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“Letting Kids Be Kids”: Youth Voice and Activism to Reform Foster Care and Promote “Normalcy”

Studies in Law, Politics, and Society

ISBN: 978-1-78714-344-9, eISBN: 978-1-78714-343-2

Publication date: 10 May 2017


In this chapter, I examine stories that foster care youth tell to legislatures, courts, policymakers, and the public to influence policy decisions. The stories told by these children are analogized to victim truth testimony, analyzed as a therapeutic, procedural, and developmental process, and examined as a catalyst for systemic accountability and change. Youth stories take different forms and appear in different media: testimony in legislatures, courts, research surveys or studies; opinion editorials and interviews in newspapers or blog posts; digital stories on YouTube; and artistic expression. Lawyers often serve as conduits for youth storytelling, translating their clients’ stories to the public. Organized advocacy by youth also informs and animates policy development. One recent example fosters youth organizing to promote “normalcy” in child welfare practices in Florida, and in related federal legislation.




I am grateful for travel funds from the University of Miami Roger A. Schindler Clinical Fellowship Program that allowed me to attend the 2015 IALMH Conference. I thank my anonymous reviewer for making many helpful comments. I thank my colleague Rebecca Sharpless for her extremely invaluable editorial help. I dedicate this chapter to David Lucas Perlmutter (“Lontano, ero con te quando tuo padre entrò nell’ombra e ti lasciò suo addio.”).


Perlmutter, B.P. (2017), "“Letting Kids Be Kids”: Youth Voice and Activism to Reform Foster Care and Promote “Normalcy”", Studies in Law, Politics, and Society (Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Vol. 72), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 121-183.



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