Legal Issues

Runaway and homeless youth providers frequently confront questions relating to their clients' legal rights and responsibilities. Such questions include clarification on issues of confidentiality, consent for medical treatment, parents' rights (as they relate to their children residing in certified runaway and homeless youth programs), warrants, court orders, legal issues regarding school and transportation, and the broad concept of emancipation.

We have seen repeated instances in which young people are unable to access public benefits, do not receive needed medical services, and have their confidentiality violated. Such situations generally tend to occur because staff are unfamiliar with or have questions regarding the laws protecting a youth's rights.

In response to the above challenges, the Empire State Coalition of Youth & Family Services has developed an informational booklet which specifically addresses the legal rights and responsibilities of runaway and homeless youth. We have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions and organized responses by subject in a reader-friendly manner. This booklet is designed to provide definitive information in response to the legal issues programs confront most often. Nonetheless, it should not be used as a substitute for legal counsel, when such counsel is warranted. (At the end of this booklet, we have included is a listing of organizations where you can speak with a lawyer.) Laws change, and even laws that have been on the books for a while are subject to new interpretations.

By making this information readily available to programs, our aim is to provide staff with a resource to help them become better informed of the relevant legal issues involving the youth they serve; thereby enabling programs to better serve youth who seek their assistance.