With New Rule, Biden Administration Strengthens Protections for LGBTQI+ Youth in Foster Care System

by Delphine Luneau

State and Tribal Foster Care Agencies Will Be Required to Place LGBTQI+ Children in Safe, Supportive Settings that Do Not Practice Conversion Therapy

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — is hailing the release today of a final rule from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that directs state and tribal agencies across the country to fully implement existing protections for LGBTQI+ youth in foster care. The Children’s Bureau of the Administration for Children and Families (a division of HHS), which regulates child welfare programs run by state and tribal agencies receiving federal funds, proposed these comments in draft form in September 2023.

In response to the rule, David Stacy, Human Rights Campaign Vice President for Government Affairs, released the following statement:

“Children in the foster care system face a lot of uncertainty, and LGBTQI+ children even more so. No child should worry that if they share their sexual orientation or gender identity that they’ll lose their ability to have a safe home, or be subjected to discrimination, harassment, or even the abuse of discredited ‘conversion therapy’ efforts. LGBTQI+ young folks, like all young folks, deserve safe and stable out-of-home care and these rules will help to ensure that they get it. We commend the Biden administration for this important work to address the disproportionately negative experiences that LGBTQI+ youth currently experience in our foster care system.”

ACF makes it clear in this rule that all placements must be safe and appropriate for all children, including LGBTQI+ children, and it specifically requires that the agency receiving the federal funds must ensure that family placements are free from harassment, mistreatment, and abuse, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Further, it creates a mechanism for families who wish to do so to qualify as Designated Placements for LGBTQI+ children, which requires specific training and provision of appropriate resources that support the health and well-being of the young person such as mental health care. Every LGBTQI+ person in the foster care system must have access to a Designated Placement and an agency must have an adequate number of Designated Placements available to meet the need. Children fourteen and older, and other children known by agencies to be LGBTQI+, must receive information about how to request a Designated Placement, how to receive additional services to help an existing placement become a Designated Placement, and the protections they have against retaliation.

Studies have shown that LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in foster care:

The HRC Foundation All Children - All Families (ACAF) program partners with more than 172 foster care/adoption agencies, working to improve the services they provide to children in foster care and prospective foster and adoptive parents. These organizations serve more than 1.4 million clients annually in 43 states and employ more than 30,500 employees. Since 2007, thousands of child welfare professionals across the U.S. have used ACAF’s resources to enhance their efforts to achieve safety, permanency and well-being for LGBTQ+ youth and families; in 2023 alone, ACAF provided over 25,000 hours of professional development to almost 11,000 child welfare professionals in all 50 states.

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

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