Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 42 / 19 October 2017
 

President Obama supports LGBT foster youth in statement

President Barack Obama stops to talk with visiting school children outside the West Wing of the White House, April 29, 2015. The President was returning from a walk with Shanna Peeples, the 2015 National Teacher of the Year, when he met the children and their chaperones.  (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama stops to talk with visiting school children outside the West Wing   of the White House, April 29, 2015. The President was returning from a walk with Shanna Peeples, the 2015 National Teacher of the Year, when he met the children and their chaperones.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

As California lawmakers debate a bill aimed at providing better protections for transgender foster youth, President Barack Obama has voiced support for policies that protect all LGBT youth in foster care.

The White House issued a presidential proclamation today (Thursday, April 30) recognizing May as National Foster Care Month.

In it Obama stated that, “All young people, regardless of what they look like, which religion they follow, who they love, or the gender they identify with, deserve the chance to dream and grow in a loving, permanent home.”

According to the president’s proclamation, there are more than 400,000 boys and girls in the nation’s foster care system. A disproportionate number are African-American and Native American youth.

More than 100,000 of them are waiting to be adopted, and every year, 23,000 young people age out of the system, noted the White House, “never having found the security of a permanent home.”

The country has reduced the number of young people in foster care in recent years, noted Obama, but “has more work to do to ensure all children can thrive in a safe and nurturing environment.”

He added, “At the heart of the American story is the simple truth that all children should have a fair chance at success, no matter who they are or where they come from. Central to this promise of opportunity are the love and support of family — which all girls and boys deserve, but not enough have.”

The proclamation went on to say that no one who wants to care for a foster youth should be discriminated against due to their being a member of the LGBT community.

“With so many children waiting for loving homes, it is important to ensure all qualified caregivers have the opportunity to serve as foster or adoptive parents, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status,” stated Obama. “That is why we are working to break down the barriers that exist and investing in efforts to recruit more qualified parents for children in foster care.”

In California a state bill that would ensure transgender foster youth are placed in welcoming and affirming homes passed out of its first legislative committee in mid April, as reported in the Bay Area Reporter‘s April 23 issue.

The legislation, Senate Bill 731, is authored by gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by several California LGBT rights groups. A number of professional associations for foster care workers are also backing the bill.

Set to heard next by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill would require caregivers to take a young person’s gender identity into consideration when deciding whether to place them with a foster care family or in a group home, many of which are segregated by gender.

The state Department of Community Care Licensing would also be tasked with developing regulations to implement the bill should it become law.

While there is no statewide data on the number of LGBT foster care youth in California, a 2014 study by the Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank at UCLA, found that nearly 7,400 youth, ages 12-21 are in out-of-home care in Los Angeles County any given month, and 19 percent or 1,400 of these youths identify as LGBTQ.

The study also determined that between 1.5 to 2 times the number of LGBTQ youth are living in foster care as LGBTQ youth estimated to be living outside of foster care.

“LGBTQ youth have an estimated higher average of foster care placements, reported being treated less well by the child welfare system, have been hospitalized for emotional reasons at some point in their lifetime and were more likely to have been homeless at some point in their life,” concluded the study, a synopsis of which was included in the Fair Share for Equality report issued by the Equality California Institute, the educational arm of the statewide LGBT advocacy group.

— Matthew S. Bajko, April 30, 2015 @ 12:47 pm PST
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