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Section III
LEGAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
OF YOUTH

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Q. III.1 When can a youth leave home legally and not be required to return?

Q. III.2 At what age can a youth:

sign a contract
consent to medical care
obtain identification and documents
without parental consent/involvement?

Q. III.3 What obligations do young people (under 21) have toward their parents?

Q. III.4 Can a young person force his/her parents to support him/her? If so, until what age?

Q. III.5 Can a youth under the age of 18 obtain a learner's permit or driver's license without parental consent?

Q. III.6 What happens when a young person leaves New York State? Do New York State laws still apply?

Q. III.7 Can a young person under the age of 16 stay at a shelter?

Q. III.8 What are a youth's rights to their personal possessions while they are at a shelter? Can parents refuse to give the child his/her belongings?

Q. III.9 What are the legal rights of minors to decide whether they want to return home? Are those rights different if there is an allegation of abuse?

Q. III.10 Can a youth, over the age of 16, access any services, treatments, placements or therapy without payment?

 


Q. III.1 When can a youth leave home legally and not be required to return?

A. As a general rule, a young person under the age of 18 cannot leave home. The police can take a youth under 18 who leaves home without parental permission into custody and return the child home. However, a youth under 18 may go to a certified runaway shelter for up to 30 days, without parental consent, and may not be forced to return home. For those 30 days, the shelter is the youth's home.

Young people under 18 and in the jurisdiction of the Family Court or in the custody of the Office of Youth and Family Services will be returned to the facility where they were placed.

Q. III.2 At what age can a youth:

sign a contract
consent to medical care
obtain identification and documents
without parental consent/involvement?

A. In New York State, a young person is considered an adult for most purposes at 18. At that point they are fully responsible for the contracts they sign. Although young people under 18 may sign contracts, most contracts cannot be enforced against them. Not surprisingly, landlords are quite hesitant to enter into leases with minors for that reason.

For a discussion of a minor's right to consent to medical treatment see Section V.

Any young person can obtain a Certificate of Birth, which is different from a Birth Certificate. A Certificate of Birth includes the young person's full name, and the date and place of birth. The document may be obtained, free of charge, from the Department of Vital Statistics in the county where the youth was born, except in New York City, where the records for all five counties are in the Manhattan office.

A Birth Certificate contains more extensive information and a youth must be over 18 or have parental consent to obtain it.

Q. III.3 What obligations do young people (under 21) have toward their parents?

A. Youth under the age of 21 are obligated to obey the reasonable rules set by their parents/guardians as a condition of their continued support.

Q. III.4 Can a young person force his/her parents to support him/her? If so, until what age?

A. In New York State, young people are entitled to parental support until they are 21. If a young person leaves home because the conditions are unbearable, the youth may succeed in a proceeding for support in Family Court. If, however, the young person leaves home to be on his/her own, the parents' obligation to support the young person is terminated.

Q. III.5 Can a young person under the age of 18 obtain a learner's permit or driver's license without parental consent?

A. In New York State, parental consent is required to obtain a learner's permit for persons under 18. At 17, if a young person has successfully completed a driver's education course and has received a "Blue Card," parental permission is not required to get a permit. At age 18, parental consent is not needed to obtain a permit, with or without a driver's education course.

Q. III.6 What happens when a young person leaves New York State? Do NewYork State laws still apply?

A. In New York, a young person may be forced to return home if he/she is under 18. The same rules apply to a young person who leaves the state.

Q. III.7 Can a young person under the age of 16 stay at a shelter?

A. According to the New York State Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, any runaway, regardless of age, may stay at a certified residential runaway program for up to 30 days without parental consent. In certain circumstances, the young person can stay an additional 30 days with approval by the county runaway coordinator and parental consent unless a matter is referred to the Family Court.

Q. III.8 What are a youth's rights to their personal possessions while they are at a shelter? Can parents refuse to give the child his/her belongings?

A. Since parents have the obligation to support their children and a child may legally choose to stay at a runaway shelter for up to 30 days, a young person should not be denied his/her possessions while staying at a licensed shelter. Although a parent may be sued for refusing to provide basic support, that course of action is not recommended. In extreme cases where parents refuse to give the child access to his/her belongings and the child plans to return to his/her home to get them, it may be wise to ask for a police escort to avoid the possibility of a confrontation. A parent's refusal to provide for the basic needs of a child may constitute child neglect as well, which indicates the need for CPS involvement.

Q. III.9 What are the legal rights of minors to decide whether they want to return home? Are those rights different if there is an allegation of abuse?

A. A parent cannot force a child staying at a licensed runaway/homeless youth shelter to return home. The child, however, may return home when he/she feels ready. A parent may not legally refuse to allow a young person under 21 to return home without a court order.

If there is an allegation of abuse and an Article 10 petition has been filed, the young person may be allowed to remain at a certified residential program for more than 30 days. Even if an allegation of abuse is unfounded, a young person cannot be forced to return home and has the right to remain at the licensed runaway/homeless youth program for up to 30 days. In extreme cases of abuse, a child may be removed from his/her home by the Department of Social Services. Such actions are reviewable by the Family Court, to determine whether removal is warranted.

Q. III.10 Can a youth, over the age of 16, access any services, treatments, placements or therapy without payment?

A. A young person over 16 may access services, treatments, placements, or therapy to the same extent as others. For example, hospitals are generally required to provide free emergency medical services to anyone and may not refuse treatment simply because someone has no health insurance.

Empire State Coalition
P.O. Box 25312
Brooklyn, NY 11202-5312
Phone: (718) 237-2722

Email: info@EmpireStateCoalition.org



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