Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Emancipation Can Be Tough for Teens; A Jacksonville Program Helps Young People Who Must Sever the Parent-Child Relationship

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Emancipation Can Be Tough for Teens; A Jacksonville Program Helps Young People Who Must Sever the Parent-Child Relationship

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS LAUDERMAN

Two years ago, Sarah Littleton moved out of her mom's house. Then 16, she also dropped out of school.

Instead of moving into her own apartment, Littleton spent a year jumping to and from different friends' houses and sometimes even found herself homeless and living on the street.

Today, she has a job selling cars at Westside Dodge, has her own apartment and is waiting on the results of a high school equivalency test she took in June .

Littleton attributes her turnaround to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid's emancipation program.

Emancipation has a simple definition: freeing a person from another person's control. In this case, emancipation comes in the form of severing the parent-child relationship -- and it's not as simple as it might sound.

The process essentially divorces a child from the parent. It's an arduous legal process. It's also an extreme answer and a last resort for teens in truly troubled homes. Most are not yet old enough to sign an apartment lease or sign their own absence notes for school, so they can't just leave home and get by easily.

That's where Legal Aid comes in.

Legal Aid doesn't just help the teens in the program through the legal process of emancipation. It also prepares them for life on their own. For instance, there's a mandatory class focusing on topics such as housing and transportation.

Deanna Sessions-Mitchell, a director at WisdomQuest, a nonprofit educational outreach corporation, teaches the mandatory class for minors going through the emancipation program. Teens in the program spend eight to 10 hours over two Saturdays going through workbooks and exercises that prepare them for life skills such as balancing a checkbook and living on a budget.

During the class, students must develop a financial plan. Four classes are offered every year. The next class will meet at the end of September or early October. …

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