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Agenda . Improving Cultural Competence to Better Serve Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth in the Child Welfare System CWLA 2009 National Conference February 25 th , 2009 8:30 AM – 10 :00 AM

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  • Improving Cultural Competence to Better Serve Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth in the Child Welfare System

  • CWLA 2009 National Conference

  • February 25th, 2009

  • 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM

  • Introduction to the Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project, Ice Breaker

  • Basic Framework and Vocabulary

  • Understanding Myths and Stereotypes about LGBTQ People

  • Risk Data and Experiences of LGBTQ Youth

  • Assessing Individuals’ and Agencies’ Levels of Acceptance

  • Best Practice Tips

  • Policies and Laws

  • Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project Resources

  • Evaluation

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

Youth in out of home care project mission
Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project Mission

  • Raise awareness and advance reform on behalf of LGBTQ youth in child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and homeless LGBTQ youth.

  • Increase the will and capacity of youth-serving organizations to prepare and support LGBTQ youth.

  • Work with LGBTQ youth as well as social workers, case managers, administrators and child welfare, juvenile justice and homeless services advocates nationwide to ensure safe and affirming services for LGBTQ youth.

Ice breaker introducing my partner
Ice Breaker – Introducing My Partner

  • Get together in pairs.

  • Interview your partner and write down his/her answers

Basic framework vocabulary
Basic Framework - Vocabulary

Basic Framework - Vocabulary

Basic Framework - Vocabulary

Basic Framework - Vocabulary

Basic framework vocabulary1
Basic Framework - Vocabulary

Basic Framework - Vocabulary

Myths stereotypes v facts realities about transgender people
Myths/Stereotypes v. Facts/Realities about Transgender People

  • Transgender identity is a modern thing.

  • Trans people hate their bodies, and all want to have surgery.

  • Genderqueer people are just too scared to transition.

  • About 80% of people who crossdress are heterosexual white men, many of whom are married and have children.

  • In order to change your legal gender at the federal level, you have to prove that you have had some form of irreversible sex reassignment surgery.

  • People who identify as transgender or gendernonconforming can have any sexual identity, orientation or preference

  • Trans people are confused.

  • Being trans is unnatural.

  • A lot of tension exists between parts of the lesbian community and the transgender community

  • All transgender people are really transsexual, but some are just scared to go through with the change.

  • You can have more than one different trans identity and/or expression.

  • SOFFAs are not targeted for anti-transgender harassment or discrimination

  • According to a publication by GenderPAC, over 90% of the youth victims of murders motivated by gender identity and/or expression are people of color.

  • About 50% of the U.S. population currently lives in areas where they are legally protected against discrimination based on gender identity and/or expression.

Lgbtq youth risk data
LGBTQ Youth Risk Data

  • At Home:

  • 26% of gay male youth were forced to leave[1].

  • 31% of men and 29% of women in in a Philadelphia study reported experiencing harassment or physical violence from family members[2].

  • At School:

  • LGBTQ students in a Massachusetts study were significantly more likely than other students to have been bullied or threatened or injured with a weapon at school[3].

  • LGBT students were five times more likely to report having skipped school in the last month because of safety concerns than the general population of students[4].

    [1]See C. Sullivan, Kids, Courts and Queers: Lesbian and Gay Youth in the Juvenile Justice and Foster Care Systems, 6 Law & Sexuality 31, 57 (1996) (citation omitted). One study found that 42% of LGBT youth in out-of-home settings left home—or were thrown out—because of conflict related to their sexual orientation or gender identity; See S. Wilber et al., CWLA Best Practice Guidelines for Serving LGBT Youth in Out-of-Home Care 4 (2006).

  • [2]See L. Gross et. al., The 1999-2000 Study of Discrimination and Violence Against Lesbian and Gay Men in Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 9 (2000) (citation omitted).

  • [3]See, e.g., B. Hanlon, 2003 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results 43 (2004).

  • [4]See J. Kosciw et al., The 2007 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools xiii (2008).

Lgbtq youth risk data1
LGBTQ Youth Risk Data

Additional Risk Factors

Substance abuse

Unsafe sex, sexually transmitted infections including HIV


Depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviors [5]

[5]See, e.g., 2003 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results at 29, 49, 65; M. Langlois, Suicide Prevention Current Trends – Risk Factors and Intervention Strategies for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Help Starts Here Website, available at (last visited March 18, 2008).

Lgbtq youth risk data2
LGBTQ Youth Risk Data

Rejection & Neglect at Home

Unsafe Schools

Additional Risk Factors

Homeless Youth:

20-40% LGBTQ

Juvenile Justice System

Foster Care

LGBTQ Youth Disproportionate Representation

Lgbtq youth in out of home care
LGBTQ Youth in Out-of-Home Care

  • LGBTQ youth in face:

    • abuse and violence from their peers

    • discrimination and abuse from staff

    • the use of unethical “conversion therapies”

    • isolation from other young people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity

    • multiple placements

    • poor prospects for finding permanent families

    • barriers to family reunification efforts [6]

    • [6]See, e.g., Child Welfare League of America & Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, Out of the Margins: A Report on Regional Listening Forums Highlighting the Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth in Care 19-23, 26-27, 70-71 (2006). See also G. Mallon, We Don’t Exactly Get the Welcome Wagon: The Experiences of Gay and Lesbian Adolescents in the Child Welfare System (1998).

Foster Care

Lgbtq youth in out of home care1
LGBTQ Youth in Out-of-Home Care

Juvenile Justice System

  • nonviolent survival crimes (prostitution, theft and drug sales)

  • Once in placement, they face:

    • discrimination

    • physical, verbal and sexual abuse from peers and staff

    • isolation because they are LGBTQ

    • arbitrary placement with sex offenders [7]

  • [7]See National Center for Lesbian Rights, LGBTQ Youth in the Juvenile Justice System, available at =issue_youth_docsDownloads (last visited September 14, 2008); See also CWLA Best Practice Guidelines at 5; Child Welfare League of America & Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, Keeping LGBTQ Youth Safe in Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Placements, in Getting Down to Basics: Tools to Support LGBTQ Youth in Care (2006), available at

Lgbtq youth in out of home care2
LGBTQ Youth in Out-of-Home Care

Homeless LGBTQ Youth

  • Heightened risk for physical or sexual victimization and other negative outcomes compared to non-LGBT homeless youth [8]

  • 65% of 400 homeless LGBTQ youth reported having been in foster care in the past [9]

  • Youth who fear placement in foster care may “couch surf”[10]

  • Survival behaviors that can lead to involvement with the juvenile justice system [11]

    [8]B.N. Cochran, et al., Challenges Faced by Homeless Sexual Minorities: Comparison of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Homeless Adolescents with their Heterosexual Counterparts, 92 Am. J. Pub. Health 773 (2002). See also J.M. Van Leeuwen et al. Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Homeless Youth: An Eight-City Public Health Perspective,85 Child Welfare151 (2006).

    [9]H. Berberet, Putting the Pieces Together for Queer Youth: A Model of Integrated Assessment of Need and Program Planning, 85 Child Welfare Journal 373 (2006).

    [10]See Out of the Margins at 36; N. Ray, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: An Epidemic of Homelessness 65, 90 (2006).

    [11]See An Epidemic of Homelessness at 55-58, 77-78; LGBTQ Youth in the Juvenile Justice System at 2.

Lgbtq youth in out of home care3
LGBTQ Youth in Out-of-Home Care

Transgender Youth

  • targets of abuse and violence, including rape, from both staff and peers

  • denied medically recommended hormone treatment

  • their gender identity is not respected in several key areas, including housing, clothing, grooming choices and name and pronoun choices

  • professionals should be educated about transgender issues that are distinct from LGB issues, including, for example, diagnoses of gender identity disorder[12]

    [12]SeeOut of the Margins at 80, 84-86, 88-89; Working with Transgender Youth in Getting Down to Basics: Tools to Support LGBTQ Youth in Care (2006), available at

Lgbtq youth in out of home care4
LGBTQ Youth in Out-of-Home Care

  • In their own words:

  • I got jumped by a bunch of guys in my group home, and when I told the Director, he said, “Well if you weren’t a faggot, they wouldn’t beat you up.” [13]

  • I was placed in a co-ed group home. When I was shown to my room, I asked why I was being put on the boys’ floor. They said, “you’re not a boy? Well we can’t put you on the girls’ floor looking like that.” So they made me sleep on a couch on a landing in between the two floors. [14]

  • After coming out to one of my foster families, I was told I was going to hell and forced to go to church with them. I became very closeted after that and didn’t tell any other foster families I was a lesbian. I was in 22 different homes; most of them were very religious. [15]

  • [13] See Out of the Margins at 18.

  • [14]Id. at 23.

  • [15] Id. at 114.


  • I would be comfortable knowing my child’s school guidance counselor is gay.

  • If I found out my child was lesbian or gay, I would be comfortable telling friends and other family members.

  • I would be comfortable dating a bisexual person.

  • It might bother me if someone thought I was gay.

  • I would feel comfortable if my young son wanted to wear dresses or play with dolls.

Legal Rights

  • Constitutional Right To Safety

  • Grounded in the liberty interest embedded in the substantive Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment

  • Applies to both Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice contexts

  • Affirmative right that imposes a corresponding duty on the state to provide protection from harm

Legal Rights

  • Right to Safety in Foster Care

  • Protection from physical and sexual abuse

  • Protection from mental and emotional harm

  • Receive appropriate medical or mental health care

Legal Rights

  • Right to Safety in Juvenile Justice Settings

  • Reasonably safe conditions of confinement

  • Protection from aggression by other juveniles or staff(seeR.G. v. Koller, 415 F. Supp. 2d 1129 (D. Haw. 2006))

  • Sound classification systems to provide safety

  • Adequate medical and mental health care

  • Appropriate treatment for gender identity disorder

  • Youth should not be placed in conditions that amount to punishment (restrictions must be “reasonably related” to a legitimate government interest)

  • Youth should never be punished for being LGBTQ

Legal Rights

Right to Equal Protection

First Amendment Right to Express Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity

First Amendment Right to Religious Freedom and to be Free From Religious Indoctrination

Legal Rights

  • State Statutory Non-Discrimination Protections

  • California Foster Care Non-Discrimination Act: Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 16001.9(a)(23)

  • California Juvenile Justice Safety and Protection Act: Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 224.71(i)

  • New York State Non-Discrimination Law: N.Y. Exec. Law § 296

Legal Rights

  • Case Law

  • Mariah L. v. Admin. for Children’s Servs., No. 1407, 2008 WL 2024979 (N.Y. App. Div. May 13, 2008)

  • Rodriguez v. Johnson, No. 06-CV-00214 (S.D.N.Y.2006)

  • Doe v. Bell, 754 N.Y.S. 2d 846 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2003)


  • Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility: Non-Discriminatory, Developmentally Sound Treatment of LGBT Youth, Policy No. 1.43.04 (Effective 4.11.07)

  • New York Office of Children and Family Services, LGBTQ Youth, PPM 3442.00 (Issued 3.17.08)

  • New York City Department of Juvenile Justice,Anti-Discrimination of LGBTQ Youth (Effective 2.6.07)

Other Resources

CWLA Best Practice Guidelines: Serving LGBT Youth in Out-of-Home Care, 2006, can be purchased at

Agency Readiness Index: A Self-Assessment and Planning Guide to Gauge Agency Readiness to Work with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, National Network for Youth, Washington, D.C., 2003, can be purchased at

National Transgender Education Project (NTEP) youth curriculum. Contact Jay Botsford, Youth Development Coordinator [email protected] (424) 271-2656

Historic partnership
Historic Partnership

  • CWLA/Lambda National Advisory Network to Support LGBTQ Youth and Adults Involved with the Child Welfare System

Over 200 Members from around the Country

The end
The End

Flor Bermudez

Lambda Legal

Staff Attorney

Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project

E-mail: [email protected]

Lambda Legal

120 Wall Street, Suite 1500

New York, New York 10005

Phone: 212-809-8585

Fax: 212-809-0055

The Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project Website:


Lambda Legal: Making the Case for Equality