Introduced in both houses of Congress on May 19, 2015, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (S.1382 and H.R.2449) would prohibit discrimination in federally-funded adoption or foster care placements based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of youth and prospective parents. Increasing the pool of potential foster or adoptive parents while encouraging equitable practices in the field, proponents hope the bill will better meet the needs of nearly 400,000 children in foster care across the US.

It is estimated that LGBTQ youth account for between 4% and 10% of the national foster youth population, and as many as 70% of the LGBTQ youth in group homes reported that they have suffered violence based on their LGBT status. Furthermore, 100% of the LGBTQ youth in foster group homes reported verbal harassment based on their sexual orientations or gender identities, and 78% were removed or ran away from their placement as a result. Between 25% and 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ community members, and over half of homeless youth have spent some time in foster care.

Twenty states currently have explicit laws protecting the rights of youth in foster care from discrimination based on sexual orientation, thirteen of which also protect against discrimination based on gender identity. However, religious or moral exemption laws have been proposed in several states this year, which would allow placements of youth to be guided by the religious beliefs of agencies and staff. In combination with the lack of nationally-explicit anti-discriminatory laws, these policies are limiting placement options for youth in care.

Bills like The Every Child Deserves a Family Act offer a supportive message to youth within the child welfare system on a national scale and serve as an important first step in the wide-ranging goal of achieving “normalcy” for LGBTQ youth in foster care. In California, for example, LGBTQ youth in foster care experience 18% more placements and are more likely to live in a group home setting than non-LGBTQ youth in foster care. By impacting the federal funding requirements for agencies across the nation, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act could help ensure these children – and those seeking to adopt or foster them – are given the same opportunities as their non-LGBTQ peers. 

Posted In: Child Welfare and Family Supports

Update on MIECHV Program Extension

· Natasya Gandana

Last week, the US House of Representatives reauthorized an extension for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program at the current funding levels of $400 million through March 2017. Though funding for this program was set to expire on March 31, 2015, this extension is the first step in maintaining support for families facing economic and social challenges.

As recently highlighted in our blog, the Home Visiting Program provides families with a range of services, including weekly visits from a nurse, social worker or early childhood educator that aid in promoting healthy child development, increasing school readiness, and building parental capacity through positive parenting. In addition, the program helps by providing guidance to parents in assessing health, social service and child development professionals.

Since 2010, the program has helped serve approximately 115,500 parents and children in 787 counties in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five territories. In addition, the program has demonstrated improvements to children’s health, preventing child abuse and neglect, and increasing self-sufficiency for families involved.

As part of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, the next step in ensuring that this program continues supporting families is for the Senate to pass the extension as well.   

For more information on the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, read our blog.

Posted In: Poverty and Economic Stability

The Center for the Study of Social Policy’s newest report, Strategies to Reduce Racially Disparate Outcomes in Child Welfare, documents the efforts underway in 12 states and localities to tackle the enduring problem of African American, Native American and Latino families faring worse than others being served by the child welfare systems.

The publication, produced by CSSP as part of the work of the Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare, updates a similar “national scan” produced nearly a decade ago covering the promising practices to address racial disproportionality in child welfare. In many states and localities across the country, there are proportionately more children of color who are referred to child- and family-serving institutions; they have longer stays in foster care, and are more likely to be placed in congregate care placements. Moreover, youth of color typically face even more challenges as they age out of child welfare systems.

All of this work is done within the context of federal, state and local efforts to improve outcomes for all children and families involved with child welfare systems. However, as attention to the disparate outcomes achieved for African American, Native American and in some places Latino children and youth has grown, state and county systems have turned to innovative uses of legislative mandates and data analysis to spark more work to more fully understand and eliminate disparities, drive decision-making and system improvements and to pinpoint exactly where the problems are occurring.

In addition, states are deepening their training, workforce development and capacity-building activities so that frontline workers possess a greater understanding of these issues. States are also taking on new partners—from schools to judges to pastors—to hasten the pace of eliminating disparities. Engagement with tribal governments has improved as have community-engagement efforts to bridge gaps in understanding between families and child- and family-serving systems.

The publication highlights efforts underway in Connecticut; Idaho; Illinois; Iowa; Kentucky; Michigan; Minnesota state and Ramsey County in Minnesota; New York; Oregon; Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; Texas; and Utah.

Read the report here: Strategies to Reduce Racially Disparate Outcomes in Child Welfare by Oronde Miller and Amelia Esenstad

Posted In: Child Welfare and Family Supports

Urban Institute recently publish a unique look into survival sex, a strategy used by many young people in order to survive while living on the streets of New York City. Meredith Dank, author and Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute, conducted a three-year study of LGBTQ youth in partnership with New York City-based organization Streetwise and Safe (SAS) using interviews with 283 youth who engaged in survival sex, defined as receiving payment in the form of cash or other in-kind payment in exchange for sex and trades, in New York City.

Recently, the Center for the Study of Social Policy hosted a webinar, Surviving the Streets of New York: Experiences of LGBTQ Youth, YMSM, and YWSW Engaged in Survival Sex, as a platform for Dank to share her findings with the field. The webinar highlighted interviews with youth who shared personal stories of engaging in survival sex. These youth stories share common themes of social and familial discrimination and rejection, familial dysfunction and poverty, physical abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation and emotional and mental trauma.

Dank’s research found that youth involved in survival sex faced significant challenges in stable housing and hunger and as a result, were introduced to - and became involved in - survival sex through friends and peers. In exchange for engaging in sexual activities, 88 percent of youth received money, 29 percent received shelter, and 19 percent received food. These findings highlight a gap in services and supports, including housing, mental health, and employment for LGBTQ youth who are pushed out of their homes due to rejection, suffered other means of trauma, and find themselves living on the streets.

In order to support this community of youth, the report highlights recommendations to ensure and support the safety of homeless LGBTQ youth:

  1. Develop accessible street-based and comprehensive drop-in services and peer-led outreach
  2. Improve safe and supportive short-term shelter, long-term affordable housing, and family-based placement options subject to periodic review
  3. Create a safe and supportive housing and placement protocols specific to transgender and gender non-conforming individuals
  4. Broaden access to and improve gender-affirming health care
  5. Adopt nondiscrimination, confidentiality, and complaint procedures in shelters, programs, and out-of-home placements
  6. Develop living-wage employment opportunities
  7. Improve food security among LGBTQ youth
  8. Design policy training curricula to improve relationships with LGBTQ youth and decrease profiling, harassment, and abuse

To view an archived version of the webinar, click here.

For more information on how to support LGBTQ youth, please visit CSSP’s getREAL section on our website. 

Posted In: Child Welfare and Family Supports

Transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth are often stigmatized for their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Research shows that the impact of bias and rejection from family, peers and community institutions based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression can increase the risk of poorer outcomes for transgender youth. These biases and active rejection from family and community can lead to physical and emotional abuse, homelessness and involvement in the child welfare system.

In addition to working with biological, adoptive, and foster families to promote the healthy development and well-being of all youth in care, it is essential to support and promote healthy development and well-being through engagement in developmentally and socially appropriate activities, as well as extracurricular opportunities. For youth in care who identify as transgender and gender non-conforming, it is critical that these activities and extracurricular opportunities allow for - and promote - safe and affirming environments.

Integrating protective and promotive factors into work with youth and families, communities, and programs can create environments that protect against risk factors and poor outcomes and promote strong and optimal development for children. Created by CSSP, the protective and promotive factors can help to better improve outcomes for transgender children, youth and their families.

Parental and youth resilience – managing stress and functioning well when faced with challenges, adversity, and trauma.

Social connections positive relationships that provide emotional, informational, instrumental, and spiritual support.

Knowledge of parenting and child/adolescent development understanding child or adolescent development and parenting strategies that support physical, cognitive, language, social and emotional development.

Concrete support in times of need access to concrete support and services that address a youth or family’s needs and help to minimize stress caused by challenges.

Social and emotional competence family interactions that help children or youth develop the ability to communicate clearly, recognize and regulate their emotions and establish and maintain relationships.

The protective and promotive factors are integrated into both CSSP’s Strengthening Families (focused on families) and Youth Thrive (focused on youth) initiatives. Please visit our Strengthening Families and Youth Thrive sections on our website for more information on the protective and promotive factors.  

For more information on LGBTQ youth in care, please visit our get R.E.A.L. section on our website.