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Education & Health Rights of Children and Youth with Special Needs in Child Welfare & Juvenile Justice

SPAN’s Education & Health Rights of Children & Youth with Special Needs in the Child Welfare & Juvenile Justice Systems project works to improve outcomes for NJ children and youth with special needs in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems by providing families and concerned professionals with information on their rights to education and health services.

  • Facilitating county workshops on the education & health rights of children & youth with special needs in the Child Welfare & Juvenile Justice Systems for families and professionals
  • Disseminating family guides to the Education & Health Rights of Children & Youth with Special Needs in the Child Welfare & Juvenile Justice Systems
  • Providing technical assistance to families and youth advocates on the Education & Health Rights of Children & Youth with Special Needs in the Child Welfare & Juvenile Justice Systems and how to advocate for quality education and healthcare services

The project also provide professional development to every new social worker in New Jersey's child welfare system, providing information on SPAN peer supports, resources for children and families involved in the child welfare system, highlighting family-professional partnership strategies, and "touring" SPAN's website including our recorded and archived teleconferences and webinars on a range of topics including the education and health rights of children and youth in child welfare and juvenile justice, health advocacy, education advocacy, and youth self-advocacy, among others.

Finally, the project provides training on self-advocacy and rights to youth in New Jersey's secure juvenile justice detention system in the year prior to their release back into the community, and works with the diversion programs to encourage youth self-advocacy and support youth accessing the education, health and mental health services they need to avoid secure detention.

This project is funded by the NJ State Bar Foundation.

Diana Autin
Project Director
973-642-8100 x 105
Carolyn Hayer
Director of Parent and Professional Development
973-642-8100 x 102
What families/professions are saying about this project: 

Child welfare: “Before this workshop, I had no idea that I still had rights to make decisions about my child’s education and health even though they are in foster care.  Today I learned about my rights, and how important it is for me to fight for what I know is right for my child and not be pressured to just go along.  Now I know that there are other parents in my situation who can support me.  Knowledge is power, and after today I am going to talk to every parent I come across and spread the word!” 

Juvenile justice: “I was ashamed so I almost didn’t come to this workshop.  Now I know that there is somewhere to go for help for my child in the juvenile justice system.  I know their rights, and I know where to turn.  I know more about how the juvenile justice system works.  And I know that my child should be receiving special education services even though they are incarcerated.  I know more about how to advocate for my child, and I know that SPAN is there to help me if I need them. I’m so glad I came!”

Key Resources of Interest: 


A Snapshot of Federal Laws Establishing Rights and Opportunities for Poor Youth Involved in the Child Welfare and/or Juvenile Justice Systems

Child Protection & Permanency (including guides for foster parents and parents involved in the child welfare system),

Child Welfare Case Practice Model for the NJ Department of Children and Families Division of Child Protection and Permanency,

Child Welfare Bill of Rights, 

Education Stability for Children in Child Welfare,

Family Support Resources of DCF Resources,

Implementing Trauma Informed Practices in Child Welfare,

Improving Educational Outcomes for Children in Out-of-Home Placements,

Juvenile Justice Commissioner,; Special Needs Services of NJ JJC,

Juvenile Justice Resource Hub,

Kinship Care Resources,

Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention,

Parents Anonymous Support Groups & Hotline,

SPAN Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health chapter,

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA),

Youth Violence Prevention Initiatives,