Protecting the Rights and Providing Appropriate Services to LGBTQIA2S+ Youth in Out-of-Home Care - Vermont

Date:

Rights of LGBTQIA2S+ Youth in Foster Care

Citation: Fam. Serv. Pol. Man., # 76

In policy: The Family Services Division is committed to the following:

  • Being respectful of the dignity of all children, youth, and families
  • Keeping children and youth safe while meeting their unique needs, regardless of whether these needs are related to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression
  • Prohibiting discrimination and bias based on a child or youth's real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression

All division staff are prohibited from engaging in any form of discrimination or bias based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or marital status or partnership.

Staff will not make assumptions regarding one's identity. The only way division employees can know someone's sexual or gender identity is if the person shares this information. Children and youth may disclose their sexual or gender identity when they feel ready and if a safe environment and trusting relationship has been established.

Staff will not attempt to convince or coerce a child who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual, and polysexual (abbreviated to LGBTQ) to disclose or reveal their sexual or gender identity. Direct questioning may make it difficult for an individual to disclose their identity.

Staff will use sensitive, gender neutral, and inclusive language to set a tone of respect and dignity. Division staff will affirm the diversity, dignity, and identity of all children to create a supportive environment. This includes the following:

  • Division staff will talk to children and youth in an open and understanding manner if someone discloses that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning, queer, or gender nonconforming.
  • Division staff will support children and youth if they request to use a preferred first name rather than their legal name. Staff will refer to children and youth by the name and pronouns that they prefer that reflects their identity and expression.
  • Children and youth will be supported in wearing gender affirming hairstyles, clothing, and accessories.

It is expected that children's identities may evolve and change over time. All children and youth explore their identities and express their sexuality and gender differently. Young people may change the way they identify over time.

Supports for LGBTQIA2S+ Youth in Care

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 18, §§ 8351; 8352; 8353; Fam. Serv. Pol. Man., # 76

'Conversion therapy' means any practice by a mental health care provider that seeks to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to change sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex or gender. A mental health care provider shall not use conversion therapy with a client younger than age 18. Any conversion therapy used on a client younger than age 18 shall constitute unprofessional conduct.

In policy: Division staff shall not attempt to persuade an LGBTQ individual to reject or modify their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Staff will not impose personal or religious beliefs onto children and youth served by the division.

As is true for all children and youth served by the division, LGBTQ children and youth will be at the forefront of decision-making and case planning activities. No single approach, accommodation, or plan will apply in all circumstances. Family services workers, with the support of supervisors, must determine the appropriate resources and supports for LGBTQ children and youth on a case-by-case basis, as informed by the individual child's needs. Staff should provide information on LGBTQ community resources to all children, youth, and families who need referrals or support.

In instances where having information about the child or youth's sexual or gender identity is important to making an informed case decision (which serves the child or youth's best interests and protects their safety), division staff will exercise professional discretion in asking for the individual's sexual or gender identity. Staff will respect each child, youth, and family member's right to confidentiality, which includes the information shared with parents and foster/kinship families.

To support the child or youth's health, safety, and well-being, staff must be mindful when a child or youth discloses their LGBTQ identity. This information is sensitive and should be kept confidential. Division employees are not obligated to share information about a child or youth's gender or sexual identity with anyone (including parents, family members, foster/kinship families, providers, or the court) until the young person expresses that they are ready to share this information. The decision to share this information will be guided by the child or youth's preferences and wishes. Staff should ask children and youth to what extent they want to disclose this information and to whom.

Placement Considerations

Citation: Fam. Serv. Pol. Man., # 76

Youth who identify as transgender should be placed in a home or location consistent with their individualized needs and preferences (which may be based on their stated gender identity), unless there is a safety-based rationale determined in consultation with a supervisor and the commissioner's LGBTQ committee. Safety-based exceptions to placement decisions shall have a specific and credible basis (such as other treatment needs or aggression or violence) and will not be solely based on a gender-identity reason. This information must be documented in case notes.

Placement decisions for transgender youth will be reassessed at least monthly during the worker's monthly face-to-face visit, or as needed or requested by the youth, to review any threats, harassment, bullying, or safety concerns experienced by the youth.

Caregiver Qualifications

Citation: Fam. Serv. Pol. Man., # 76

The division is committed to making ongoing efforts to recruit, train, support, and retain foster families who are LGBTQ affirming and supporting. When LGBTQ children and youth cannot safely remain in their homes, they will be placed in an LGBTQ-affirming out-of-home placement.

Definitions

Citation: Fam. Serv. Pol. Man., # 76

The terms used in this policy are defined as follows:

  • 'Cis(gender)' is an adjective that means 'identifies as their sex assigned at birth.' A cisgender/cis person is not transgender. 'Cisgender' does not indicate biology, gender expression, or sexuality or sexual orientation. Note that cisgender does not have an 'ed' at the end. In most cases, 'trans' and 'cis' by themselves are sufficient descriptors.
  • 'Gender identity' refers to one's internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or other gender.
  • 'Gender expression' refers to the physical manifestation of one's gender identity through clothing, accessories, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc. (typically referred to as masculine or feminine).
  • 'LGBTTQQIAPP' (abbreviated to LGBTQ) is an acronym for a collection of queer identities, i.e., short for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual, and polysexual. LGBTQQIAPP is often abbreviated to LGBT, LGBTQ, or LGBTQ+. This acronym is sometimes replaced with 'queer.'
  • 'Sexual orientation' refers to a person's enduring physical, romantic, emotional, and/or other form of attraction to others.
  • 'SOGIE' is an acronym that stands for sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
  • 'Trans(gender)' is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term transgender is not indicative of sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life.

LGBTQ terminology changes over time to reflect individuals' identities. The best approach is to talk to one another, listen to how people self-identify, and use language and pronouns that work best for each person.