Disparate rulings and intersectionality »« Race, American Atheists and “The Movement”

LGBT Foster Care Crisis: Who Will Step Up?

By Sikivu Hutchinson

In Godless Americana I address the epidemic of foster care and homelessness amongst LGBTQ youth of color.  African American youth in L.A. County comprise over 30% of foster care youth (and around 26% nationally) and 50% of homeless youth. Nearly 30% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.  LGBTQ youth overall are imperiled by homophobia, transphobia, religious discrimination and HIV/AIDS contraction, but LGBTQ youth of color also face considerable risks of racist profiling, criminalization, sexual abuse and predation when they are forced to live on the streets or in foster homes.  Unfortunately, the largest homeless youth shelter for 18-24 year olds in the U.S. is run by the Catholic-based Covenant House (which has a history of anti-trans discrimination).  The Huffington Post reports:

Sixto Cancel says his ultra-religious foster family frequently talked about their disdain for his homosexuality at the dinner table, trashed his room and called him homophobic slurs. While he was still a teenager, he says, they kicked him out of their Connecticut home after he had lived there for nearly a decade.

Discrimination against gay and lesbian youths in foster care is prevalent enough around the country that federal health officials sent a letter in 2011 encouraging states to develop training for caseworkers and foster parents on the issue. Advocates in a handful of states including Florida, California, Connecticut, Illinois and Massachusetts have increased efforts to train caseworkers, recruit foster parents and assign mentors. Officials don’t want to force youths to disclose their sexuality, but must try to create environments where they feel safe to come out when ready. Without such support, the federal government memo says, gay and lesbian youths who leave the foster care system can wind up homeless.”

What is the secular community doing to step up and redress these issues that intersect with institutional racism, heterosexist discrimination and economic disenfranchisement?

Comments

  1. great1american1satan says

    That does sound like a good area to focus efforts for secular organizations, because it helps draw a sharp distinction from the traditional arbiters of charity – makes secularism look good and religion look bad at the same time. Plus it’s a damn good thing to do.

  2. double-m says

    There are times when I wish I could be on both sides of the Atlantic at the same time. To all the parents and educators who care for LGBT foster children, especially from less privileged backgrounds: instill your child with confidence about his/her gender and sexual orientation, take the time to create the personality development tools that straight, cis-children automatically get through traditional school and family life, and your family will be enriched by a person with a unique biography, and unique and amazing perspectives, that you’ll never want to miss again. Yes, you’ll have to invest time and efforts at first, like with any foster child, but you’ll be repaid ten times over.

    • blackskeptics says

      Thank you Maryam. Unfortunately, what we see so often with displaced LGBTQ youth of color is their being forced to seek affirmation and support in faith-based institutions like Covenant House (I have worked there as a community resource and they have many caring individual providers but the overall institution is not culturally responsive to the majority youth of color population which comes from juvenile detention facilities, foster care/group homes, etc.) that have an overtly religious bent. Several of the youth in my homeless youth leadership program told me that faith-based groups were often the only visible service provider institutions in their immediate communities.

      • double-m says

        No, thank YOU for all the work you do, and for the inspiration you give to people like me. The idea that children and adolescents, who are vulnerable in multiple ways, have to seek help from organizations, whose doctrine condemns them simply for who they are, makes me sick. As a former temporary foster parent to a fellow Romani girl, who had to suppress her orientation toward other girls due to bullying from both her biological family as well as Christian social workers, I can appreciate the importance of what you do. This is an area where freethinkers, who don’t judge people based on archaic scripture, can really make a difference. I’m looking forward to the day when my family can become a permanent home to a person like her, and I hope I’ll succeed in raising my biological children to be protective older siblings to that person.

        Also, thank you for providing this blog. It may be called Black Skeptics, but I would recommend it to all members of ethnic minorities (and to white people, if they’re willing to educate themselves). Your topics are relevant, and nothing here seems superfluous.

  3. says

    I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve never really given the matter of LGBTQ foster children much thought before. Thank you for raising this issue.

    I will have to do some research to see what the situation is in my part of the country, and offer what help I can (I’m not in a situation where I can be a foster parent, but as a PSA up here says, “Anyone can help a foster child.”) It won’t make much of a difference for kids of color in LA, but maybe I can make a difference in Seattle.

  4. elly says

    I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve never really given the matter of LGBTQ foster children much thought before. Thank you for raising this issue.

    This.

    Gregory, I’m in WA state, too – albeit on the “other” side of the state. Looking around, I did find this: http://www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/ca/We%20Are%20GLBTQ%20Discussion%20and%20Resource%20Guide.pdf – which was linked to from here: http://www.dshs.wa.gov/ca/fosterparents/ongoingvid.asp

    At least there are some links in the pdf, which represent places to begin for research.

  5. double-m says

    I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve never really given the matter of LGBTQ foster children much thought before. Thank you for raising this issue.

    Same here, despite personal experience. The whole LGB and TQ areas really matter to me, and I’m working on getting a better handle on them. I hope the experience of usually being part of a minority, will help me avoid at least some mistakes, now that I’m suddenly the privileged, straight cisgendered person.

  6. says

    @elly #5 – Thanks, those resources look like they will be worth the time.

    Sikivu’s post has raised some uncomfortable questions in my mind about how different states treat LGBTQ youth. That Washington provides a training video and study guide for working with such kids is positive, but I do find myself wondering how this is handled locally: most foster care is managed day-to-day by the counties, and I do not see most of Washington’s counties being particularly safe.

  7. elly says

    Very cool Jacob K.! Thanks – I just downloaded your Plenum paper, btw. Even at a glance, I’m impressed with the depth. Not being geographically-inclined, your analysis would never have occurred to me.

Trackbacks

  1. […] In Godless Americana I address the epidemic of foster care and homelessness amongst LGBTQ youth of color. African American youth in L.A. County comprise over 30% of foster care youth (and around 26% nationally (PDF) and 50% of homeless youth. Nearly 30% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. LGBTQ youth overall are imperiled by homophobia, transphobia, religious discrimination and HIV/AIDS contraction, but LGBTQ youth of color also face considerable risks of racist profiling, criminalization, sexual abuse and predation when they are forced to live on the streets or in foster homes. Unfortunately, the largest homeless youth shelter for 18-24 year olds in the U.S. is run by the Catholic-based Covenant House (which has a history of anti-trans discrimination).” MORE […]

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