Today, the City of Philadelphia released the Youth and the Family Rights Guides, which explain in detail the rights youth and their guardians have while the youth lives at a residential facility. Publication and distribution of the guides were short-term goals of the previous Youth Residential Placement Task Force, which found that children, youth, and their guardians needed an easy-to-read format to understand their residential placement rights.
The new guides provide information in accessible language about the numerous City and State laws and regulations that youth residential facilities must follow when providing critical services to youth. The guides also contain a “My Team” page and contact information for easier connections to a youth or guardian’s circle of support. The guides were created with the input of youth who were formerly in residential placements, and their guardians.
While a foundational goal is to continue reducing the use of these placements, it is also critical to improve a youth’s safety and experience should placement occur. The guides offer youth and family members transparency into protections regarding their treatment and rights in care, which can allow a youth or guardian to feel informed and empowered, easing some transition anxieties. The information can also help youth or guardians identify if something is wrong and offers suggested actions they should take if they ever feel mistreated. Youth have the right to speak up for themselves and be protected against retaliation when it comes to, for example, any types of abuse, contact frequency with loved ones, their education and privacy. If any problems arise, the guides outline ways to get help, ranging from talking to a case manager to submitting a grievance report about the facility.
Effective January 2021, all youth residential service providers who contract with the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) or Community Behavioral Health must provide and review a copy of the guides to the youth and families they serve. The new guides are standardized across both systems to ensure that no matter what provider a youth encounters, the expectations for a safe environment and high-quality care are clear and consistent. They are also available in English and Spanish on the City’s website: https://www.phila.gov/hhs/accomplishments/Pages/youthtaskforce.aspx
About the Youth Residential Placement Taskforce: The Task Force was established by City Council in 2018 following hearings about abuse in residential placements that impacted children, youth, and families in the child welfare, juvenile justice, and behavioral health systems. The Task Force Report was issued in November 2019 and outlined 19 recommendations designed to reduce overall use of residential placements, provide placements closer to home, and enhance community based programming as an alternative to placement. Priority was also given to creating better ways to establish authentic partnerships with youth and families, including the creation of peer support programs.
Quote from DHS Commissioner Kimberly Ali: “Youth, parents, caregivers, and families–we heard you! I am excited to share the Youth and Family Rights Guides with providers, and most importantly, with youth and families. Our hope is that these guides will serve to empower youth and family advocacy and partnership with social workers. This is truly a step in the right direction.”
Quote from Community Behavioral Health CEO Dr. Faith Dyson-Washington: “As we move forward with the Taskforce recommendations, we are grateful for the feedback received from youth, family members, providers, and other stakeholders to inform this process. Our partnership is essential to ensure positive treatment outcomes for those in need. We trust that these guides will serve as another key element in supporting the rights of our youth and family members and elevating their voices.”
Quote from Jill Bowen, Ph.D., Acting Commissioner, Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services: “These guides are a vitally important step toward the ongoing safety and wellbeing of some of the most at-risk Philadelphians: our children. Ensuring that youths and guardians fully understand the rights guaranteed to them by the City and State will help set their minds at ease and make it easier to reach them with the care they need.”
Quote from Philadelphia City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson: “It has always been one of my concerns that youth and families do not always know their rights. I’m glad that the City of Philadelphia is releasing these guides so that youth can feel supported and know that they can speak up for themselves during challenging times. If the facility is neglecting to address their concerns, the guides outline ways that youth can access support.”
Quote from Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym: “These guides are a response to the stories our Taskforce heard from youth and families, who are often their own best advocates. These guides are an important resource for young people, parents and guardians to know their rights and to help ensure their safety, health and experience while in placement. I want to thank the City for prioritizing one of the key recommendations of Philadelphia’s Youth Task Force, and to work towards a more accountable and educated system of care for young people. Working in collaboration with young people and families is how we achieve the best outcomes for our youth, which are the best outcomes for our whole city.”