I Will Speak Up for Myself: Your Legal Rights in Shelters, STAR Homes, Group Homes or Residential Treatment Centers

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Stacey Violante Cote, et al.
Center for Children’s Advocacy
43 pages, plus 10-minute DVD. Book and DVD package, $20; book alone, $10; free DVD download.

Distributed to Connecticut youths in residential care, this accessible handbook offers valuable tips on “how to advocate for yourself.” Questions such as “Can I be punished by the staff?” are answered succinctly, emphasizing legal rights. A resource list provides addresses and phone numbers.

The companion DVD opens as a girl phoning her social worker gets stuck on voice mail. A boy laments, “I don’t have a say in what happens to me.” But teen hosts Jonathan, Jackie and Alex insist, “You do have a voice.” When young people wonder how to change their situations, the hosts offer advice, such as, “You can ask to go to court and speak to a judge yourself.” (They refer to the book for details about how to do that.) When the girl’s social worker finally shows up, the caller is resentful, but a “do-over” scene demonstrates that her polite request gets results. This lively, youth-centered approach wisely avoids adult “talking heads.”

Although the book refers to Connecticut laws and contacts, it is a strong model for other states creating similar resources. The DVD works for wider audiences. Both are good examples of how to deliver vital information and support to youths living apart from their families. (860) 570-5327, http://www.kidscounsel.org/legalresources_teenrights.htm.