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LGBTQ Youth Face Grim Reality in State Care

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth often flee abuse in foster care only to face homelessness and exploitation. Even in New York City, birthplace of the modern gay rights movement, some 78 percent of LGBTQ youth are removed or run away from foster care placements because of the hostilities they face.

This alarming reality was brought to light at a panel discussion on September 18, where members of Children’s Rights and advocacy group Lambda Legal joined a small crowd in Manhattan to discuss the wide-ranging vulnerabilities of LGBTQ youth in state custody systems. The event was hosted and moderated by artist and philanthropist Molly Gochman.

While there have been significant strides made for the LGBTQ community over the past year in the United States, panelists emphasized that no federal protections currently exist for those in juvenile justice systems or state care.

“When you’re talking about children in foster care, you’re already talking about an incredibly vulnerable group,” said Christina Wilson Remlin, senior staff attorney at Children’s Rights. “The system itself is silent and in being silent it condones discrimination, abuse and neglect of these young people.”

Panelists also emphasized the need for better training and policies.

“As shocking as it may be, nowhere does it say you cannot discriminate against a young person in out-of-home care because of their sexual orientation,” said Currey Cook, senior attorney with Lambda Legal and director of the Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project.

“You would think that these foster care systems are taking these children in protecting them and helping them heal … but instead kids are being tortured,” said Sandy Santana, executive director of Children’s Rights. “This is a critical human rights issue. We are looking to shine a very bright light on systems that have discriminatory and non-affirming policies for LGBTQ youth.”

Read additional articles in Notes From the Field, the Children’s Rights Newsletter: