Young people in and from foster care deserve safety, love, and to be affirmed in their full identities and expressions. Lived Experience (LEx) Leaders, partnering with FosterClub, are working to make that a reality. However, there is much work that remains to be done. LGBTQ2S+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, queer & questioning, two-spirit) and gender non-conforming young people in foster care often face discrimination and harassment, while Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) are even less likely than their peers to find welcoming homes. Recent actions by some state leaders have exacerbated these circumstances and contradict what young people have told us they need to thrive.
On February 22, 2022, Texas Governor Greg Abbott wrote a letter to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) calling for any reported instances of minors undergoing “elective procedures for gender transitioning” to be classified as child abuse under Texas state law. This letter followed communication by Attorney General Ken Paxton and attempts by Texas legislators to pass a bill doing the same. Experts in the field understand that neither the governor’s nor the attorney general’s directives are legally binding. Regardless, this will impact young people in and from foster care in Texas.
Governor Abbott's anti-LGBTQ2S+ language is not unique. Several state legislatures have targeted LGBTQ2S+ youth—most notably Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and South Dakota. These efforts all but guarantee that young people will face both devastating and deadly consequences. As the national network for youth in care, FosterClub finds this to be unfair, unjust and indefensible.
“When I entered foster care, I was told “the state is your acting parent.” I faced discrimination because I'm gay; I know many more youth like me will be harmed by these directives. It makes me wonder: is the STATE capable of being our parent, or are they just another abusive and neglectful adults they promised to protect us from? This is why I'm continuing to fight against discrimination with my peers."
Ernesto Olivares, spent 6 years in Texas foster care system,
FosterClub #FosterEquality team member
"As an openly gay foster alumni, I'm very worried about how this will harm my peers who are still in foster care. For me, it's grounded in morality; we must protect all foster youth from harm, discrimination and injustices. I'm asking leaders to make sure me and my peers are a part of ensuring those protections are in place and we are safe, happy, loved and cared for. "
Ryan Young, spent 2 years in Arizona foster care system,
FosterClub #FosterEquality team Member
Yet, we are hopeful. Young people are resilient. Each time public discrimination arises, young people take action to combat the harm and call our attention to the following solutions:
Prevent the unnecessary entry of young people into foster care.
Prohibit discrimination in foster care by passing the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act.
Provide young people with the tools to navigate foster care and support to participate in their own cases.
Engage young people as partners by centering their voices and ensuring that they play a primary role in transforming the child welfare system.
All young people deserve equitable solutions that are based on inclusive practices. That is where our efforts will remain, and where the efforts of all our leaders and policymakers should be focused.
You can read and download the statement here.