About 40% of all homeless youth in the US identify as LGBTI. Yet, state governments aren’t taking this large number into account when putting together their laws regarding child welfare, juvenile justice, and homelessness systems.
A new comprehensive analysis shows how states are failing trans and gender noncomforming adolescents who are in the child welfare, juvenile justice, and homeless youth systems (‘out-of-home’ care systems’).
This was published yesterday, the report‘Safe Havens: Closing the Gap Between Recommended Practice and Reality for Transgender and Gender-Expansive Youth in Out-of-Home Care’ by Lambda Legal, Children’s Rights, and the Center for the Study of Social Policy.
New York and California are the only states, according to the report, that have comprehensive protections in place for LGBTI youth in their out-of-home care systems. Only three states define sex/gender to include gender identity, and only four states regulate guidance for placing transgender youth according with their gender identity in out-of-home care.
Moreover, only 27 states plus D.C. include sexual orientation and gender identity in their list of protections for the child welfare system. Meanwhile, 24 states say absolutely nothing in their policies about gender expression in their child welfare systems, 34 states don’t mention gender expression protection in their policies for homeless/runaway youth, and a whopping 40 states don’t mention this issue in their policies for the juvenile justice system.
The states at the bottom of the list when it comes to protecting LGBTI youth in out-of-home care include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Virginia. While Georgia does have some policies in place to protect LGBTI youth in the juvenile justice system, states like Alaska and North Carolina offer no protections at all on the basis of gender identification or sexual orientation.
The Safe Havens report offers some suggestions states can implement to do a better job of protecting LGBTI youth moving forward. These recommendations include:
- States must adopt comprehensive and explicit statutory, regulatory, and policy protections for TGNC (Trans & Gender Nonconforming) youth, such as defining sex (or gender) as inclusive of gender identity; requiring placement in accordance with gender identity; eliminating sex (or gender) from regulations regarding clothing, grooming, and expression; among others.
- Agencies and providers must require affirming placement and classification procedures; promote healthy gender identity development and expression; mandate affirming gender-responsive programming and activities while in care; and provide clear and ongoing training and competency requirements for staff.
- Advocates and administrators must utilize existing protections to ensure that children and youth are treated fairly, while proactively working to develop law and policies so protection is explicit and complete.
- TGNC youth must be engaged to ensure that their voices are part of policy development and so their experiences can serve as examples to guide life-changing system improvements.
How do you think your city or state does when it comes to protecting LGBTI youth? What would you like to see improved?