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Children’s Rights Releases Report on COVID-19’s Impact on LGBTQ+ Youth in Child Welfare Systems

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 16, 2020

Contact: Camilla Jenkins, 646-216-3311, cjenkins@childrensrights.org

Children’s Rights Releases Report on COVID-19’s Impact on LGBTQ+ Youth in Child Welfare Systems

(June 16, 2020) – As the COVID-19 crisis continues to present challenges for youth in government systems, Children’s Rights has released “Fostering Inequity: How COVID-19 Amplifies Dangers For LGBTQ+ Youth in Care.” The report describes how the unique risks LGBTQ+ youth already face in child welfare systems are magnified by the pandemic and proposes practical steps child welfare agencies and government can take to mitigate them.

LGBTQ+ youth are over-represented in child welfare systems, which even under normal circumstances can be fraught environments. LGBTQ+ young people in out-of-home care are disproportionately young people of color and therefore exposed to overlapping inequalities associated with that intersectionality. LGBTQ+ youth are at higher risk of being rejected by their families and experiencing discrimination, institutionalization, and abuse in foster care. They are more likely to age out without achieving permanency and to become homeless, live in poverty, suffer from mental health disorders, and experience chronic illness.

As an earlier report by Children’s Rights shows, the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth in child welfare systems is further compromised by a troubling lack of identity-affirming laws, policies, and protections in most jurisdictions nationwide. In addition, the federal government and at least 10 states have recently introduced policies that allow for discrimination against LGBTQ+ foster and adoptive parents, and roll back protections for LGBTQ+ youth nationally.

“At a time when some elected officials are pursuing discrimination as policy and the inequalities that LGBTQ+ youth confront are escalating, the arrival of COVID-19 has put them at even greater risk,” said Christina Wilson Remlin, Lead Counsel at Children’s Rights. “Our report outlines the steps that need to be taken now to make systems safer for them. In the absence of swift and meaningful action, the ongoing health and economic crisis will have a significant negative impact on LGBTQ+ youth for years to come.”

The report includes compelling testimony from several young people currently or formerly in foster care who identify as LGBTQ+. One of them is Jasper, who describes how COVID-19 is isolating youth from their peers and denying them access to supportive adults and services:

“Some of my friends are in unsafe living situations. They rely on LGBTQ drop-in centers to go to and be able to be themselves and get the resources they need. Now that they’re closed, my friends are in a lot of danger. These drop-in centers also offer safer sex supplies, chest binders, and other gender-affirming supplies and now my community can’t access them as easily. LGBTQ drop-in centers are not just a place where you can be yourself; as a queer, homeless person, you know you can get your resources there and be affirmed at the same time.”

Key Findings

The report highlights how the discrimination, institutionalization, and abuse that LGBTQ+ youth already face are exacerbated by COVID-19:

  • 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 during economic crises.
  • Placement in congregate care: The number of foster homes available is dwindling, forcing more youth into group homes and other facilities where they face a greater risk of COVID infection.
  • 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 pandemic’s closure of college and university campuses.
  • Heightened health risks: LGBTQ+ youth face increased discrimination and a lack of understanding from health care workers, making them less likely to seek medical attention.
  • Poverty and unemployment: LGBTQ+ youth who had already experienced alarming rates of need and instability are likely to be disproportionately impacted by the economic downturn.

Recommendations

The report outlines steps that child welfare agencies and federal and state government can take to address issues caused directly by COVID-19 and at the same time rectify conditions that have long put LGBTQ+ youth at risk, including:

  • Immediately extending the time older youth may remain in care and suspending all school and work requirements to receive services.
  • Prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE) in out-of-home care, including an explicit prohibition against “conversion therapy.”
  • Implementing federal nondiscrimination laws that protect LGBTQ+ youth and improve information collection processes to inform policymakers about how best to care for LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Implementing state and local nondiscrimination laws that protect LGBTQ+ youth and ensure equitable access to services.

For more information and to access the full report, please visit www.childrensrights.org/fostering-inequity-2020-report/.

 

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About Children’s Rights: Every day, children are harmed in America’s broken child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and healthcare systems. Through relentless strategic advocacy and legal action, we hold governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy. Children’s Rights, a national non-profit organization, has made a lasting impact for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children. For more information, please visit www.childrensrights.org.

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