• October 2020
  • Vol. 21, No. 7

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American Bar Association Passes New Policy for Youth Engagement in Legal System Reform

The American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Youth at Risk issued a policy resolution recognizing the value of youth experience and engagement in legal system reforms that affect the fundamental rights of children and youth. The policy resolution was informed by organizations across the United States with successful youth engagement programs with the following components:

  • A recognition that youth voice is expert voice
  • Equal partnerships between youth and adults in shaping system reform
  • Ongoing access to supportive services, including peer-to-peer support, for youth engaged in the process
  • Trauma-informed training for adults to work effectively with young people
  • Education on the implications of sharing personal experiences publicly
  • Regular reflection and program improvement informed by youth and adults
  • An understanding that youth engagement programs require risk-taking and open-minded leadership

The ABA policy reform calls attorneys, judges, advocates, legislators, bar associations, and law schools to partner with organizations that have active youth engagement to promote "effective, ongoing, and authentic engagement" in legal system reform and advocacy efforts. In addition, the new policy calls for the legal system to remove barriers to this engagement and encourage those with lived experience to pursue legal advocacy careers in both youth-serving systems and in the legal system in general.


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