Thursday, June 21, 2012

New California Bill Aims to Protect LGBT Youth in Foster Care

Once again, California is leading the nation in the fight for LGBT equality with a new bill that would protect LGBT youth in the state’s foster care system. The bill, AB 1856, would extend the existing training required of foster youth caregivers as mandated by the California Community Care Facilities Act. Although California passed the Foster Care Non-Discrimination Act in 2003, which prohibits the harassment of foster care youth on the basis of various enumerated categories, of which sexual orientation and gender identification are listed, the new bill would take the state’s non-discrimination initiative one step further. Rather than just prohibit discrimination, AB 1856 would provide a means to ensure that discrimination against LGBT youth in foster care does not occur.

According to, an online portal to California political news, opinion, laws, and legislation: “The bill would require the training for an administrator of a group home facility, licensed foster parent, and relative or nonrelative extended family member caregiver, to also include instruction on cultural competency and sensitivity relating to, and best practices for, providing adequate care to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth in out-of-home care.”

Authored by Representative Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the bill addresses a huge injustice in the treatment of LGBT youth, who are disproportionately the victims of harassment and discrimination in the foster care system. According to a recent publication released by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, LGBT youth account for between 5 and 10 percent of the national foster youth population of approximately 260,000 individuals. Out of this 5-10%, “as many as 78% […] endure further harassment or abuse after being placed in out-of-home care.”

To garner support for the legislation, Equality California released a video that features personal statements from LGBT youth who have been subject to discrimination in the state’s foster care system. One transgender youth’s story stands out in particular. He describes his experience, saying: “It affected me negatively over time and it made me feel worthless, made me feel like I was nothing. There were times when I was ignored […] left out, I didn’t get the same opportunities as other kids because […] I was a wrong, people looked at me like I was a wrong child.” Stories as heartbreaking as these highlight the need for this legislation not only in California, but in states nationwide.

Take Action: On June 26, 2012, the California State Assembly Committee on Human Services will hold a hearing on AB 1856. If you live in California, it is imperative that you express your support for AB 1856 by contacting your local representatives.

And if you don’t live in California, you can work to make changes in your own state and across the whole country. First, contact your members of the state congress and tell them that you support the creation of LGBT cultural competency standards in your own state’s foster care system.

Second, learn more about the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. All children deserve to feel safe and secure. With your help, we can make a difference!