Post submitted by Jean-Phillipe Regis, Children, Youth & Families Program Manager
This week California Governor Jerry Brown signed a landmark bill that establishes critical protections for transgender youth in California’s foster care system. SB 731 requires that all youth in out-of-home care, including those who identify as transgender, be placed according to their gender identity, regardless of the gender listed on their official documents.
For transgender and gender-expansive youth, these protections can make a huge difference. HRC’s 2012 youth survey showed that transgender and other gender-expansive youth experience disproportionate challenges when it comes to their personal well-being, lower levels of social support, and higher levels of harassment from peers, often related to their gender identity or expression.
Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced the bill, which amends the Foster Care Bill of Rights to include much needed guidance to child welfare workers responsible for placement.
“Entering the foster care system is challenging for all youth,” Leno explained. “But it can actually be damaging for young people whose identities are not affirmed by their caregivers and peers.”
Earlier this year, HRC Foundation released a research issue brief in partnership with FosterClub that highlighted LGBTQ youths' increased challenges with bias and discrimination while in foster care and the lack of affirming foster placements.
The previous version of the Foster Care Bill of Rights offered a number of protections to youth in foster care along lines of races, ethnicity, religion and other identities. Until now in California, and still across most of the country, a child welfare worker could place a transgender youth in a non-affirming and potentially traumatizing home. SB 731 ensures that transgender youth in foster care are now protected against that dangerous possibility.
Several advocacy groups, including Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center, co-sponsored the law. It will go into effect on January 1, 2016.
SB 731 is a step toward increasing protections for transgender youth who already experience disparate treatment in the foster care system. As child welfare agencies in California and other places work to include gender identity in their placement decision process, HRC’s All Children – All Families project can serve as a strong resource.
We applaud the state of California for taking action to protect transgender youth in the foster care system and hope that other states follow this example.