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LFC Argues Against Arrest Warrants for Foster Youth

Earlier this month, Lawyers For Children filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit challenging the NYC Administration for Children’s Services’ (ACS) use of arrest warrants to return young people to foster care and the Family Court’s authority to grant them.

“It is cruel to issue warrants for the arrest of foster children simply because they want to spend time with family and friends, or because they are hoping to escape the bullying harassment or threats of harm that all too common in foster care,” the brief argues.

Citing the wide body of research detailing the reasons why young people leave their placement, the brief outlines the far-reaching negative consequences for issuing arrest warrants, including criminalizing and traumatizing young people in foster care who are overwhelmingly children of color. “When ACS obtains a warrant for the arrest of a young person, the agency sets the stage for the youth to have repeated entanglements in the future.” Instead of criminalizing young people, Lawyers For Children proposes alternative responses focused on appropriate services, positive youth development and quality social work practice that address the reasons why the young person leaves placement.

The appellate case, In the Matter of the Application of an Approval of an Instrument Concerning Zavion O., is expected to be decided in early 2019. The amicus brief was filed jointly with the Children’s Law Center based in Brooklyn.

Read the amicus brief.

Background on the Issue:

At any given time, hundreds of young people in New York City’s foster care system leave their foster care placement without permission. Most leave for a short period of time and then return to their placement (e.g. foster home, residential facility, etc.). For years, ACS has requested family courts issue arrest warrants in an attempt to locate and return children in foster care—essentially treating young people who have committed no crime as criminals. Despite ACS’ own admission in 2015 that their practice can have “negative unintended consequences,” the practice has continued unabated.

Currently before the New York State Appellate Division, First Department, the lawsuit filed by the Legal Aid Society earlier this year challenges ACS’ practice and Family Court’s authority to issue arrest warrants for the purpose of returning a young person to foster care. The amicus brief was drafted by Betsy Kramer, Director of Special Litigation & Policy, and Louise Feld of the Children’s Law Center.