ever been arrested. It is smart to have your juvenile criminal record “sealed,” then you can truthfully answer that you were never arrested or convicted of a crime.
Juvenile tickets can turn into credit problems if they are not taken care of right away. And, the DMV can refuse to issue you a driver’s license if you do not clear up the tickets. These tickets include traffic offenses and other status offenses, such as loitering, curfew, evading fare on the Metro, defacing property, etc. The fines on these tickets may be converted to community service by the Court.
A birth certificate is one of the most important legal documents used to establish identity. It is required for you to get a Social Security card or U.S. passport, apply for a driver’s license, prove U.S. citizenship, enroll your child in school, to name a few. You should have a copy of your birth certificate in a safe, secure place and only carry it with you when needed. If there is a mistake on your birth certificate or one does not exist because you were not born in a hospital or there is a reason why the hospital did not record it, then you may need assistance in going to court to correct or establish a birth certificate.
Identity theft is a major concern for you if you were in foster care, because many people have access to your personal information, particularly your Social Security number. In fact, some agencies estimate that as many as half of all foster youth in California have been victimized. The consequences of identity theft are particularly devastating. You might not be able to file your taxes, rent an apartment or obtain educational loans due to poor credit that is usually no fault of your own. Unfortunately, resolving identity theft is not simple.
As you turn 18 years old, you are going to have many opportunities to build your credit history. This history is the foundation of your financial stability. Each time you sign up for a credit card, cell phone or gym membership, buy a car, rent an apartment and make your payments on time, you are building your credit. In order to show that you are a good consumer, you need to make good money decisions, such as paying your bills on time and not agreeing to purchase things you can not afford. You also need to be careful of being sucked into false advertising claims and marketing offers that seem too good to be true (because many times they are not). As you show that you are a good consumer, your FICO credit score goes up, and that governs everything from whether you can get a loan, how much interest you pay on a loan, even what rate you pay for your insurance.
You should check your credit report yearly to identify problems early and to ensure there are no errors. Cleaning up your credit report means getting rid of inaccurate information, outdated information, or fixing anything that is not correct. It does not mean getting rid of delinquent accounts that are, in fact, delinquent.
As you become more self-sufficient, you are going to want to buy a car, get your own apartment, sign-up for a credit card, or buy a cell phone or gym membership on credit. As you face each of these life events, you will be presented with a contract that outlines your responsibilities to the seller or landlord. Contracts are tricky things and there may be terms in a contract that you don’t understand. For example, what is the interest rate, what happens if your apartment needs a repair or debugging, what happens if you don’t pay on time, etc. The smart thing is to have an attorney review the contract/lease so you thoroughly understand what you are agreeing to before you sign it.