Most teenagers revel in the idea of spending a night over at a friend’s house—but the reality is far from a slumber party for those who rely on it. For many foster children, nights are spent cycling between couches or sleeping out of cars. They just want two things: independence and a stable home.
Now imagine discovering your own mom has stolen your identity and destroyed your credit. Suddenly your dreams of adulthood are roadblocked. Denied housing, college loans, and even a cellphone plan, where do you to turn for help?
In the Florida foster care system, the only party not entitled to an attorney is the child, but Barancik Foundation believes that no child should juggle complex legal nightmares alone.
In partnership with LegalAid of Manasota, a three-year, $540,000 grant launched the Legal Lifeline for Youth program. With attorneys whose singular mission is to be the voice for the voiceless, foster children ages 14 and up in the 12th Judicial Circuit now receive annual Legal Health Check-Ups to address unmet legal needs such as accessing medical and educational benefits, obtaining official documents, and mitigating fraud. Elevated issues are addressed in court, free of charge to the teen. The legal aid is timely, individualized and effective.
The safety net aims to ultimately prevent homelessness and ensure financial stability for teenagers as they transition out of foster care. Now with success of the program growing, the pilot will expand partnerships with organizations like Guardian Ad Litem, Harvest House, JFCS, the Sarasota County Bar Association, and others to increase referrals and create greater pathways to independence.