Our Stories

Teenagers in Foster Care Fight for a "Normal" Adolescence

Jocelyn, Amanda, Chris, and Andrew are four teenage siblings who lived in foster care. Their lives were turned upside down when their school district labeled them severely emotionally disturbed, removed them from the public school, and placed them in an institutionalized and segregated education setting.

The teens were isolated from their community, deprived of the opportunity to develop and thrive in a non-institutionalized setting, and placed on unnecessary medications.  Jocelyn, the eldest, requested she be allowed to return to public school. Her request was denied.  Public Counsel and the Learning Rights Law Center, together with a team of pro bono attorneys led by Morrison & Foerster LLP, filed a federal lawsuit against the California Department of Education, the district, and the group home, charging that the siblings' experience was emblematic of a larger pattern and practice of unlawful placement of foster children by the school district.

After several years of hard fought litigation, a substantial financial settlement was reached with the State, and separate confidential settlements were entered with the other defendants. This case has forced important changes in the way the State of California educates foster children in group homes. The State has increased its monitoring and required training to ensure every foster child in the district is properly placed and not assumed to be emotionally disturbed. As Jocelyn said repeatedly at the conclusion of the case, "I just wanted to be treated like a normal kid, and I wanted to make sure this didn't happen again and again to other foster kids." Jocelyn and her siblings aren't just "normal;" they are extraordinary.  We salute their courage in fighting to ensure that others can have the adolescence that was denied to them.