WASHINGTON, D.C. — The LGBTQIA+ & Two Spirit Foster Alumni & Advocate Team, members of the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign, condemn the Trump Administration’s dangerous proposal to strip important protections that bar discrimination in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) grant programs. The November 19, 2019 HHS proposed rule and its accompanying Notice of Nonenforcement allows discrimination immediately against LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people, women, and people of different faiths or non-religious people in a broad range of federally funded human service programs, including adoption and foster care.
There are 437,000 children and youth in foster care, and recent studies show that more than one in five youth in care identify as LGBTQ+ and/or Two Spirit. In a letter to HHS released today, the team states that the proposed rule and nonenforcement of current protections will result in more discrimination against and mistreatment of LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit youth in foster care, fewer homes available to youth in care, and increased use of group homes rather than family settings for youth in foster care. The Team also expressed concern that the rule will lead to young people in foster care being subjected to conversion therapy, a medically discredited practice attempting to change a young person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Without protections, young people like us will be placed in homes that reject who we are, who we love, and what we believe,” the Team writes in their letter to HHS Secretary Azar and Acting Assistant Secretary Moughalian. They continue by detailing their own experiences in foster care.
“I grew up around openly LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit black foster children, and…I was fearful of becoming one of those forced into treatment facilities just for being open about who I was, so…I told everyone I was heterosexual and Christian, even my social workers,” recounts Lucina, who experienced foster care in Minnesota.
“I found out early on that if I really showed who I was that, that could be weaponized and used against me,” Schylar shared, “That who I was was not acceptable by the standards within Montana…I was labeled as gay before I ever knew that I was actually gay.”
“[Staff and Social Workers] didn’t know how to approach me and tell me that…it was okay to be who I was…I didn’t feel comfortable to talk about who I was or even come out,” says Ernesto, who experienced foster care in Texas.
Kristopher, who also experienced foster care in Texas shared: “[B]ecause of the nature of these kinds of placements where doors are locked by powerful magnetic strips, children are typically homeschooled, or they attend school on campus. Staff tells you when to eat, when to take your meds, when to go to bed. Phones are kept behind locked doors. There was no way for me to even report what was happening to me.”
“We want LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit foster youth currently in care to have better experiences than we did—not similar mistreatment, sanctioned by rules, exemptions, or waivers of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” the Team writes.
The public comment period for this rule is much shorter than customary—30 days—and contrary to standard federal and HHS practice, comments to the rule are not being posted publicly. Still, the Foster Alumni and Advocate Team, alongside the entire Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign, encourages the public to continue to submit comments opposing the rule at https://fmeq.co/act-now.
About the LGBTQIA+ & Two Spirit Foster Alumni and Advocate Team
The Team convenes to promote diversity, inclusion, and affirmation of young people in foster care. The Team currently consists of seven members geographically distributed across the country, reflecting a range of diversity encompassing, but not limited to: ethnicity, location of residence, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and child welfare experiences. The Team engages by contributing to, advising and supporting the national Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign, educating and engaging policymakers, and building public awareness and creating recommendations for best foster care practices at both the federal and state levels. Certain members of the Leadership Team have agreed to speak to the media—to contact them, please email Family Equality’s Chief Communications Officer, Ed Harris.
Current Team Members:
Schylar Baber, Washington, DC, formerly of Montana
Lucina Kayee, Minnesota
Ernesto Olivares, Jr., Texas
Kristopher Sharp, New York, formerly of Texas
Tristan Torres, Nevada
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Ed Harris / Chief Communications Officer