New law protects the right of youth in care to talk to the press

SPRINGFIELD – Youth in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services can now express themselves more freely, thanks to a measure sponsored by State Senator Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) that was signed into law Friday.

“Youth in the care of DCFS should not be denied access to the media,” Feigenholtz said. “This legislation safeguards their basic right to freedom of speech.”

Under the new law, youth in custody or guardianship of DCFS are entitled to the freedom of speech guaranteed under the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions. The measure also states that DCFS must not interfere if any youth chooses to speak with the news media.

If a reporter requests to speak with a minor under 18, DCFS must provide notice to the minor, their attorney and their guardian immediately. Additionally, if DCFS determines that a minor is not mature enough and the communication could cause some kind of harm, the department must specify the basis for the determination in the notice within one business day.

“It’s essential that we stand up for the youth under Illinois’ care,” Feigenholtz said. “Young adults—not DCFS—will now have the opportunity to decide if they want to talk with the media.”

The new law, previously House Bill 3886, takes effect immediately.