Options for Safety and Stability

Being a homeless youth

Police Custody

If I am a runaway, when can I be picked up by the police?

The police can take you into custody under a number of circumstances:

· The police have been told by your parents that you have run away from home without their consent/approval;

· The police reasonably believe when considering your age, location, and the time of day, that you are in circumstances which are a danger to your safety;

· The police have been notified by an agency legally responsible for your supervision (e.g., Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), a foster care agency, or licensed Youth Shelter that you have run away;

· The police have been notified and ordered by juvenile court to pick you up; or

· The police have reasonable suspicion that you are being unlawfully harbored. Unlawful harboring generally means that your parents have not consented or approved of where you are staying.

Can I be picked up by the police for violating a local curfew law?

Curfew laws in Illinois vary. For example, in Chicago unsupervised minors aged 12 and younger need to be in their homes by 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and by 9:00 p.m. on the weekends in order to avoid a fine of up to $500 or community service for the offending minors’ parents. Unsupervised minors ages 12 to 16 must be indoors by 10:00 p.m. on weekdays and 11:00 p.m. on weekends. Three offenses within a one-year period will result in a $1,500 fine plus community service.

Exceptions may apply if you are:

i) engaged in an employment activity or going to/from an employment activity without any detour or stop;

ii) involved in an emergency;

iii) attending an official school, religious, or other recreational activity supervised by adults; or exercising First Amendment rights protected by the United States constitution, such as free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, and the right of assembly.

What should I do if I am picked up by a police officer as either a reported runaway or suspected runaway?

A police officer is only required to read you your rights once you are under arrest. It is always best to cooperate with police while also asserting your rights. You should avoid any actions that could make the police suspicious of your behavior. It is important for you to remember that a police officer is allowed to ask questions and talk with you. You should not run away from police since running away may provide police with reasonable suspicion to conduct a pat down search or search of belongings or provide probable cause for an arrest. See General Criminal Law Chapter for more information.

In Illinois, you cannot be arrested, fingerprinted or put in jail for running away from home. The police can take you into limited custody without a warrant for up to six hours if a police officer reasonably believes that you are absent from home without parental consent or are beyond the control of your parent(s) and in physical danger. This is NOT an arrest. The police officer will decide if he will take you into limited custody. He does not have to. If you are in a safe place, like a friend’s house and your friend’s parents agree you can stay there, the officer may let you stay there while you make a plan for your future.

If the officer thinks you are not safe and takes you into limited custody, he will either contact your parents or will contact the local CCBYS agency. “CCBYS” stands for Comprehensive Community Based Youth Services. These are agencies statewide that provide crisis intervention services for minors. There is more detailed information about CCBYS agencies and the services they provide later in this Chapter.

The police can ask your parents to take you home only if you and your parents agree to your going home. If you cannot return home, the CCBYS agency may place you in an emergency shelter for minors or another temporary living arrangement.

Visit the following web pages for more information:

· www.illinoislegalaid.org

· Juvenile Court Act of 1987: http://bit.ly/1xC7H1w

Civil Rights

What are my rights if a police officer picks me up because I am a runaway?

First, an officer must inform you of the reason why you have been taken into custody. The officer will explain that you are being taken into custody to be returned to your parents or to other people who can care for you. This is not the same as being arrested for a crime. If you do not understand why you are being taken into custody, you may ask the officer. But do not argue, run away, or speak disrespectfully to the officer. You do not want to give the officer a reason to arrest you. If the officer suspects you committed a crime, ask for an attorney before you answer any questions. In Chicago, you can contact First Defense Legal Aid at 1-800-LAW-REP-4. You can also let the officer know you do not want to return home. The officer then should contact the local CCBYS agency. If you are already under the protective order of a court, or are under the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the officer may contact DCFS, but he cannot put you in jail for running away.

If I am picked up by a police officer, where can the officer take me?

The officer can take you:

· to your parent’s home;

· to your parent’s place of employment if a parent is not at home; or

· at the request of the parent: to an adult family member, a responsible adult; or

· a licensed Youth Shelter, if the officer believes that the requested place is a reasonable distance from the parent’s home.

An officer can transport you to a designated Youth Shelter when:

  • the officer has attempted but was unable to contact your parents;

· the officer believes that you are experiencing some type of abuse or neglect at home;

· it is not practical to transport you home or to a parent’s place of employment;

· a parent is not available to accept custody of you;

· a parent requests that the officer take you to a Youth Shelter; or

· if you refuse to return home.

Can I be picked up by the police if I ran away from my foster home?

Yes. The same laws apply to runaways from foster homes as to runaways from other homes and living situations. See Foster Care Chapter for more information.

Can I be picked up by the police for being in violation of a protective order of a court?

Yes. Any school district official, sheriff, deputy sheriff, marshal, police officer, or any other officer authorized to make arrests may take you into custody without a warrant if you are required to attend school and are absent from school without an approved excuse.

You may be delivered to:

· your parent or parental guardian;

· the school from which you are absent; or

· a program designated by the school district.

What are my rights if the police enter a shelter/drop-in center/friend’s place/relative’s place looking for me?

In addition to your general rights listed above, the following applies specifically to entering a shelter or other location:

If you are listed as a runaway and the police have a warrant to enter a shelter, they are allowed to do a reasonable search for you but they are not allowed to search or question other youth or look in other areas of the shelter.

The only other situation in which police can search for you in a shelter is if exigent circumstances exist. Exigent circumstances means that a police officer is in a situation where someone is in immediate danger, evidence is going to be destroyed very soon, or a suspect will otherwise escape. For example, there may be exigent circumstances if a police officer is chasing you for a crime and you run into a shelter. However, if there are no exigent circumstances and the police do not have a warrant for you, then they must be given permission by the shelter staff to access the building.

What happens if the police ask for me and the shelter/drop-in center/friend’s place/relative’s place tells them I am not there? Fails to disclose my location? Helps me escape?

It is important to note that many homeless youth under age 18 use drop-in services or stay in the homes of friends or relatives without any interference from law enforcement. The police usually only get involved when youth have been reported as a runaway and the police are actively looking for the youth.

However, a person can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor - the crime of unlawful harboring of a minor - if the person:

· does not release you to the police after the police have asked;

· does not disclose your location to the police after the police have asked;

· obstructs the police from taking you into custody; or

· assists you in avoiding or attempting to avoid the custody of the police.

Emergency Places To Stay

If I am homeless, where can I go to take a shower? Do my laundry? Eat?

· Shelters that serve adults and families are not allowed to house unaccompanied minors who are not emancipated (see Emancipation, also discussed in this Chapter) or do not have the consent of a parent.

· You may stay with a friend, and there is no status offense in Illinois for being a runaway.

· If you leave on your own or have been locked out, you can call Comprehensive Community Based Youth Services (CCBYS). CCBYS is crisis intervention service for minors. There is more about CCBYS later in this Chapter.

· Many drop-in centers will provide services to youth under 18 years old. Drop-in centers provide basic services during the day including meals, laundry, showers, hygiene products, case management and resource referrals. They also give youth a safe place to go and hang out. To locate a drop-in center in your community, see the Illinois Homeless Youth Resource Guide. Youth under 18 years old can also access services through outreach programs, which seek to find homeless youth in areas where they congregate and assist with basic needs such as food, hygiene products, referrals and case management. To locate outreach teams in your community, see the Illinois Homeless Youth Resource Guide.

As a Homeless Youth, where can I stay the night?

The State of Illinois has certain shelter options for youth. They include:

· Emergency shelters: Youth receive a safe, clean, dry place to sleep either through placement in a shelter or a foster home. While reunification with their family is always a goal, education, employment services, life skills training and other needed services are offered to youth when possible. Emergency shelters can offer placement for up to 21 days for youth under 18. Unaccompanied homeless youth under 18 can only access emergency shelters through a CCBYS program.

Some emergency shelters only serve youth over 18. Youth over 18 years old can access emergency overnight shelters for youth ages 18-24 or adult/family shelters without parental consent.

· Interim shelters provide shelter and services for up to 120 days. Youth under 18 years old will need parental consent.

· Transitional Living Programs are programs which provide housing and services for up to 18 months for youth ages 16 to 24 who are not wards of the state. Youth under 18 years old (who have not been emancipated or partially emancipated) will need parental consent to access transitional housing programs. Services focus on developing skills necessary for self-support, including education, employment services, life skills training, and subsidized housing.

· Licensed Youth Transitional Housing Programs are transitional housing programs licensed by DCFS to accept 16 and 17-year-old partially emancipated youth.

· Housing/Group homes for DCFS wards (not available to homeless youth who are not wards)

· Licensed foster homes are available as emergency placements for youth in certain communities. Placement occurs through a CCBYS agency.

The services and placement options you are eligible to receive depend in large part on the following factors:

o your age;

o facts and circumstances that caused you to become unaccompanied and homeless;

o program eligibility and requirements;

o safety of your present situation;

o the care given or not given by your parents or guardians;

o whether or not you have received parental consent; and

o whether you have been emancipated or partially emancipated.

See Turning 18 Chapter and Housing and Contracts Chapter for more information.

Youth under the age of 18 cannot consent to housing or shelter on their own. They will need to get consent from a parent or guardian, or contact a CCBYS program. CCBYS programs can assist youth unable or unwilling to return to their parents or guardians in accessing special emergency shelters for minors (or licensed foster homes in certain communities). CCBYS agencies can also help youth reunify with their families, assist with the partial emancipation process, or establish another alternative long-term placement. For more information about CCBYS Programs, see below. To locate the CCBYS agency in your community, call 1-877-870-2663.

Youth under the age of 21 can find shelter and housing programs within their community by contacting The National Runaway Safeline.

Call: 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929)

CLICK: http://www.1800runaway.org/

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Can I stay in an empty building?

Squatters have no rights in Illinois. A person who stays a night in an empty building is called a "squatter" under the law. The general rule is that a person who knowingly enters a building without permission or remains unlawfully in a building commits criminal trespass. If the property is private or public property in which someone still lives or occupies, any entry without the owner’s permission is trespassing. Signs or other warnings against trespassing, such as a fence or security system, indicate that trespassing is not allowed.

However, it is generally not criminal trespass if the building is abandoned. To be abandoned, the owner must no longer be asserting his or her rights to the building. If there are no running utilities, the land is not fenced or enclosed in any manner, and the building is open to the public, it is likely that the building is abandoned. To avoid committing criminal trespass, you must also follow the rules regarding accessing it or believe that the owner would have given you permission.

See Housing and Contracts Chapter for more information.

Can I stay at the home of a relative or friend?

Yes. It is very common for youth to stay with a relative or friend - this living arrangement is often referred to as “doubled-up.” If you are under 18, it is a good idea to let your parents know where you are staying if it is safe for you to do so.

Under Illinois law, relatives or friends should report the location of a youth under 18 to the youth’s parents, police or DCFS if the youth is staying with them without the knowledge of the youth’s parents.

Once a person has reported your location, he or she cannot be sued for sheltering you, except in cases of intentional misconduct or gross negligence by the person providing shelter.

Homeless and Under 18

Who do I contact for help if I am homeless and under 18-years-old?

You should contact a Comprehensive Community Based Youth Service Agency (CCBYS). CCBYS provides 24-hour crisis assistance to youth under 18-years-old who have run away from home or have been kicked out of their homes. They are the only agency with the ability to lawfully place minors in an emergency shelter.

Who can receive these services?

Youth 11 to 17 years of age who:

o have been locked out of their home;

o have run away from home;

o are a psychiatric lock-out; or

o are homeless without their parents.

Services may also be available for youth who still live at home but are at risk of DCFS or juvenile justice involvement.

If I need help, how do I contact my local CCBYS Agency?

Youth in a crisis can call the Statewide CCBYS Information Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-877-870-2663. Youth will be connected to their local agency. The CCBYS Agency must respond in-person to the youth in crisis within 60 minutes in urban and suburban areas and within 90 minutes in rural areas.

Youth can also access CCBYS agencies by going to their school, nearest police station or hospital and letting them know they need assistance. Schools, parents and other community organizations can also make referrals to CCBYS on behalf of a youth in crisis.

What services are offered by CCBYS?

Once a CCBYS agency is contacted, they will meet with the youth and do a crisis assessment. They will get basic information along with a description of the problem and a brief family history. The CCBYS agency will then develop a crisis intervention plan which will include where the youth will stay that night. The agency must attempt to contact the parents or guardians within 72 hours and make attempts to reunify the youth, if reunification is safe, appropriate, and the youth is willing to return.

If the crisis assessment indicates the youth has been abused or neglected, the CCBYS agency will contact DCFS. If the youth is in need of urgent psychiatric or substance abuse treatment because they are a danger to themselves or others, CCBYS will ensure they get immediate services.

If family reunification is achieved and the youth is able to safely return home, the CCBYS agency will follow up with the youth and family and create a case plan to ensure the youth remains stably housed with their family.

If family reunification is not immediately accomplished, the CCBYS agency will make arrangements for a temporary placement for the youth. This can include placement with friends or relatives (if both the parents and youth agree to the arrangement), placement in a licensed emergency shelter for minors,  a "host home", or a temporary foster home. Parental permission or limited custody from law enforcement is necessary in order to place youth outside the home.

The CCBYS agency will also create a case plan for youth placed outside of the home that includes establishing a safe, long term living arrangement if family reunification is not possible.

If the youth has been in limited custody or a temporary living arrangement for 21 days and family reunification or an agreed upon alternative living arrangement has not been achieved, a Minors Requiring Authoritative Intervention (“MRAI”) petition may be filed with the Juvenile Court. The youth may be adjudicated as a MRAI and become a DCFS ward (see Foster Care Chapter). The youth can also be ordered to return home under court supervision, or ordered to a family generated alternative placement or residential facility. The youth may also be placed on informal supervision/probation.  MRAIs are only filed in rare cases where reunification or an alternative living arrangement cannot be established.

Other services CCBYS agencies provide include:

· counseling for youth and family;

· access and coordination with substance abuse treatment or mental health treatment; and

· case management and linkages to other community resources to keep families intact.

CCBYS agencies will also work with out-of-state homeless youth to facilitate their return home, in cooperation with the Interstate Compact. For more information, visit www.juvenilecompact.org.

To locate your closest provider for services, visit: CCBYS Provider List or contact the toll-free CCBYS Information Line at 1-877-870-2663. They are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

You can request services if you are:

· a Youth;

· a Parent or Guardian;

· a Police Officer;

· a school staff member;

· a friend; or

· a Youth Service Agency.

Where else can I go for help as a homeless youth?

Homeless youth under 18 years old can also get connected to assistance and resources in their communities through a drop-in center or street outreach program. To locate programs within your community, see Illinois Homeless Youth Resource Guide.

Protecting myself when my parents can't

What if the conflict between my parent and me is so serious that it can not be resolved while I am living at home?

You should contact a CCBYS agency for assistance if you have a serious conflict at home that you cannot resolve. The CCBYS 24 hour hotline number is 1-877-870-2663. You can also contact DCFS if you are being abused or neglected at home at 1-800-25 ABUSE.

Becoming Emancipated

What is emancipation?

Emancipation is a legal term describing a child’s release from the custody and control of his or her parents or guardian. Emancipation occurs by law at 18, but a special emancipation order can be issued for minors between the ages of 16 and 18. This order allows minors to live independently from their parents and to exercise greater control over their own lives.

What problems can a special emancipation order solve?

Some minors who live apart from their parents or legal guardians find themselves caught in difficult legal situations. Unlicensed shelters or homes, which house minors, may risk criminal penalties if they do not notify parents of the whereabouts of their child. Police, judges, or other officials may force minors to return home against their wishes or to accept placement in a shelter or foster home. Landlords may refuse to lease to minors, and some government agencies may deny benefits or services to minors who do not have their parents’ consent. An emancipation order may help a minor avoid some of these legal problems.

If I become emancipated, what does that mean for my parents or guardian?

Once you are emancipated, your parents can no longer decide where you will live, go to school, or work. They can no longer discipline you or make you work or give them any money you earn. At the same time, however, they may also not have to provide you any financial support, unless you secure an emancipation order, which specifies that they must continue to support you.

Is emancipation an available option for every adolescent?

No. While every adolescent automatically becomes emancipated at age 18, only “mature” minors, between the ages of 16 and 18, can become legally emancipated before their 18th birthday. To become emancipated, minors must have proven that they can to manage their own affairs and already have lived wholly or partially independently from their parents. In addition, their parents must not object to the emancipation.

Who should seek emancipation and who should not?

Generally, only minors who have a special need for emancipation should consider it. Such special needs may include:

· problems getting housing because of your age or legal status;

· educational barriers due solely to your age or legal status; or

· inability to enter into contracts because of your age.

Minors who should not consider emancipation include:

· minors who need continuing financial support from their parents;

· minors who will not be able to support themselves financially;

· minors who have no special need for emancipation; and

· minors who do not have a plan for safe and stable housing.

Is it hard to be emancipated if you are between 16 and 18?

Yes. To get an emancipation order under the “Emancipation of Mature Minors Act” you must file a case in court and then convince the judge that you are a “mature” minor. You may find it difficult to get the judge to order that you be emancipated if:

· your parents object to your emancipation;

· you are seeking emancipation in order to qualify for public aid and you have no other income;

· you cannot prove you are mature;

· you still live with your parents and are wholly supported by them; or

· you are unsure about where you are going to live.

How can I prove that I am mature?

You will need evidence of your maturity from witnesses such as:

· friends;

· teachers;

· counselors;

· employers; and

· other adults who can say that you are mature.

Remember that you are an important witness for yourself. How you act in court and your reasons for seeking emancipation will also make a big difference in whether the judge decides you are mature. In addition, the following evidence is very helpful:

· a good school or vocational education record;

· a good work history;

· a reasonable financial plan for yourself;

· a long-range goal for yourself; and

· significant responsibilities, such as caring for younger children or older people, other volunteer work, or religious activities.

If you have friends, teachers, counselors, employers, or other adults who can say that you have these signs of maturity, you may have enough “proof” for the court.

Can my parents force me to be emancipated against my wishes?

No. You must agree, too. Parents cannot force children to become emancipated (until they turn 18).

Can my parents still be required to support me if I am emancipated?

Yes. The court can order your parents to continue to support you as part of its emancipation order. An emancipation can be partial or complete: if it is partial, your parents will still have some duties or rights concerning you.

Can I get public aid if I am emancipated?

Maybe. Courts probably will not allow you to become emancipated if your purpose is to get public aid. Also, you might still be denied public aid because of your age. If you become emancipated and later find you need public aid, you should apply for it and should qualify as an adult.

Is “independent living” the same as emancipation?

No. “Independent living” is a term for special state-funded programs to teach adult living skills to older teens.

Can I be emancipated if I am a ward of the state?

Yes. A Juvenile Court can order you emancipated from the Department of Children and Family Services on the same basis as any other emancipation for a 16 to 18 year old minor. Remember that if you are emancipated, however, you will not be able to return to state-funded care, unless the court terminates the emancipation order. If your caseworker recommends emancipation for you, be sure to talk with your lawyer before you agree to an emancipation order.

Visit the following web page for information about how to find legal assistance with emancipation in your community: www.illinoislegalaidonline.org. At the homepage, click the “Get legal help” button to search for services near you.

If I run away from home, will that help me be emancipated?

Probably not. While most emancipated minors do live away from home, it is best if they are living in a stable location – such as with friends, relatives, or in their own apartments – before they seek an emancipation order.

How long will it take to become emancipated?

You should allow at least two months for court processing time before your petition for emancipation will be ruled on by the court. Unless you can get a special court order first, you will have to give three weeks’ notice to your parents that you are seeking emancipation.

What is “partial emancipation”?

Partial emancipation allows homeless minors ages 16 or 17 to consent to housing in specially licensed youth transitional housing programs.

Who qualifies for partial emancipation?

Youth who are 16 or 17 who lack a fixed regular and adequate place to live and who have been living independently of their parents or legal guardians. This includes youth sharing the housing of other people, youth in a temporary shelters or minors who are unwilling or unable to return home.

How is partial emancipation different from emancipation?

Partial emancipation will only permit a youth to consent to housing in a specific transitional housing program. Partially emancipated youth will not have the ability to consent to housing in other programs or enter into valid contracts.

How do I become partially emancipated?

Youth seeking to become partially emancipated must first have attempted family reunification through a Comprehensive Community Based Youth Service (“CCBYS”) Agency. There must also be an available bed for the youth in a licensed youth transitional housing program. The youth can then file a petition with the court that includes the following:

· the age of the minor;

· that the minor is a resident of Illinois;

· the names of the minors parents/legal guardian;

· that the minor is homeless and has been living wholly or partially independent of his or her parents or legal guardians;

· that family reunification efforts were attempted through a CCBYS agency and those efforts failed;

· the name of the licensed transitional housing program willing and able to provide housing and services to the minor along with the name and phone number of a staff person at the program; and

· the reason that the services and housing are appropriate and necessary for the well-being of the minor.

The minor’s parents or legal guardians will need to receive written notice of the petition within 21 days. The petition will not be granted if a parent or guardian objects to the partial emancipation. After the court verifies the petition of a homeless minor, partial emancipation will be granted so the minor can consent to receiving services and shelter at the transitional housing program. A representative of the program may be required to appear to verify facts, but no other hearing is necessary unless requested by a parent or guardian of the minor.

A minor cannot be emancipated if he or she is under the guardianship of the DCFS.

For assistance with partial emancipation, contact the Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless at 1-800-940-1119.

Domestic Violence

What can I do in an emergency situation involving domestic violence?

In an emergency, you can call the Ill. Dept. of Human Services 24-hour Domestic Violence Helpline 1-877-863-6338 or Life Span 24-hour crisis line 1-847-532-9540.

Can I go to a domestic violence shelter without a parent?

Domestic violence shelters in Illinois are not licensed by DCFS to take in minors as the primary client, and cannot house them unless they are emancipated. Parental consent is not sufficient, and shelters cannot house minors unless they are emancipated (Emancipation is explained earlier in this Chapter). However, there are ways youth under 18 can obtain an order of protection if necessary. For more information please see Dating and Domestic Violence Chapter.

DEPENDENCY

Dependency Petitions

Other Options for Safety

What is a dependency petition?

A Dependency Petition starts the legal process to determine if you are “dependent” meaning that your family needs services to help it be healthy and safe. If the court finds you “dependent” at the end of the process, the state or court becomes your legal custodian until your family is safe and healthy enough to take care of you again. If your parents fail to fix the problems that led to you being found “dependent”, then your parents’ rights to you may be terminated or substantially restricted. For more information, see the Foster Care Chapter.