We are continuing our blog series on runaway youth laws in the U.S. In this issue we cover states Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Help for Teens in Crisis

We are continuing our blog series on runaway youth laws in the 50 states. We are sharing some of the important information in these laws within each state, such as the definition of legal adult age, classifications of homeless youth and what defines a “runaway.”

NRS receives inquiries about legal age from youth who are asking, “can I move out at 17,” or “is it legal to live on my own underage?” In order to answer these questions, we must rely on the laws of the states.

Our main source of reference is the report ALONE WITHOUT A HOME: A STATE-BY-STATE REVIEW OF LAWS AFFECTING UNACCOMPANIED YOUTH (A report by the National Law Center on Homeless and Poverty and the National Network for Youth, September, 2012).

In this entry, we will be covering the East Coast states Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

*DISCLAIMER: We are not legal experts. Laws can be interpreted differently from county to county and police jurisdiction to police jurisdiction. Everyone’s situation is unique, but we are here 24/7 to help you figure out a plan for your specific situation. For information, please call us at 1-800-RUNAWAY or visit us at 1800RUNAWAY.org.

Vermont  Age of a minor: Any person under 13 years of age, any person under 18 years of age, under 21 years of age, and a student, any person under 18 years of age and is a child in need of care or supervision; any person who is alleged to have committed an act of delinquency at or following the age of 10, but before the age of 18.

Runaway status: Vermont has a classification of a “homeless” child as: A child of homeless parents means a child whose parents or guardians lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; or have a primary nighttime residence in a shelter, a temporary living institution, or a public or private place not designated for regular sleeping accommodations for humans.

Runaway youth are considered CHINS (Child in Need of Supervision or Child in Need of Services).

Is running away a status offense: No.  A runaway youth may be taken into custody without a warrant by a police officer. The police officer shall then either release the youth into the custody of the youth’s guardian or deliver the youth to a shelter designated by the Commissioner of Social and Rehabilitation Services as qualified to assist youth who have run away for the purpose of reuniting them with their parents, guardian, or legal custodian.

Can a youth file for emancipation: Any minor may be emancipated if the minor (a) has entered into a valid civil marriage, (b) is on active duty with any of the armed services of the United States or (c) petitions to become emancipated.

Connecticut  Age of a minor: Any person at least 16 and under 19 years of age.

Runaway status: No specific definition, but police officers are authorized to transport, with the permission of the person being transported, any person over 16 and under 18 years of age who appears to be away from home without permission from his/her parents or guardian or who appears to be suffering from lack of food, shelter, or medical care. Runaway youth are classified as “Family in Need of Services.”

Is running away a status offense: No, the law permits police to transport runaway youth between ages 16 and 17 to public or private facilities only with the youths’ consent.

Can a youth file for emancipation: Any minor who has reached 16 years of age and is residing in the state, or any parent or guardian of such minor, may petition for emancipation the superior court for juvenile matters or the probate court for the district court in which either the minor or the parent(s)/guardian resides.

Teenage Runaway Laws by State

Delaware  Age of a minor: Any person under 18 years of age.

Runaway status: No specific definition. The Delaware Code does not directly address runaway youth. Delaware has, however, adopted the Interstate Compact on Juveniles for the purpose of cooperating with other states to return juveniles when their return is sought and accept the return of juveniles whenever a juvenile residing in Delaware is found or apprehended in another state.

Is running away a status offense: No.

Can a youth file for emancipation: There is no general statute that addresses the process of emancipation, but the state does recognize emancipation in other statutes.

Maryland  Age of a minor: Any person under 18 years of age.

Runaway status: No specific definition but a runaway youth could be considered “CHINS” or Child in Need of Supervision or Child in Need of Services, if they are beyond their parents’ control, “ungovernable,” or for other reasons.

Is running away a status offense: No, a runaway youth may be taken into custody without a warrant by a police officer. The police officer shall then either release the youth into the custody of the youth’s guardian upon their written promise to bring the child before the court when requested by the court or deliver the child to shelter care.

Can a youth file for emancipation: There is no general statute that addresses the process of emancipation, but the state does recognize emancipation in other statutes.

Pennsylvania  Age of a minor: Any person under 18 years of age.

Runaway status: No specific definition, but could be classified as a dependent child. A dependent child is, among other things, a child who is without a legal guardian, has been abandoned by the child’s guardian, or has committed acts of disobedience relating to the lawful and reasonable commands and control of the child’s guardian. Runaway youth are classified as “dependent child.”

Is running away a status offense: No, a runaway youth may be taken into custody without a warrant by a police officer into the custody of the youth’s guardian, deliver the youth to the court, or deliver the youth to a shelter care facility. The police officer shall then notify the youth’s guardian and either release the youth.

Can a youth file for emancipation: There is no general statute that addresses the process of emancipation, but the state does recognize emancipation in other statutes. An emancipated minor includes the following: “has married, entered the armed services of the United States, become employed and self-subsisting, or has otherwise become independent from the care and control of her parent, guardian, or custodian.”

We hope you found this helpful.   For more information, connect with NRS at 1800RUNAWAY.org via chat, email, forum or text at 66008.

 

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