State Senate approves bill to provide supportive homes for LGBT youthOnline Only, This Week, Around the Nation Friday, August 24th, 2012
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A bill designed to make foster care safer and more supportive for LGBT youth was approved by the state Senate, Aug. 23, in a 23-12 vote. Assembly Bill 1856, authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and sponsored by Equality California and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, will require existing training programs for foster youth caregivers to include best practices for serving LGBT youth, including LGBT competency and sensitivity training. The bill, previously approved by the California Assembly by a 23-12 bi-partisan vote, will proceed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk after a routine concurrence vote in the Assembly.
“We are extremely pleased that with the passage of AB 1856, the legislature is taking additional steps to protect LGBT young people, who are among the most vulnerable in our state’s child welfare system,” said Clarissa Filgioun, Equality California board president. “We’re grateful to Assemblymember Tom Ammiano for his leadership in authoring this important update to foster care guidelines.”
“AB 1856 ensures that foster care providers have the necessary tools to adequately respond to the unique issues specific to LGBT youth,” said Ammiano. “This bill will help to provide comfort, safety and support to LGBT foster youth while reducing harassment and discrimination.”
According to Equality California LGBT youth are disproportionately targeted for harassment and discrimination in the foster care system. This abuse is perpetrated not only by youth peers, but in some cases by facility staff, foster parents, and other service providers. When the abuse is between peers, the harassment is too often condoned by facility staff or goes unaddressed.
Aside from physical and verbal abuse or harassment, instances of unlawful discrimination against LGBT youth in foster care may include confiscating LGBT supportive materials or prohibiting LGBT youth from receiving LGBT supportive services offered through LGBT youth groups or resource centers. In addition, LGBT youth report cases of caregivers or service providers refusing to use the youth’s requested name or pronoun, prohibiting the youth from wearing clothing consistent with their gender identity, or actively trying to change the youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity with “reparative” or “conversion” counseling. AB 1856 will help to address these types of discriminatory situations by educating caregivers within the child welfare system and providing them with best practices for ensuring safe and supportive homes for LGBT youth.
Research indicates that unsafe and unsupportive foster home environments significantly contribute to homelessness among LGBT youth. In a recent study of 400 LGBT homeless youth in San Diego, 64 percent reported that they ran away from at least one out-of- home placement due to harassment or assault.
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