LGBTQ+ youth already faces many struggles in our world today. In fact, “80% of gay and lesbian youth report severe social isolation”. The LGBTQ+ foster youth can face the added challenges of family disputes may lead to abuse or neglect to the point where DSS steps in. One study showed that around 26% of LGBT youth in the foster care system are removed from their homes because of family conflicts with the child’s sexual orientation or identity. While these types of family conflicts are unfortunate and place the children in foster care, they are not the only challenges that a child may have to face. There is much discrimination in foster care, in certain parts of our country, that affects the lives of LGBTQ+ foster youth.
The Issues in the System
There are very few states that enforce strict policies that would “protect [LGBTQ+] foster youth from discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity”. Only 13 out of our 50 states, plus DC, have these kinds of policies protecting the youth. An even smaller group of states have policies that protect youth in foster care from discrimination against sexual orientation. Those policies do not include any protection for discrimination against gender identity. Maryland is one of those states. Though we have some policies protecting our foster youth, there needs to be a bigger push in Maryland to include protection for all of the LGBTq+ youth in foster care.
Another struggle in the foster care system is finding people who want to adopt LGBTQ+ youth and/or will provide a safe environment for them. A simple solution for this would be finding “LGBTQ adults who may be interested in becoming foster parents”. Of course, there are many laws and policies across the states that prevent potential LGBTQ+ adults from adopting any children. Similarly to protective laws and policies for LGBTQ+ foster youth, very few states have any laws and policies geared towards LGBTQ+ adoptive parents. Only 5 states have non-discrimination adoption policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity and an added 4 states have non-discrimination policies for just sexual orientation. Maryland’s adoption laws and policies are fairly inclusive, however, there are no adoption or foster care laws protecting parents from discrimination based on gender identity. The lack of non-discrimination laws and policies for LGBTQ+ children and adults within our own state and within the country explains why LGBTQ+ youth are over-represented in the foster care system. Over-represented means the proportion of youth who identify as LGBTQ+ in the foster care system is greater than the proportion of youth who identify as LGBTQ+ in the U.S.
How Can You Support LGBTQ+ Foster Youth?
You can start by becoming a CASA volunteer! Our volunteers are dedicated to being a voice for all children in the foster care system. As a CASA volunteer, or anyone who may work with foster LGBTQ+ youth, must “understand the lives and unique challenges of the LGBTQ youth”. LGBTQ+ youth tend to face discrimination and harassment from their peers. By being a CASA, you can provide the support that these children need in their lives and help them overcome the challenges that they face. CASA wants be a voice for all children in the foster care system so that they can receive equal advocacy for a safe and loving home. Help us be their voice by volunteering at www.casabaltco.org/volunteer/.
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