Horrific case in Connecticut raises national concerns during Foster Care Awareness Month
WASHINGTON – A case of horrible neglect, abuse, and sexual violence, followed by the incarceration of the transgender minor in an adult prison has renewed calls by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for stronger laws to protect LGBT youth in foster care and more training for child welfare professionals. The details surfaced in an op-ed in the New York Times by Harvey Fierstein this weekend. Fierstein recounts the deeply disturbing set of circumstances of “Jane Doe,” whose father was in prison and mother addicted to drugs. From the age of five, according to the op-ed, Jane Doe was shuffled between family members where she endured years of severe abuse and violence, followed by foster care with included ongoing mistreatment. Jane Doe has become violent herself, according to another op-ed by Connecticut Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz and the State of Connecticut has said that it has no choice but to place her in solitary confinement in the mental ward of an adult prison. The story of Jane Doe was previously reported by a number of publications including The Advocate.
“The cruel reality is that LGBT youth in foster care often face a horrific set of circumstances ranging from ignorance to sexual violence," said HRC President Chad Griffin. “The appalling details of Jane Doe's young life should serve as a clarion call for child welfare professionals going forward that stronger laws, training and increased understanding are necessary.”
It is imperative that the nation’s child welfare systems have the resources and expertise necessary to care for the most injured, the most vulnerable young people, like "Jane Doe," so that a prison or the streets are not the only option; appropriate treatment and ongoing support are a must. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation's All Children-All Families Program provides training to child welfare agencies across the nation to help safeguard LGBT youth who are falling through the cracks. Many other organizations at the national and local levels have developed effective training programs and other resources to help child welfare agencies insure that LGBT youth are safe, supported, and have the same opportunities for permanency and stability as do other youth.
“No young person should endure abuse and mistreatment at the hands of their parents or caregivers, yet we know this continues to be a reality for many of our most vulnerable children,” said Ellen Kahn, director of the HRC Children, Youth, and Families Program and a professional social worker. “The heartbreaking story of “Jane Doe” is a powerful reminder that we need foster parents, caregivers, and all adults who are charged with looking out for the best interests of children to recommit themselves to ensuring they are educated and equipped to support LGBT youth who may be in their family or in their system of care.”
LGBT youth continue to struggle as they enter the child welfare system, where agency staff members often lack the skills and knowledge to provide them with the services they need and deserve. They sometimes face abuse and hostility from their peers, and even worse, from the adults who are charged with caring for them. The new ACAF training curriculum includes a module on “safety, permanency and well-being for LGBT youth in out-of-home care,” and HRC has a cadre of highly skilled, certified trainers with deep expertise on this subject.
“LGBT adults and our allies are desperately needed and wanted as foster parents, mentors, and advocates. There are nearly 400,000 children and youth in our foster care system, so if there is room in your heart and home to make a difference, the time is now,” said Kahn.
Learn more about the All Children – All Families initiative at www.hrc.org/acaf.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.