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Protection v. Presentment

When Youths in Foster Care Become Respondents in Child Welfare Proceedings

By Sandy Rosin, Chloe Junge & Rebecca Horwitz

Teens in foster care face many challenges. If a teen parent in foster care becomes a respondent in a family court case, she faces another challenge: the same child welfare agency responsible for her welfare as a subject child is, in many jurisdictions, the same agency responsible for proving that she is a neglectful or abusive parent. Not only does this raise issues of trust for the teen parent, but also, because the child welfare agency has a parens patriae relationship with the teen parent, the agency has access to her confidential medical and mental health history, which the agency often uses to the parent’s disadvantage. Is this double role right and lawful? If not, what should child welfare agencies be doing about it?

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