The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) and a coalition of child welfare advocates and experts have joined to issue “Recommended Practices to Promote the Safety and Well-Being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth and Youth at Risk of or Living with HIV in Child Welfare Settings.” LGBTQ youth are often overrepresented and underserved in child welfare systems across the country. They may also experience harassment, rejection, and otherwise unsafe placements. The “Recommended Practices” build on previous research and standards developed during the last decade to offer guidance to the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (ACYF), as well as state and local child welfare agencies to ensure safe and appropriate care that addresses the unique needs of LGBTQ children in the child welfare system. Last spring, ACYF Commissioner Bryan Samuels issued an information memorandum encouraging child welfare agencies to support the needs of LGBTQ youth in foster care and promote the inclusion of LGBT parents as potential foster and/or adoptive parents.
The “Recommended Practices” provides examples in a range of areas. They include:
- Adopting and implementing written policies that prohibit discrimination against and harassment of youth, staff and foster and adoptive families, ranging from physical violence to denial of services to the use of slurs, on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or HIV status;
- Treating LGBTQ youth with respect and competence;
- Ensuring effective child protection practices that correctly identify abuse and neglect of LGBTQ youth;
- Ensuring effective services that address family rejection of LGBTQ youth and help promote reunification;
- Mandatory LGBTQ competency training to all agency employees and volunteers;
- Mandatory training for staff and foster and adoptive parents in caring for a LGBTQ child;
- Ensuring safe and supportive foster and adoptive placements for LGBTQ youth;
- Ensuring the safety and emotional development of LGBTQ youth in congregate care;
- Access to appropriate medical and mental health care services for LGBTQ youth and youth at risk of or living with HIV;
- Access to safe educational services;
- Support for LGBTQ and Gender-Nonconforming youth;
- Access to LGBTQ community programs and services;
- Adopting confidentiality policies;
- Ensuring that faith-based providers working with LGBTQ youth provide competent and nonjudgmental services;
- Collecting and evaluating data to determine accessibility and outcomes specific to LGBTQ youth.
The overall goal is to have agencies use these practices to increase their knowledge of LGBTQ issues, influence their organizational priorities and decisions, and set higher standards for the services provided to LGBTQ youth in their care.