UPDATE: SB 1478 did not pass in the General Assembly during the scheduled session. We look forward to continuing to work on this legislation.

Illinois is currently just one of 6 states that does not guarantee counsel to any youth in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services. That means that under our current system, the one person who is not represented by their own attorney is the child – the person at the center of the case. 

SB 1478 assures that no child goes through this process – including separation from their family – without their own legal counsel.

Without legal representation, a child is left to navigate complex proceedings on their own, putting them at risk of receiving unfair treatment, or having vital decisions about their future made without their input. High quality legal representation for youth in care throughout DCFS court proceedings is crucial to protect and enforce the legal rights of youth in DCFS’ care and improve the experiences youth have in care.

Illinois has one of the longest lengths of stay in the nation to achieve permanency. Children and parents who have legal counsel spend less time in foster care or group settings, shorter time to adoption or guardianship and, most important, more successful reunifications. 

Children represented by specially trained legal counsel are:

  • 40% more likely to leave the foster care system within their first six months and experience
  • 45% higher reunification rate with their birth parents
  • 30% reduction in the rate of placement moves
  • 65% reduction in the rate of unnecessary school moves

SB 1478 would amend the Juvenile Court Act to establish a statutory right to counsel for youth in DCFS care, so youth in care are treated like every other party to the DCFS court case who benefit from legal counsel to navigate system complexities and ensure legal rights are protected. It would also amend the Children and Family Services Act to establish the Due Process for Youth Oversight Commission to monitor effectuation of this statutory right to counsel.  Additionally, it would amend the Foster Children’s Bill of Rights Act to inform youth of their right to legal counsel.

Passed Senate Floor



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