Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2005


Part I of this article considers the current challenges facing youth preparing to leave foster care. Youth are failing to receive adequate preparation services while still in the custody of the government. Consequently, emancipated youth are disproportionately represented in homeless, unemployed, uneducated, and incarcerated populations. Part II examines the specific constitutional rights of youth in foster care. As persons in a custodial relationship with the government, foster youth have a substantive due process right to be free from physical and emotional harm. This protection includes services and training as required to “meet the basic needs” of a child. Emancipation preparation services are required to meet the basic needs of any foster child facing emancipation. Thus, failure to adequately provide such services harms children, in violation of their substantive due process rights. Part III criticizes the legislative response to the plight of foster youth. Although federal and state legislative bodies are finally recognizing the importance of services designed to assist youth in the transition to adulthood, states consistently fail to prepare youth for emancipation. Part IV therefore proposes six concrete legislative recommendations, intended to encourage the government to fulfill its due process requirements and adequately prepare foster youth for adulthood. Specifically, the article recommends mandatory Independent Living Program (ILP) services, more efficient ILP services, mandatory legal skills training, expanded housing services, employment subsidies, and state statutory reforms. Part V recognizes the government’s responsibility to prepare foster youth for the “real world.”


This work, copyright 2005 by Michele Benedetto, was originally published in UC Davis Journal of Juvenile Law & Policy, pages 381-425, Summer 2005, copyright 2005 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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