The prior LOs have done broad research on various aspects of the Massachusetts common law approach to emancipation and compared its approach to other states' common law or statutory models. In 1998-1999, LO #9 began preliminary research on the Massachusetts approach, examining policy perspectives from the Massachusetts legal community. In addition, they researched New York's common law approach, as well as the Minnesota, Connecticut, and California statutory models. In 1999-2000, LO #14 continued researching emancipation in Massachusetts, New York, California, and Minnesota, and began researching Wisconsin's approach. Last year, LO #1 again continued prior research on the common law approach in Massachusetts, and conducted a more in-depth analysis of California's statute. LO #1 also introduced and analyzed Michigan's emancipation statute because of its narrow tailoring and formal procedures. Due to the negative field and legal research, and resultant analysis on emancipation, the prior LOs consistently recommended that HLI not focus on emancipation as an option. However, since HLI believes emancipation is an important objective, this LO continued to research and analyze federal and state case and statutory law, as well as interview professionals in the legal community, as well as service providers.
Continuing the three years of prior research, LO #2 examined jurisdictions throughout the United States. The information gathered focused on four substantive areas that address many of the needs of at-risk youth in Massachusetts. These areas include: emancipation; mature minors' ability to consent to health care; legal access; and shelter restrictions. LO #2 continued prior research in Arizona, California, Minnesota, and Michigan. Additionally, this year, research was conducted on the state of Alabama because of its consent to health care statute and Washington because of its shelter restriction laws. Both Alabama and Washington also have emancipation statutes. Further, in order to provide a more complete picture, the LO researched, compiled, and incorporated within this paper, charts that outline each jurisdictions approach to emancipation and the mature minor rule. These charts are located at the end of each respective section of this paper.
Homeless youths in Massachusetts are in a precarious position. Their adverse situations are compounded by the fact that confusion, inconsistencies, and ambiguities surround statutes aimed at helping them. Homeless youth are often too young to take advantage of a shelter without being reported to Department of Social Services (DSS), or they do not want to use a shelter for fear of being abused by older members. Many are ``forced'' to find refuge on the streets. Serious health problems often result from the lack of appropriate shelter. Generally, homeless youth under 18 have limited access to basic health services and are often unable to consent to their own general medical care. Additionally, minors in Massachusetts may be unaware of ways in which they can gain access to the legal system for redress of their problems. As presented in the media, the choice of words and images depicting homeless youth is value-laden.1 Rarely are homeless youth likened to ``the kids next door,'' but rather are portrayed as being willfully homeless, ``rebels,'' undisciplined, and not in the mainstream. Often, it is these images which shape our legislature's and judiciary's views of the problem,2 which may preclude potential solutions. Therefore, another goal of this project is to alleviate these impediments by presenting a more accurate image of homeless youth as ``average kids.'' By doing so, the LO hopes to encourage future legislation that will increase the rights of and protections for this population. In our own imaging of homeless youth throughout this paper, and for ease of reading, the LO uses feminine gender pronouns when referencing minors.