Monday, January 28, 2013

Emancipation of minors- Things you need to know

Here are some common questions about emancipation:
First off, what is emancipation?
e·man·ci·pa·tion [ih-man-suh-pey-shuhn]
Freeing someone from the control of another; especially a parent’s relinquishing authority and control over a minor.  

What's the difference between being a minor and being an emancipated minor?

A minor is a person under the age of full legal responsibility.

An emancipated minor is anyone under the age of 18 that has been bestowed an adult by the court order or another formal arrangement.
·      This is not automatically bestowed on minors that have moved out of their parents’ home.
·      The majority of legally emancipated minors are working teenager that have demonstrated the ability to financially support themselves.  
Why would you seek emancipation?
There are many reasons why one might seek emancipation. Some young people are physically or emotionally abused and want to get away from a bad home environment.  Sometimes a minor is very wealthy (a child actor, for example) and seeks emancipation for financial and tax reasons. Other minors feel that they just cannot get along with their parents or guardians. Emancipation is just one option in these situations.


What happens when one is emancipated?
When a child reaches the age of majority, usually 18 years old, one is fully emancipated from parental control. At this point, he or she can exercise and enjoy the privileges and responsibilities of adulthood such as voting, marriage, and financial independence.
·      “If a minor becomes emancipated, he or she is entitled to make almost all of his or her own medical, dental or psychiatric care decisions. He or she may enter into a contract, sue someone else and be sued in his or her own name, make a will, buy or sell property, and apply for a work permit without needing parental consent. The emancipated minor must take care of his or her own financial affairs and prove he or she has the ability to support himself or herself. The emancipated minor is still obligated to attend school and still cannot marry without parental consent.” (
Many states do not allow emancipated minors to:

·      Get married without parental consent
·      Quit school
·      Buy or drink alcohol
·      Vote
·      Get a driver's license (before the legal age at which they would ordinarily be able to do so).

Who can be emancipated?
The age at which a minor can petition for (or sometimes declare) emancipation varies for each state. But for Washington state, one must be a resident of Washington and must be 16 or 17.

For Washington state:
Do I qualify to be emancipated?
Only if you prove all of the following by clear and convincing evidence:
Residency - You are a resident of Washington;
Ability to Handle Financial Affairs - You can manage your own financial
Ability to Handle Other Affairs - You can manage your own educational, personal, social, and any other affairs; and
Denying Emancipation Would Harm You - If your parent, guardian, or custodian opposes your petition, you must also prove that it would be bad for you if the court did not emancipate you.


How do you become emancipated?

Emancipation by court permission
Some (not all) states allow a minor to be emancipated by court order. Usually, the minor must be at least 16 years old to do this (in California, minors as young as 14 may petition the court for emancipation). The court will grant emancipation if it believes that doing so will serve the young person's best interest; a determination that is typically based on factors such as:
·      Whether the minor can be financially self-sufficient (usually through employment, as opposed to government aid or welfare)
·      Whether the minor is currently living apart from parents or guardians or has made alternative living arrangements
·      Whether the minor is sufficiently mature to make decisions and to function as an adult, and
·      Whether the minor is going to school or has received a high school diploma

Emancipation by marriage
In most states, minors automatically achieve emancipation once they get married. But in order to get married, minors must comply with state marriage requirements. States set a minimum age for marriage and often require minors to get parental consent or court approval before getting married. For example, in order to get married in California, a minor must be:
1) At least 14 years old
2) Accompanied by a parent or legal guardian
3) Appear before the court

Emancipation by military enlistment
Minors can become emancipated by enlisting in the United States Armed Forces. Since military policies currently require enlistees to have a high school diploma or GED, most young people are at least 17 or 18 before they become emancipated through enlistment.

A few states and territories (like Louisiana and Puerto Rico) allow a fourth form of limited emancipation that requires only parental consent, not the court's permission.


What are some procedures for emancipation?
Minors who are seeking emancipation through a court order must follow the petitioning procedures that are set out by their state's law. Though the process varies from state to state, here's what the court procedure for filing an emancipation petition typically looks like.

1.    Petition: The emancipation petition must be filed by the minor (or by an attorney on the minor's behalf). Usually, the petition includes an explanation of why the minor is seeking emancipation, information about the minor's current living situation, and evidence that the minor is (or soon will be) financially self-sufficient.
2.    Notification of parents: In most states, minors must notify their parents or legal guardians that a petition for emancipation has been filed -- or explain to the court why they do not want to do so.
3.    Hearing: In most cases, the court schedules a hearing where the judge asks questions and hears evidence to decide whether emancipation is in the minor's best interest.
4.    Declaration of emancipation: If the court decides that emancipation should be ordered, it will issue a Declaration of Emancipation. The newly emancipated minor should keep copies of the declaration and give them to schools, doctors, landlords, and anyone else that would normally require parental consent before dealing with a minor.


Are there any alternatives to emancipation?
Other avenues to explore include:
·      Getting help from government or private agencies
·      Getting counseling for yourself or your family
·      Using a mediator to discuss and resolve differences with your parents
·      Living with another responsible adult
·      Living on your own with the informal consent of your parents.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

LGBTQ Youth and Homelessness

Being LGBTQ in a country that’s mostly heterosexual and gender-conforming can be like playing a video game on difficult mode. It doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t have a fun time playing. However, it may mean you’re playing with more enemies and fewer resources. It does mean it’s harder to win.

It can be harder to gain acceptance from your peers, your family and your community. Many LGBTQ teens are lucky enough to have family and friends to support them. However, other teens aren’t as lucky. One in four teens who come out are kicked out of their homes. Others run away from abusive and unaccepting parents. We think we live in a very accepting city, but LGBTQ youth around Seattle are being kicked out and living in shelters because of their sexual orientation.

It can be harder to find shelters and feel safe in shelters, especially since some shelters have been known to turn away LGBTQ individuals. Staying in a shelter can pose other problems. Violence and discrimination are parts of the LGBTQ homeless experience, and because of this, staying in a shelter can mean living in fear of an attack. In fact, LGBTQ homeless youth are 7.4 times more likely to face sexual violence than their straight counterparts. Although shelters may provide safety from the cold, they may not always provide a peace of mind.

In addition, shelters aren’t always inclusive toward trans* people. One in three transgender people report being turned away from a shelter due to their gender identity. Although it is important they have housing consistent with their gender identity, some trans* women have no choice but to stay in the men’s shelter.
There are challenges faced by the LGBTQ homeless community, but fortunately, there are several great resources in King County.

Some Seattle-area LGBTQ-inclusive resources include:

La-Ba-Te-Yah Youth Home -  Transitional housing for homeless youth, urban Native Americans and youth of color. Co-ed; has an amazing Two-Spirit program and a good number of Two-Spirit staff. 25 beds for youth, ages 14-21. Youth may stay up to 18 months.

9010 13th Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98117

ISIS House - Transitional housing for LGBTQ homeless youth. Part of YouthCare. For youth under 18 pursuing an education and individuals over 18 studying or working.

2500 NE 54th St.
Seattle, WA 98105

If you think someone could benefit from information on LGBTQ-friendly programs or just needs support, call Teen Link toll-free at (866)-TEEN-LINK, visit our website at or give them our number and web address.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Understanding Homeless Youth

        The issue of teen homelessness could have slipped under your radar, as it does for many teens. This feels like a very alien issue to many teens who don’t know any teens who are experiencing homelessness, or aren’t aware of just how many teens are on the streets because they rarely cross paths with each other. On any given night, there are hundreds of youth in Seattle without a safe place to sleep, and possibly up to 2,000 in the whole of King County. I was really surprised by that number, that’s more people than my high school. But I was more surprised this has gone unnoticed by me, and other teens. We talked about it for one day in 9th grade health, and after that I guess teens sleeping alone outside at night just isn't as important as reading Lord of the Files and doing algebra to Seattle Public Schools. Maybe we forget about this more in schools because homeless youth aren’t in schools as much as kids who have a stable home, and also because on the surface, you can’t always just look at someone and know if they ran away last month, or have been couch surfing week to week. Basically, it’s a bit of an invisible issue, not an issue seen or talked about. And because of this, there are a lot of myths about being homeless. 

MYTH: Youth choose to be on the streets (rebelling against their parents, are fine with being on their own).
TRUTH: Really most teens leave/are forced out of their homes because of emotional, sexual, physical abuse, or neglect. Family conflict and  intense trauma cause teens to feel unsafe, scared, and/or unwanted and the only safe option is leaving home.

FACT: Runaways are only about 2% of teens fed in youth homeless shelters (have been reported as runaways to the police). Most runaways return home after one or two nights.

MYTH: Most homeless youth are addicted to drugs, have criminal records, and are dangerous, bad kids. 
TRUTH: Homeless youth aren’t a population of 'bad' people, but they might be more at risk to get into drugs and crime when all else has failed them. They just have many more stresses and worries that drugs can be a distraction from.

MYTH: Homeless youth are different from most teens. 
TRUTH: Well yes, they are different because they are homeless, but they are still teens. They might have experienced much greater trauma and have much lower trust and resources than I have, but they also just want to have a stable home, friends, and the ability to do what interests them, or what’s fun. 

FACT: GLBTQ teens are around 40% of homeless youth. Why so many, when under 10% of the population is LGBTQ? Family rejection and abuse is often much stronger for these teens. 

So what is being a homeless youth like? Imagine having to always be looking over your shoulder, watching your own back because there’s no house over it. No roof over your head protecting you from weather, and no parents there to stand up for you, catching the worries of buying food, heating, clothes, school supplies, toiletries. Where can you wash your clothes, where are you going to sleep that’s safe, how can you focus on doing school stuff when there are so many more important needs to be met everyday? Where do you do your homework, and what about when nothing makes sense? A few of my teachers require online computer homework, how would a homeless youth do that? In addition to all the physical needs that are hard to meet, what about life at school? Social high school is hard enough without another isolating factor. Society looks down on people in tent camps under the bridge, sadly but true. Being homeless is anything but fun, and a teen that’s living out alone could feel hopeless, scared, alone, depressed, hurt, and very tired....

Seattle, as the biggest city in the northwest, and a fairly progressive and open minded one too, attracts many homeless youth from the surrounding areas, and even states like Oregon and Idaho. Big cities tend to have more programs available to the homeless and a bigger budget and focus on shelters, food kitchens etc. Although there are different youth shelters around Seattle, they all have specific requirements for staying in their shelters (ie. parent permission is sometimes required after a certain amount of time.) As that is completely impossible for most homeless teens, there are other shelters that have looser requirements. 

If you think that someone could benefit from information on shelters or other programs, call Teen Link or give them our number for detailed information, 1866TeenLink (833-6546) or visit our website online at

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What? Free Condoms... Really?

Um, uh, what... really? That's what a lot of my friends said over this winter break to me when I gave them free condoms. I was encouraged to give out condoms over my break, not something I would have done under my own volition but I had fun doing it. Reactions ranged from mild disbelief to hysterical laughter. Most people thought I was joking and none thought I was being completely serious about my offer until I handed the product to them. Ever since I started my work at Teen Link, I have taken delight in righting the wrongs of my friends and the sloppy sexual education given in a private high school. Knowledge like where to get free condoms, how to use them and realistic consequences of not using them elude most people at my school. Other than a scare tactic presentation sophomore year, my school has done little to nothing to educate students about sex. I have tried to help my friends out before by giving them cards from Teen Clinic (the best place ever). I've also handed out a pamphlet or two on age of consent laws to a few people who I knew might just need to take a look at them, but never have I done something as awkward as literally giving out condoms.

At first it was more than a little werid. You try working in "hey, you want a condom" into your next conversation and you'll see what I mean. As I gave out more and more to my friends it became almost a running joke that people expected. They usually laughed until I insisted they keep the condoms, then it didn't seem so funny to them. Many asked me why they needed to have one if they had no plans on having sex. I responded by saying "ya never know." At this point the guys would say "thanks," agree and slip it into a secret compartment in their wallets, while girls would give me an even stranger look and try to find a place for it in their purse, where no one would ever accidentally find it.

Almost every time I tried to give one out I was rejected on the first try. Only after insisting three or four times would a person accept the condom. Only a couple of people, the ones in serious longer term relationships, knew about help they could get at places like the Teen Clinic and Planned Parenthood, and even then they did not know how much of it was confidential as well as free. Everyone knew that they could get free condoms from Planned Parenthood, but the couple of guys I know who have gone said they were met by judging glares and even a couple of picketers outside. This was hardly the encouragement they needed to utilize these resources and be as safe as possible. Especially at my school, a Catholic private school, having condoms is weird. That is not to say that people aren't having sex, because they are. Often it just happens by "mistake," and unless you're in a very serious relationship, having sex lands people, or girls, I should say, with some pretty shity lables and reputations, which is actually pretty 'F'ed up. Sex is always covered up, shamed, or glorified. I guess its hard to be real about something you don't really know much about.

The truth is that we just don't have the education to know about this kind of stuff. We aren't taught what sex is, how to safely have it, what it means or the actual real life (not made up religious) risks of it. We also don't ever get to learn about the benefits of having safe sex, or that sex can be a positive thing when we actually know about our bodies, respect ourselves and respect the people we get with. 

Sex is not meant to be some big secret or complex equation. And it is definitely nothing to be ashamed of.  All we need is some honest communication, respect, education, and, of course...  condoms (which conviently come in all kinds of sizes, flavors, and made specially for both genders). I would just encourage you to always have easy access to condoms and always carry one to a party, because ya never know when you're going to need one. It doesn't matter if you're a guy or girl, take safety into your own hands. And always feel free to call Teen Link for a confidential place to talk about relationships or anything else.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Internet Addiction and the Tech Generation (That's us)

If the adults in your life are like the adults in mine, they are very concerned over the new phenomenon of internet addiction. It’s a phrase that gets tossed around pretty frequently nowadays, and I think lots of teens dismiss it as alarmism and a generation gap. However, in the last few years I have begun to think seriously about the idea, and after doing some research my findings worry me.
How much time a day do you spend online? How often do you think about the internet when you are offline? How often do you fail to get things done because of the internet? Do you ever choose surfing the net over hanging out with friends? Have you ever been late for class or work because you watched just one more video on Youtube? Have you ever lied to someone about how much time you spend online, or what you do? Have you ever felt ashamed about it?
I know I have.
Medical professionals are still in discussion about what constitutes Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) or whether it really exists at all, but popular culture has embraced the concept already, and I suspect it is because so many of us have glimpsed the abyss at some point or other. In China, IAD is considered one of its “most feared public health hazards” (Wired, 2010). The problem got so bad that as far back as 2004, police were conducting raids of internet caf├ęs and minors were banned from such establishments. A study from Stanford in 2006 concluded that 1 in 8 American adults showed signs of internet addiction.
The internet is totally unique in human history for the sheer volume of compelling distractions it presents. Facebook, Youtube, Tumblr, Twitter, Warcraft, Reddit, Pinterest, Netflix, Minecraft, StumbleUpon, gaming, videos, fanfiction, networking, webcomics, blogging, and of course, the internet cash crop, pornography. Pick your poison.
And this stuff isn’t just interesting, it’s deliberately designed to be addictive, giving us hits of feel-good chemicals in rapid succession – just like junk food. Content providers make money off your presence on their site – they are invested in making it as compelling as possible. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent annually on market research, refining algorithms, improving graphics, studying what colors and shapes will catch our interest, what content will keep us coming back for more.
Kepchar Photography
Not all the stuff on the internet is worthless of course – I would be a traitor to my generation if I thought that. I love the internet. However, the number of hours that I am capable of loosing on it frightens me. Sometimes, when I’m with friends and the conversation is stalled I think, why am I here when I could be on Netflix? Often I do sloppy work on assignments or turn up late for events because the internet was too compelling.
Do these periodic failings mean I’m addicted to the internet? No. The bottom line is an addiction is something to worry about when it starts actively destroying other parts of your life. If your grades drop as a direct result of the internet (not just your lack of motivation) or if your employer catches you on Twitter because you feel anxious and twitchy if you aren’t plugged in, then it’s a problem. If your friends start saying, “I never see you” and you know it’s because of online gaming or Tumblr  – that’s a problem.
All I’m saying is that the tech generation shouldn’t dismiss IAD as the paranoia of maladjusted, tech-clumsy grownups. This will be something we will deal with as a society from now on. The internet is a huge and compelling force in our lives, and like any powerful tool should be handled with care.
Images from: Kepchar Photography

If you are worried about yourself or a friend or ever need a place to talk, know that you can always call Teen Link, 1866TeenLink or 1(866)833-6546. We are open every night from 6-10pm and are here to provide confidential, anonymous and non-judgmental support. Also, if you have something difficult going on in your life that is really affecting and you don't feel comfortable calling Teen Link, please just talk to someone. Everyone needs support sometimes and, the truth is, that most people are can be pretty supportive if you give them a chance. So the next time you are struggling, take a chance, and trust someone with yourself, even if it is just a little bit.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Rainier Beach Youth Ready to Make a Change

This is an opportunity for youth to begin conversation and to influence local funding to support youth and young adults in connecting with school and work.

Are you (or do you know) a young person with ideas about what needs to change in order to better support young people in school and work? You are invited!

Or do you work with young people who might be interested in participating? Please contact us or have young people contact us directly about this opportunity.

The Youth Advisory Group is a group of youth ages 16-24 who want to spark change within youth services, programming and opportunities for support in their communities. This group will discuss what they want to see improved, changed or created to increase the chances for young people in King County to have living wage careers.

We need your perspective on system gaps, barriers to success, and opportunities to better support young people in King County! 

Food & $15 gift cards will be provided at each session in thanks for your time and effort

When: The Youth Advisory Group will meet 3 evenings between January-May of 2013
Our first meeting on January 3rd in the Rainier Beach area; facilitators and note takers are still needed, so anyone interested please contact us.

Where: Rainier Beach area

Interested? Space and gift cards are limited- please sign up soon if you are interested. Contact Bruce McGregor to sign-up at 206.336.6934 or

More Information: United Way of King County has a long history of supporting at-risk youth and young adults.  In an effort to increase the impact of our work, we recently convened a Task Force on Reconnecting Youth to School & Work. Given that an estimated 35,000 youth & young adults ages 16-24 in King County are disconnected from school & work, we believe it is timely & important for United Way to work with the King County community to identify a vision for reconnecting these youth to education or employment pathways, and to define a role for United Way in this work. The Task Force is currently honing the scope and focuses of the project and would like tap into the knowledge and perspectives of youth in King County through this Youth Advisory Group. As a member of the Youth Advisory Group, you’ll be influencing funders and informing them of what, where and why they should focus on and fund certain opportunities.

Questions? Contact Bruce at 206.336.6934 or

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Years

This is the time of year that nearly everyone makes a New Year's resolution.  Yet, I'm sure that many of you feel a lot like the character in this comic: stuck where you are, with nothing really changing where you are going.  You make a New Year's resolution (I always say I'm going to run three or four times a week), doesn't work.  So, I am going to propose something different.  Something that can make you happier, more productive, and more active.

Be more grateful.

Surprised?  So was I when I first heard this.  It seems like sure an insignificant thing.  However, research shows that when people, especially teenagers, are more grateful in their day to day lives, they liver happier, more fulfilled lives.  You might ask "what is a happier, more fulfilled life?"  Beats me, but it sure sounds nice, and is something I will try this year.
I will leave you with a challenge  and a video.  In addition to your current (and maybe reoccurring) New Year's resolution, I challenge you to try to be more grateful for good things in your life.  And here is a video, that may (or may not) inspire you to do so:

Source about gratefulness here.
Link to YouTube video.
Ted, where the video came from, is an awesome source for more videos and a great way to kill time.

And finally, feel free to call TeenLink at 1-866-TEENLINK (1 866 833-6546) from 6 to 10 each night to talk to another teen about what you are grateful for, or anything else.