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In Hennepin County, they're no longer state wards but 'legacy youth'

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The Hennepin County District Court is changing how the court refers to young people whose parents had their rights terminated, usually due to drug and alcohol issues or abuse.

Instead of being called "wards of the state," the young people will be referred to as "legacy youth."

The juvenile court system oversees about 300 young people in Hennepin County and helps them move towards adoption.

Changing the name is symbolic, said Judge Hilary Caligiuri, but it's meant to acknowledge what these young people have gone through.  

"These are beautiful kids. They're resilient, they're motivated, they're incredibly mature," she said. "And we thought they deserved a name as beautiful as they are."

Judge David Piper, who is the presiding judge in the juvenile section, suggested the court rethink using the word "ward," according to Caligiuri.

"It's impersonal, it's outdated, it doesn't do the kids justice," Caligiuri said of the term. "That's what got us looking at it."

Caligiuri asked the young people who are part of the program for suggestions. Within two hours, one 17-year-old named Skylar had sent the judge a note.

"We should be called 'Legacy Youth'," she wrote. "We are in fact the ones who got out. The ones who made it out and into a better place than we were before. We have been through abuse of all kinds and neglect. We deserve to be called legacies."

Skylar, who the court identified by just her first name, wrote that the young people overseen by the court also deserve to be called "youth" instead of children.

"When you have been a kid raising yourself and taking care of your drunk, drugged-out parents, being called a kid... sucks," she wrote. "You have your whole life taken care of yourself, just like any other adult would."