The statistics don’t lie – the child welfare system disproportionately impacts children and families of color compared to white children and families nationwide – and the Colorado child welfare system is no exception. Youth who have disabilities and youth who identify as LGBTQIA+ also experience higher rates of child welfare and juvenile justice system involvement and disparate outcomes compared to other youth. The problem of disparate treatment can seem overwhelming and daunting at times. But it is imperative that advocates routinely assess their cases to determine whether any of the youth they represent are being negatively affected because of factors related to their race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or any other attribute. And if the advocate identifies that a youth is suffering from disparate treatment (or would benefit from more equitable treatment), it is the advocate’s job to bring the matter to the attention of the court – assuming out-of-court attempts to remedy the situation fail.
JEDI-related legal advocacy is challenging, but not impossible. For example, we know families of color, and other disproportionally-impacted groups, often have more limited access to resources, particularly when it comes to language, transportation and culturally appropriate services. So, advocates must regularly research what services, resources and placement options are available which support a youth’s culture or identity. (A case consultant can be a huge asset in identifying culturally appropriate services). If culturally appropriate service providers cannot be identified, advocates should at least ensure that the youth is able to have culturally appropriate items and activities available to them (such as food, clothes, hair products, access to community events, etc). If court action is necessary to ensure a child’s access to culturally appropriate services, items or activities, advocates should not be deterred simply because a department might respond that providing such services or items is inconvenient, create an additional cost, or are outside the menu of what is typically offered.
OCR’s Litigation Toolkit can assist with this JEDI-focused advocacy. The Litigation Toolkit currently contains the following pleadings:
- GAL Motion for Culturally Appropriate Child-Rearing Considerations,
- GAL Motion for Culturally-Appropriate Placement,
- GAL Motion for Culturally-Appropriate Services for Parents or Children,
- GAL Motion for Lack of Reasonable Efforts Finding,
- GAL Motion for Normalcy,
- GAL Motion for Return Home,
- GAL Motion for Enforcement of Statutory or Regulatory Protections for Children in Foster Care
- GAL Petition and Decree for Child’s Name Change,
- Brief Regarding Medical and Mental Health Treatment of Children (Amicus brief filed Texas class action lawsuit), and
- Several motions specifically related to ICWA cases.
For more general information, the Litigation Toolkit also has numerous resource documents on JEDI-related topics such as immigration, implicit bias, reasonable efforts, intellectual and developmental disabilities, ICWA, LBGTQIA, and more.
If you would like to strategize about JEDI-related litigation, feel free to contact any member of the OCR’s Appellate and Litigation Support List or Anna Ulrich, OCR’s litigation and appellate strategies staff attorney at email@example.com.