Legal Aid Advocates Partner to Expand "Know Your Rights": A Project to Educate Foster Youth
Tampa, FL — Approximately 25,000 children are currently in Florida’s welfare system, and Hillsborough County has more child removals than any other county in the state with higher populations. With this in mind, the Legal Services Corporation awarded Bay Area Legal Services funding through their Technology Initiative Grant to finance the expansion of the “Know Your Rights” (KYR) project.
Attorney Taylor Greenberg of the L. David Shear Children's Law Center of Bay Area Legal Services created the “Know Your Rights” (KYR) project. Greenberg, who now specializes in the representation of teens in foster care, began this project in 2016 when she was still a student at Stetson University College of Law. The KYR project is the first and only comprehensive guide to explain the rights of children and teens have in Florida’s foster care system. The KYR project seeks to ensure that Florida youth in foster care have access to all vital information regarding their legal rights.
“Many youth in licensed care don't even know they have rights, such as being able to visit with siblings, being informed of side effects of psychotropic medication, to receive an allowance, to be placed in a permanent home, and more,” said Taylor Greenberg. “The Know Your Rights project will ensure that youth in foster care have easy, immediate access to information about their rights in a way that has never been done before.”
Part of the expansion the KYR project is the creation of a website and downloadable app. Currently, the KYR guide is in paper form and is available as a PDF on the Bay Area Legal Services website. With the project expansion, advocates hope to make the information more widely accessible.
“Bay Area Legal Services has long been a force for good across the Tampa Bay area, providing our neighbors with pathways to financial security and independence. The new Legal Services Corporation grant will benefit countless Floridians in foster care through an innovative online mobile platform designed to educate and empower. I am grateful for the work of Bay Area Legal Services and their success in attaining justice and stability for our neighbors,” said Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-14).
“It’s great news that Bay Area Legal Services was awarded this Technology Initiative Grant, which will help educate and empower youth in foster care throughout the state,” said Sen. Marco Rubio.
Former foster youth Alex Figueroa attended one of Greenberg’s KYR training sessions. He knows first-hand how online access to a document detailing his rights as a foster child could have helped him and can help current and future children in the foster care system.
“The first time I came across the [Know Your Rights] booklet was in paper form,” said Figueroa. “I thought to myself it would be awesome if every person who is experiencing the foster care system could have 24/7 access to their rights. Due to youth in care having little to no notice of them being required to move, it’s easy to leave things behind, and may be the case with a paper booklet. One thing they will never leave behind or accidentally misplace is a cell phone. Having this information readily available to me could have helped me with placement issues I was experiencing, as well as being informed of my right to speak to the judge assigned to my case.”
There will also be a series of webinars, training sessions, and short videos about the guide’s subject matter specific to different audiences, including youth, attorneys, judges, and child welfare workers. Greenberg will also present at summits and conferences around the state of Florida, and will continue to work with a team to update the Know Your Rights guide.
About Bay Area Legal Services
Bay Area Legal Services is a nonprofit law firm of skilled, professional attorneys whose objective is to help the most vulnerable members of our community. Our track record of legal success is enhanced by a culture of caring for the people we serve. We protect the legal rights of children in foster care, give veterans access to mental and physical health benefits, protect seniors from scam artists and abusive family members, ensure domestic violence survivors have the legal protections they need, and much more. Our clients do not have the means to hire private attorneys. Please visit us at bals.org.
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