This article originally appeared on The Youth Project.
Starting this week, unaccompanied minors in Illinois over the age of 14 can consent to routine medical care under a new amendment to the Minors Consent to Medical Procedures Act.
Illinois is the 18th state to enact such a law, which is recommended by many advocacy groups such as the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the Center for Adolescent Health & the Law.
“This law recognizes the existence of this population within the context of health care,” said Graham Bowman, the Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless who drafted the bill.
This law will affect more than 7,000 homeless minors identified as “unaccompanied” in the state, including almost 2,000 students in the Chicago Public Schools system. Health care providers must identify eligible minors through an organization that works with unaccompanied or homeless youth.
An “unaccompanied” youth is one who lives apart from a parent or legal guardian. This includes youth who are homeless and on the street. Others may be living with non-guardian relatives or crashing on their friends’ couch.
The vast majority of these youth have separated from their parents due to abuse, neglect, or some other circumstance that makes it impossible for their parents to consent to care on their behalf, Bowman said.