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Report Exposes the Effects of COVID-19 on LGBTQ+ Youth in Care

This Pride Month marks the 50th anniversary of annual LGBTQ+ Pride traditions. But Pride 2020 differs from previous years – with celebrations canceled or moved to virtual space as people are forced to continue to social distance.

For many LGBTQ+ young people involved in the child welfare system, this means they are living in unsupportive environments without safe spaces or resources to turn to. With the backdrop of COVID-19, LGBTQ+ youth are even more unseen.

Even under normal circumstances, child welfare systems can be a fraught environment for LGBTQ+ youth. Like all young people in these systems, they must cope with the abuse and neglect they may have suffered at the hands of their caregivers. But LGBTQ+ youth are at higher risk of additional harms, including discrimination, institutionalization, and even abuse within the system.

Today we’re sharing a new resource, Fostering Inequity: How COVID-19 Amplifies Dangers for LGBTQ+ Youth in Care, exposing how the discrimination, institutionalization, and abuse that LGBTQ+ youth already face is exacerbated by COVID-19. The report lifts up the voices of youth and offers solutions to protect them.

Some of the key findings include:

  • Heightened risk of abuse: A large percentage of LGBTQ+ youth have reported physical violence at the hands of a family member, and child abuse is known to increase in an economic downturn.
  • Placement in congregate care: The number of foster homes available is dwindling, forcing more youth into group homes where they face a greater risk of infection, discrimination, and abuse.
  • Homelessness: Older youth in care, or who recently aged out of care, have been confronted with housing insecurity and disruptions to their educations due to the closure of college and university campuses.
  • Heightened health risks: LGBTQ+ youth face increased discrimination and lack of understanding from health care workers, making them less likely to seek medical attention.
  • Poverty and unemployment: Youth in systems who had already experienced alarming rates of need and instability are now even more likely to be disproportionately impacted by the economic downturn.

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LGBTQ+ Rights Under Fire

Even as we celebrate Pride Month and LGBTQ+ youth this June, elected officials continue to pursue discriminatory policies while inequalities that confront LGBTQ+ youth increase. Just last Friday, a final rule was released on the 4th anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, rolling back nondiscrimination protections from the Affordable Care Act, wiping out transgender health protections. Lead Counsel Christina Wilson Remlin was quoted in the New York Daily News opposing the ruling, calling the development “yet another move by the Trump administration to deny LGBTQ people their constitutionally guaranteed rights.” 

In 2017, Children’s Rights partnered with Lambda Legal and the Center for the Study of Social Policy to release Safe Havens: Closing the Gap Between Recommended Practice and Reality for Transgender and Gender-Expansive Youth in Out-of-Home Care. Check out the interactive maps showing which states do and do not offer provisions protecting LGBTQ youth from discrimination.

At least 10 states have laws that allow for discrimination against prospective foster and adoptive parents who identify as LGBTQ+.

If our child welfare system’s policies and practices are left unchecked, it is clear this vicious cycle embedded in discriminatory practices will continue. Children’s Rights will continue to disrupt these systems and put children first. Now, more than ever, LGBTQ+ young people must be protected.

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