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

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Rights of LGBTQIA2S+ Youth in Foster Care

Citation: Gen. Laws § 42-72-15; Code of Rules § 214-10-00-1

No child shall be discriminated against based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, socioeconomic status, mental or physical developmental, or sensory disability or by association with an individual or group who has, or is perceived to have, one or more of such characteristics.

In regulation: The Department of Children, Youth, and Families strictly prohibits discrimination based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, socioeconomic status, or disability or by association with an individual or group who has or is perceived to have one or more of such characteristics.

The department requires staff and service providers to respect the dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and intersex (LGBTQQI) youth. The department, its staff, providers, interns, and/or volunteers offer services and interventions to youth without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. LGBTQQI youth receive fair and equal treatment in a professional and confidential manner based on department policy, State and Federal law and regulation, and principles of sound professional practice, including culturally competent mental health and medical care. LGBTQQI youth are protected from verbal, physical, and/or sexual harassment or assault based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Supports for LGBTQIA2S+ Youth in Care

Citation: Gen. Laws §§ 23-94-2; 23-94-3; DCYF Oper. Proc. # 100.0100

'Conversion therapy' includes any practice by any licensed professional that seeks or purports to impose change of an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, practices that attempt or purport to change behavioral expression of an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, or practices that attempt or purport to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex. No licensed professional shall engage in conversion therapy efforts with patients who are younger than age 18.

In policy: Department staff and service providers recognize that each youth must feel safe in care planning and service delivery. Department staff and service providers must not do any of the following:

  • Practice or tolerate discrimination, bullying, harassment, violence, or the threat of violence by staff or by youth toward youth and/or families based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
  • Utilize derogatory language about LGBTQQI people around or in the presence of youth or families they serve or while performing their job duties.
  • Impose personal beliefs, including religious beliefs, on any families, including LGBTQQI youth or families, or allow such beliefs to limit the way individual needs of youth or families are met.

The department and/or service providers must ensure that all staff, youth, and families are aware that the following behaviors are not tolerated and take immediate action to intervene when they occur:

  • A youth or service provider physically, verbally, or sexually abuses or harasses another individual based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
  • A service provider makes a general statement around or in the presence of youth or families served or while performing their job duties that disparages any sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Department staff or service providers do not disparage or attempt to change a youth's sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Corrective or reparative therapy is not authorized in any programming supported by the department. Service providers neither utilize such an approach nor refer youth to any provider or organization that utilizes such an approach.

 

Department staff and service providers refer to transgender youth by their preferred name and utilize pronouns (including gender-neutral pronouns) that reflect the youth's preferences as much as possible, even if the youth's name has not been legally changed, as follows:

 

  • Written communication and documentation utilize the youth's legal name only as required by State or Federal law or regulation.
  • When a youth identifies a preferred first name and/or preferred gender pronoun, department staff and service providers ask the youth which name, legal or preferred, and gender pronouns will be used in conversations with the youth's family and other service providers.
  • Department staff and service providers periodically discuss name and pronoun preferences with youth.

Department staff and service providers do not disclose a youth's sexual orientation without the youth's permission unless such disclosure is necessary to comply with State or Federal law. Any disclosure related to a youth's LGBTQQI identity is limited to the minimum amount of information necessary to achieve the specific purpose of the disclosure.

Placement Considerations

Citation: DCYF Oper. Proc. # 100.0100

Department staff and service providers create a safe and welcoming environment for LGBTQQI youth. Department and contracted provider staff utilize principles of positive youth development in all interactions and settings through the following:

  • Establishing and maintaining a culture that respects the dignity of every youth
  • Providing opportunities for dialogue about diversity in care planning and service delivery
  • Not making assumptions regarding any youth's sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Using gender-neutral language when discussing dating relationships until a youth has confirmed their sexual orientation
  • Speaking in an open and nonjudgmental manner with all youth, including any youth who discloses self-identification as LGBTQQI
  • Recognizing that youth are in various stages of awareness and comfort with their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression
  • Providing each youth with an opportunity to discuss the meaning of self-identification as LGBTQQI in care planning and service provision
  • Modeling a respectful demeanor toward all youth
  • Reinforcing respect for diversity among youth
  • Encouraging the development of healthy self-image in all youth
  • Treating each youth as a whole person without overemphasis on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or expression
  • Assisting youth in identifying and managing stigma as a part of care planning and service delivery
  • Ensuring that LGBTQQI-affirming publications and media are included when such resources are utilized in programming
  • Displaying visual reminders to convey to staff and service providers that the department and the program require respect for diversity, including sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression
  • Making youth aware of local LGBTQQI resources that offer supportive services

Caregiver Qualifications

Citation: DCYF Oper. Proc. # 100.0100

Department staff and service providers receive training about LGBTQQI youth during their orientation that is taught by a qualified trainer with expertise in working with LGBTQQI youth. All service providers are required to attend department-approved training on working with LGBTQQI youth that addresses the following:

  • Establishing and maintaining a culture that respects the dignity of every youth
  • Utilizing principles of positive youth development
  • Psychosocial stress associated with explicit and implicit homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia as well as stigma associated with being LGBTQQI
  • Unique family dynamics that may emerge with LGBTQQI youth and effective care planning

Approved training informs participants of the following:

  • The goals and requirements of this policy and its implementation
  • How to work with LGBTQQI youth in a respectful and nondiscriminatory manner
  • How to recognize, prevent, and respond to harassment against LGBTQQI youth
  • Recognizing the difference between personal values and professional responsibilities
  • For supervisors, the implementation and enforcement of this policy and related services

Definitions

Citation: DCYF Oper. Proc. # 100.0100

The terms used in this policy are defined as follows:

  • 'Gay' is a term of self-identification for people who are emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to people of the same gender. It is preferred over the term 'homosexual,' which is an outdated term and is considered derogatory and offensive to many LGBTQQI people. A person need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as gay.
  • 'Gender expression' means the way a person expresses their gender identity to the outside world through clothing and accessories, hair style, behavior, speech, or other forms of presentation.
  • 'Gender identity' is a person's internal, deeply felt sense of their gender.
  • 'Intersex' is a general term used to refer to a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the typical definitions of male and female chromosomes, external genitalia, internal reproductive organs, hormones, and/or secondary sex characteristics.
  • 'Lesbian' is a term of self-identification for women who are emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to other women. A person need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as a lesbian.
  • 'Queer' is used as a term of self-identification by people who do not identify with more restrictive and binary terms that have traditionally described sexual orientation. Historically a derogatory term for LGBTQQI or gender-nonconforming person, the term has been widely reclaimed, especially by youth, as a positive social and political identity. Queer may be used as an inclusive or umbrella term for all LGBTQQI people.
  • 'Questioning' is a term of self-identification for people who are exploring or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
  • 'Sexual orientation' refers to a person's emotional, romantic, and physical attraction to persons of the same and/or different gender.
  • 'Transgender' is a term of self-identification for people whose gender identity or expression is different from that which is typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Transgender is a broad term that includes a variety of gender identities and refers to both those who are or are perceived to be transgender.
  • 'Transphobia' refers to a reaction of fear, loathing, and/or discriminatory treatment of people whose actual or perceived gender identity or expression does not match, in the socially accepted way, the sex they were assigned at birth.