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Know Your Rights

Select to open Know Your Rights Guide

Know Your Rights Guide (Guía Para Conocer tus Derechos)

We hope that this guide will help to empower you by explaining what rights you have when you are in the foster care system, how to get the resources you need and the way you should be treated in care. We hope this guide shows you how you can begin to be the writer of your own story and step into your own power as an advocate for yourself and your peers For all the hard work, we also are grateful for the support from the many staff, young people from the Regional YABs, CWRC, and many more organizations!

Are you interested in hosting a training for youth about the Know Your Rights Manual?  If so, contact the Juvenile Law Center or IL Project to set up a training co-facilitated by an adult and YAB member. 

Download Know Your Rights

The Know Your Rights brochure is available for download.

Rights are things that are guaranteed to you by law. That means that a judge can make sure that you get what the law requires.

In substitute care, you have the right:

  • To be represented by a child advocate attorney (GAL) in court
  • To services that will help you stay with your family
  • To the most family like and least restrictive placement
  • To be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect
  • To be free from discrimination based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or sex
  • To be in an appropriate placement where you are safe and protected
  • To be placed with your own child if you are a teen parent (unless a court has determined otherwise)
  • To stay in care until age 21 if you are in an educational program or treatment
  • To only be discharged from care if a discharge plan is in place

In a placement (group home or foster home), you have the right:

  • To save any money you have earned
  • To talk on the phone (reasonable rules may apply)
  • To visit with family at least once every two weeks
  • To send and receive mail
  • To communicate and visit privately with your attorney (GAL) and clergy
  • To practice or not practice any religion
  • To appropriate medical, dental, and behavioral treatment
  • To be free from excessive medication
  • To appropriate clothing and food
  • To be free from corporal punishment (punishment that uses physical force), threats or verbal abuse
  • To file a grievance or complaint
  • To independent living services if you are age 16 or over until you turn age 21

Regarding medical care, you have the right to:

  • Prompt medical and mental health treatment
  • Consent to your own medical, dental, and health care if you are age 18 or over
  • Consent to mental health treatment and medication (14 +)
  • Consent on your own to substance abuse treatment at any age
  • Obtain contraception on your own at any age
  • Consent on your own to all medical care related to pregnancy, except abortion
  • Consent on your own to testing and treatment related to any STD at any age
  • Consent on your own to testing and treatment for HIV at any age
  • Consent on your own to all medical care if you have been pregnant

Regarding access to records, you have the right:

  • To have access to your mental health records
  • To control the release of records of substance abuse treatment or treatment of a STD
  • To control the release of records related to HIV testing and treatment
  • To have your children and youth family case records if 14 or older
  • To permanent documents such as birth certificate, social security card, health and educational records when discharged at 18 or older

In legal proceedings, you have the right:

  • Attend all your court hearings
  • To be represented by your child advocate attorney (GAL)
  • To meet with your attorney before the court hearing (but YOU may have to call and ask for this)
  • To have your GAL advocate for you
  • To ask the judge to appoint a new attorney for you if you do not think the attorney is doing his/her job
  • To call witnesses, to present evidence and to ask questions of people who speak about you in court
  • To speak to the judge directly about your accomplishments, problems, and requests

If you think your rights have been violated or you feel that something is wrong, you can:

  1. Talk with your caseworker and supervisor
  2. File a grievance or complaint with the private agency or children and youth agency
  3. Contact your child advocate (GAL)
  4. GO TO COURT and speak with the judge directly
  5. Join the Regional and State YAB and make positive change in the whole system