To be free of discrimination based on your race, religion, disability, national origin, or gender
If you are in group care (i.e. a group home), to be free of discrimination based on sexual orientation
To be free from punishment that uses physical force, threats, or verbal abuse
To be free from and protected from abuse, harassment, and exploitation
To proper food and clothing
To participate regularly in extracurricular, social, cultural, and enrichment activities
To practice the religion or faith of your choice or to not practice any religious activity
To privacy that lines up with your age
To attend all court hearings where your case is reviewed
To have the judge ask you what you think about your permanency and transition plans (your transition plan is for your life plans as you grow older)
To tell your judge what you think about your placement, your permanency and transition plans, and any needs or concerns that you have
To be represented by a lawyer
To be provided with the contact information of your lawyer and members of your permanency team
To meet with your lawyer and tell your lawyer where you want to live and what services you need to meet your goals
To have the judge approve your transition/discharge plan before you leave care
To have the information shared in court be kept private and discussed only with people who need to know about it, to provide you with care and services
To have your lawyer file an appeal (a formal way of disagreeing) if you do not agree with the decision the judge makes
To ask the judge to appoint another lawyer for you if you don’t think your lawyer is doing their job (the judge will then make the decision if a new lawyer is appointed)
To services that will help you stay with or return to your family
To the most family-like and least restrictive placement
For your family members to be notified if you come in to care and for first preference for placement to be given to family
To each year, a search for family for you to connect with
For efforts to be made to place you with your siblings
To visit with your siblings at least once every two weeks, if you are not living together
To visit with your parents at least once every two weeks
To not have family visits used as a reward or punishment for your behavior
To see a doctor, dentist, eye doctor, therapist and have your mental and physical health needs met
To have health insurance while you are in care
To agree to mental health treatment beginning at age 14
To be free from unneeded medication
To consent on your own, at any age to testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) and HIV/AIDS
To agree on your own at any age to substance abuse treatment
To agree on your own at any age to birth control
To seek permission from a judge (“judicial bypass”) if you want an abortion and are under age 18
To see your records and to decide who gets to see your records for certain treatments
To have health insurance (Medicaid) until age 26 if you were in foster care at age 18 or older
To continue to attend the school you went to before you were in care or changed placements
To attend, and be quickly enrolled, in the public school near where you are living
To take part in school activities
To have an education decision maker, this is an active adult who can make sure your education needs are meet.
To get services that help you prepare for college and training.
To apply for the Education and Training Grant to get money for college or vocational training
To a case and permanency plan that: explains your goals and needs; explains what is being done to help you and your family achieve those goals
To be at and take part in all the planning meetings
To invite 2 people to the case planning meeting who can support you
To services beginning at age 14 to help you grow into a successful adult
Beginning at age 14, to a yearly copy of your credit report, a report that shows whether any bills or credit cards have been put in your name. You also have a right to help fixing any problems found in the report until you leave care.
To have the chance to work and grow job skills
1. Completing high school or a GED program;
2. Enrolled in a post secondary education or vocational program;
3. Participating in a program to help you get a job and/or job skills;
4. Employed for at least 80 hours per month;
5. Cannot do any of the activities listed above because of a documented behavioral health or medical condition
To a detailed Transition/Discharge plan at least 6 months before you leave care (at age 18 or older) that includes specific options on housing, health insurance, education, local opportunities for mentors and continuing support services, and work force supports and employment services
To an official or certified copy of youth birth certificate, social security card, health insurance information, medical records, and a driver's license or state identification card before you leave care at age 18 or older.
To aftercare services if you age out of care and are still under age 21
To request to re-enter care before turning age 21 if you discharged from care at 17 and nine months of age or older
To a detailed Transition/Discharge plan at least 6 months before you leave care (at age 18 or older). This plan should include specific options on housing, health insurance, education, local opportunities for mentors and continuing support services, and job services.
To request to re-enter care before turning age 21 if you left care at 17 and nine months of age or older
To an official or certified copy of your birth certificate, social security card, health insurance information, medical records, and a driver's license or state identification card before you leave care at age 18 or older.
To aftercare services (like help finding a place to live) if you age out of care and are still under age 21.
If you want more information about your rights when placed by the child welfare check out: Getting Your Voice Heard in Pennslyvannia a fact sheet prepared by the Juvenile Law Center
Note: Above is a summary of some of the rights you have if you are placed in the child welfare system. If you think your rights have been violated or you have questions about your rights, you can: call your lawyer or his or her supervisor, file a complaint/grievance with the child welfare agency, and talk to the judge or master in your case at court.
Separated from parents because they ran away from home, were kicked out by their parents
“Doubled up” with other youth or families due to hardship
“Couch surfing”, moving from house to house
Living in a camping grounds or trailer park
Sleeping outdoors or in a public place
Living in a motel or hotel
Living in a shelter
Living in a car
You have the right to attend public school in Pennsylvania for free, until you graduate or until the year in which you turn age 21.
Your local school district has to help you enroll in school. This includes picking a staff person called the “liaison.” who will help you.
You have the right to enroll even if you are missing a document required for enrollment, the school district must enroll you immediately. They can then request and get your records.
If you are a homeless youth you have two options for where you attend school:
The school you attended when you first became homeless or the school you are currently attending. You can continue to attend this school even if you do not live in that school district or area anymore.
To choose to enroll in the local school that is close to where you are currently staying. If this is your choice, you have a right to be enrolled in school the day you make the request.
Even if you are over 18 you can attend high school. You do not have to attend a night program or alternative education program.
You have a right to transportation to and from school .
You are entitled to receive a school uniform, school supplies and a free or reduced price lunch.
I read my rights. Now, what do I do?
If you want more information about your educational rights read the Education for Homeless Youth Fact Sheet
If you need more information contact the Education Law Center
All children in Pennsylvania, including immigrant and migrant students, are entitled to a free public school education until age 21 regardless of how well they speak English.
A school cannot not ask about the immigration status of their students or their families.
Students cannot be discriminated against based on race, color, national origin, or religion.
Right to Learn English
English Language Learners must be tested to determine their English speaking skills and placed in the appropriate English as a Second Language (ESL) program.
A qualified ESL /Bilingual teacher must the provide youth with a planned instruction.
English Language Learners must have access to all services offered to other students including:
Special admit programs or schools
Schools must provide supports where needed so students can access all opportunities offered to other students.
Students cannot be held back a grade based only on lack of English language proficiency.
If you want more info about your education rights read Rights of English Language Learners (ELL) & Families with Limited English Proficiency.If you need more help reach out to the Education Law Center.