Emancipation process needed
The most compelling argument for the need to establish a legal process for emancipation are the so-called "lost boys" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Some 400 boys, ages 13-17, have been kicked out of their Hildale, Washington County, community in recent years because their church, which practices polygamy, is eliminating the "competition" for wives, according to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. The practice leaves the boys, many of whom have never been away from home, have incomplete educations and few work skills, in legal limbo. Without parents, these boys cannot enroll in school, obtain medical care, get drivers' licenses or obtain public assistance benefits. These boys don't legally qualify for foster care because their parents have not relinquished their parental rights. Because of their lifestyles, the parents are reluctant to have any contact with government officials.

Creating this process would not open a floodgate of emancipated minors. Rep. Roz McGee, D-Salt Lake, who is sponsoring HB30 to establish the legal process for teens ages 16 and up, says her research suggests only 12 to 15 children would seek emancipation each year. Then, the minors would have to prove they could take care of themselves.

McGee says the bill would also assist homeless youths who have fled their homes or are no longer welcome there who need services but under their fuzzy legal status cannot access them.

Emancipation is hardly an ideal condition for youths, who would fare better with nurturing adults to guide them in their lives. Adults who bring children into the world have a responsibility to rear them until they are at least 18 years old and often longer. But there are some occasions where minors are forced out of their homes such as the Hildale "Lost Boys" or feel they cannot continue to live in those homes. Those children need a better option than existing in legal limbo.
Originally published Monday, January 23, 2006