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New guide identifies strategies for addressing challenges faced by LGBTQ youth in state care
ATLANTA – Child welfare providers in Georgia should implement a range of best practices in order to better meet the needs of LGBTQ youth, according to a new guide entitled Fostering Family, a Guide to Working Well with LGBTQ Youth in Georgia’s Child Welfare System. The guide was co-authored by a group of child welfare organizations and experts, including The Health Initiative, Children’s Rights, Georgia Equality, and others. The guide shines a light on the unique needs of LGBTQ youth and makes specific recommendations for how the system can best serve them.
The guide focuses on Georgia, but the recommendations have nationwide application given that LGBTQ youth are dramatically overrepresented in child welfare, foster care, juvenile justice, and other state systems. In these environments, they are more likely to be discriminated against and face barriers in accessing appropriate medical and mental healthcare. In Georgia alone, it is estimated that over 2,700 youth in the foster care system are LGBTQ.
“This guide will help child welfare providers in Georgia better understand the needs of LGBTQ youth, strengthen standards of care, and help ensure that all people who interact with the child welfare system are trained on how to effectively and respectfully work with LGBTQ youth,” said Linda Ellis, Executive Director of The Health Initiative. “Children in our state’s care are our responsibility – and that means we must ensure that the systems serving our most vulnerable kids are as effective as possible.”
“As someone who advocates for foster youth across the country, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges that result from the absence of a strong legal framework to protect LGBTQ children” said Christina Wilson Remlin, Lead Counsel at Children’s Rights, a national advocacy organization fighting for the rights of youth in foster care. “If states like Georgia continue to move toward adopting comprehensive non-discrimination policies and mandate appropriate training, young people will have a much better chance at living happy, healthy, productive lives.”
The guide highlights policies, training, and best practices to support LGBTQ youths’ wellbeing while combatting homelessness and mistreatment, including recommendations for collecting relevant data and specific strategies to empower case managers to more effectively work with LGBTQ youth. Recommendations include:
- Non-discrimination policies: All agencies serving youth involved in the child welfare system should create and post non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
- Room, Board & Watchful Oversight (RBWO) Minimum Standards: RBWO Minimum Standards determine the minimum level of care for child welfare providers with state contracts. These minimum standards should be expanded to further protect LGBTQ youth, including (but not limited to) adding LGBTQ-specific training, and adding sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as protected classes.
- State Law: Georgia stands out from other states in its lack of protection for LGBTQ people of all ages. Youth involved in the child welfare system are no exception. The guide recommends legislative changes that would provide protections for LGBTQ youth.
For more information and to view the guide, click here.
About The Health Initiative: The Health Initiative provides education, advocacy, support and improved access to care to Georgia’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community. Founded in 1996, we are the largest non-profit organization in the southeast devoted solely to the health and wellness of LGBTQ people. For more information, please visit thehealthinitiative.org/.
About Children’s Rights: Fighting to transform America’s failing child welfare, juvenile justice, education and healthcare systems is one of the most important social justice movements of our time. Through strategic advocacy and legal action, Children’s Rights holds state governments accountable to America’s most vulnerable children. A national watchdog organization since 1995, Children’s Rights fights to protect and defend the rights of young people, because we believe that children have the right to the best possible futures. For more information, please visit www.childrensrights.org.