LGBT Youth In Foster Care Face Bias, Discrimination; HRC Calls for Action

by HRC Staff

New Issue Brief, Released During National Foster Care Month, Details Realities That Conspire to Put LGBTQ Youth In Danger of Abuse, Violence and Homelessness

WASHINGTON - Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, in partnership with FosterClub, a national network for youth in foster care, released an issue brief detailing the hostile treatment experienced by many LGBT and questioning youth in foster care, and the shocking lack of laws and policies protecting them.

"Child welfare is built around the pillars of safety, permanency and well-being, and our job is to ensure that LGBTQ youth have the same opportunities and access to homes that provide all three,” said Ellen Kahn, director of the HRC Foundation’s Children, Youth and Families Program. “Safe and affirming families are key to LGBTQ youth succeeding and thriving. Through our extensive work with adoption and foster care agencies across the United States, we know that more and more agencies are looking for ways to do better by LGBTQ youth, who are disproportionately represented in foster care. It’s time for the system to do better for these youth."

"It's a sad reality that most of the stories we hear about how LGBTQ youth are treated in foster care are pretty grim, " said Celeste Bodner, executive director of FosterClub. "Along with HRC, the young leaders of FosterClub recognize the urgent need to address the unequal treatment their LGBTQ peers face in foster care."

Today’s call to action comes as the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance plans a morning hearing on reducing the nation’s reliance on foster care group homes, and as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, prepares to reintroduce the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, legislation that would help open more safe and affirming foster and adoptive homes to LGBTQ children. U.S. Reps. John Lewis, D-GA, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL, will introduce a companion measure in the House.

Research has shown that LGBTQ youth are over-represented in foster care, with many having fled or been removed from their birth homes because of abuse and neglect, as well as rejection because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.  And because of the shortage of foster and adoptive families willing and available to provide homes to LGBTQ youth, they are more frequently placed in group foster homes than non-LGBTQ youth.

“HRC applauds the leadership of Sen. Gillibrand, and Representatives Lewis and Ros-Lehtinen, in re-introducing this important legislation,” said Kahn, who also oversees HRC’sAll Children--All Families program, which works with adoption and foster care agencies to create inclusive climates for LGBTQ youth and prospective families.  “It is key to removing discriminatory and arbitrary barriers between thousands of children and loving, safe homes.”

In his National Foster Care Month proclamation, President Obama said this: “All young people, regardless of what they look like, which religion they follow, who they love, of the gender they identify with, deserve the chance to dream and grow in a loving, permanent home.”

HRC and FosterClub join other LGBTQ youth advocates in calling for federal, state and municipal agencies, as well as agency administrators and child welfare professionals to take action to secure safe, inclusive loving homes for LGBTQ youth. Actions include:

  • Implement LGBTQ Non-Discrimination Policies Protecting Youth and Prospective Foster and Adoptive Parents
  • Pass Federal Legislation Prohibiting Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination By Foster Agencies Receiving Taxpayer Funding
  • Require That Youth Service Providers Receive LGBTQ Cultural Competency Training
  • Implement State and Local Foster Children’s Bills of Rights
  • Include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Agency Data Collection Systems

Only 13 states and the District of Columbia have explicit laws or policies in place to protect foster youth from discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. Seven additional states explicitly protect foster youth from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but not gender identity.

To learn more, download the issue brief here.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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