Other Legal Advocacy

If you are a KidsVoice client, KidsVoice helps you to have a voice in the foster care system, both in your daily life and in court. But there are other situations where you may need help. If you are a client, KidsVoice can also help you with:

  • Social Security Income (SSI) appeals
  • Some aspects of Magistrate Hearings if you get into trouble
  • Getting your juvenile record expunged (this means erased from court and other records)
  • Expunging adult withdrawn or dismissed charges
  • Acting as your Educational Decison Maker, when appointed

Magistrate Hearing Representation

The KidsVoice Clean Slate Program

If you are a current KidsVoice client and receive a citation or a summons where you will not be provided a public defender, contact your KidsVoice attorney or child advocacy specialist (CAS) to let them know. KidsVoice may be able to represent you at your magistrate hearing or appeal a magistrate decision.

Some examples of magistrate hearings where KidsVoice clients have benefitted from our advocacy include:

  • Truancy offenses
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Harassment
  • Underage drinking
  • Open container

The Clean Slate program, underwritten by the Lipman Youth Fund, ensures children charged with minor offenses have a responsible adult to support them before the magistrate when their parents cannot or will not fulfill that obligation. Although KidsVoice youth, like all children, should be held responsible for their actions, the consequences should not depend upon whether they have parental support at Magistrate hearings. With the support of the Lipman Youth Fund, KidsVoice attorneys are able to attend magisterial hearings to ensure that these children receive a fair outcome that is equivalent to youth with permanent homes who appear at Magistrate's hearings with parental support.

Contact your KidsVoice lawyer at 412-391-3100 or CAS as soon as you receive notice of the hearing.

Social Security Income

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a cash assistance benefit for kids who are disabled and adults who have a disability that prevents them from working.

You apply for SSI through the Social Security Administration. The process can take a long time because the Social Security office must review your medical or mental health records (depending on your disability) and get information on how you function. Call 1-800-772-1213 to begin an application and find out the location of the closest Social Security office. You can also find out more about the process on the Social Security Administration's website at www.ssa.gov.

You should work with your case worker to prepare your application for SSI at least 6 months before you plan to leave care. This means completing the application and providing any records or documents to prove that you have a disability. Submit your application for SSI and all of the supporting material (like medical and mental health records) 90 days before you plan to discharge from care so that you can plan better for your transition.

You're not guaranteed to receive SSI as an adult when you leave care, even if you receive SSI as a minor. Each kid who receives SSI must go through what is called “Age 18 Redetermination.” This is when the Social Security Administration reviews your medical and/or mental health treatment information to determine if you meet the criteria of adult eligibility for SSI payments.

If you're determined to be ineligible for SSI at this redetermination and you don't agree with the decision, you may appeal the decision. If you are a KidsVoice client, KidsVoice can help you with the appeals process. If you're found ineligible during the redetermination process, you can continue to receive SSI benefits if you begin to receive state vocational rehabilitation (OVR) agency services prior to your 18th birthday.

Educational Decision Maker

Finding Your Educational Decision Maker

If a judge decides your parent or legal guardian is not able to make decisions about your educational needs, then the court will appoint someone else to make medical and/or educational decisions for you.

If there are no other adults (foster parents, relatives...) available, KidsVoice can act as an Educational Decision Maker in certain cases, when appointed by a Judge.

Contact the KidsVoice Education Unit at 412-391-3100 if you have questions.


Clearing Your Juvenile Record

Pennsylvania law provides for the expungement (erasing) of juvenile delinquency records to let you enter adulthood with a “clean slate.” This will protect you from the negative effects of having a criminal record. If you have a juvenile record, you should try to expunge (erase) your record before you leave care so that your record won't get in the way of your future.

Juvenile records are NOT automatically expunged ever.

To ask the court for an expungement, you have to file a petition for expungement. You can do this with a lawyer's help or on your own. If you are a KidsVoice client, contact KidsVoice at 412-391-3100 — we can help you petition the court for expungement of your juvenile record.

Why should you get your juvenile record expunged?

Your juvenile delinquency record can hold you back from:

  • Receiving some benefits (like public benefits, public or subsidized housing)
  • Getting certain types of jobs
  • Getting a student loan

Your juvenile record might also cause future problems for you in the child welfare system:

  • Whether or not you can have custody of your own children
  • Whether you can become a foster parent or adopt a child

Your juvenile record may also be taken into consideration and affect the sentencing phase of an adult criminal proceeding.


Resources for Legal Advocacy