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

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Rights of LGBTQIA2S+ Youth in Foster Care

Citation: DCFS Prac. Guidelines, § 4, 300.5; Utah Foster Youth Bill of Rights

From the guidelines: All children and youth, regardless of gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation, need to feel safe in their surroundings for positive child and/or youth development outcomes to occur.

Child and Family Team members will promote the positive development of all children and youth by demonstrating respect for all children and youth, reinforcing respect for differences, encouraging the development of healthy self-esteem, and helping all children and youth manage the stigma sometimes associated with difference.

In policy: Youth in foster care are entitled to be treated with respect regardless of age, race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, religious beliefs, family relations, or family history.

Supports for LGBTQIA2S+ Youth in Care

Citation: DCFS Prac. Guidelines, § 4, 300.5

Most needs related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression for children and youth can best be met through caregiver and family support, community support, education groups, and/or peer counseling. The child or youth's family and foster/adoptive family members may also need assistance in supporting the child or youth. When appropriate, caseworkers will assist families in identifying supportive resources and professionals in their area to help create adequate support systems in place for sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, including transition to permanency.

In accordance with accepted health-care practices, which recognize that attempting to change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is harmful, staff will not make referrals to mental health providers who attempt to change a child or youth's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression through conversion, reparative or regression therapy, or any other methods.

All children and youth in out-of-home care will receive a comprehensive mental health screening. Children or youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) or gender nonconforming who receive mental health services will be served by clinicians who are aware of the needs and best practices for those populations.

For many transgender and gender-nonconforming youth, puberty can be a time of crisis when the urgency of medical decisions is warranted. Children and youth who voice anxiety at the prospect of facing puberty outcomes that conflict with their gender identity will be referred to a psychiatrist who is aware of the needs and best practices for those populations for medication evaluation. If a child or youth enters out-of-home care and reports that a licensed medical provider in the community prescribed them hormones, this medication will be continued while the child or youth is in care. If hormone therapy is discontinued for a child or youth, the child or youth will continue to be monitored by medical and behavioral health staff to treat any symptoms that may occur as a result.

Placement Considerations

Citation: Admin. Code § R512-300-4; DCFS Prac. Guidelines, § 4, 300.5

The Division of Child and Family Services shall determine placement decisions based on the child's needs, strengths, and best interests. The division shall consider the following factors for determining placement:

  • The age, special needs, and circumstances of the child
  • The least restrictive placement consistent with the child's needs
  • Placement of siblings together
  • Placement with relatives or other kin
  • Proximity to the child's home and school
  • Sensitivity to cultural heritage and individual equity and support needs of a child, including consideration of the child's race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, language, ethnicity, medical or mental health needs, or disability
  • The potential for adoption

From the guidelines: For cases where an LGBTQ or gender-nonconforming youth is residing in a foster home, staff are expected to make sleeping arrangement decisions that will ensure the safety of this youth as they would with any other youth. Decisions on bedrooms for all LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming youth in foster homes will be based on the youth's individualized needs and will prioritize the youth's emotional and physical safety. Staff will consider the youth's perception of where they will be most secure, as well as any recommendations from their mental health care provider. The youth's well-being will be taken into consideration when making this decision. Therefore, it is important to include the youth in the decision-making process to avoid alienating them. Staff will not isolate any youth based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

All youth will be allowed to use private or individual bathroom stalls and be allowed to shower privately.

When a transgender youth is residing in a residential facility, every effort will be made so that transgender or gender-nonconforming youth are housed in a residential facility that can provide individual sleeping quarters (one-person bedroom) to allow for privacy. Transgender or gender-nonconforming youth will not automatically be housed according to their sex assigned at birth.

As in a foster care setting, the agency will make housing decisions for transgender or gender-nonconforming youth based on the youth's individualized needs and will prioritize the youth's emotional and physical safety. Staff will consider the youth's perception of where they will be most secure and remember to include the youth in the decision-making process to avoid alienating them. Staff may utilize regional clinical consultants when determining placement for gender-nonconforming or transgender youth.

Caregiver Qualifications

Citation: DCFS Prac. Guidelines, § 4, 300.5

When a youth who identifies as LGBTQ or gender nonconforming enters foster care, staff will place them in a home that is safe and recognizes and meets their needs. Any out-of-home placement, whether it be with foster, adoptive, or birth parents, will affirm every youth's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, treat them with respect and dignity, and work to ensure their overall well-being. Staff will also ensure that families who have a child or youth who discloses their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression while in their care are providing an affirming home for that child or youth. All foster families will be given the support and training needed to provide optimal care for children and youth regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Definitions

Citation: DCFS Prac. Guidelines, § 4, 300.5

The terms used in these guidelines are defined as follows:

  • 'Bisexual' means a continuing emotional, romantic, and affectionate attraction to persons of the same and different genders.
  • 'Cisgender' refers to individuals whose gender identity and/or gender expression conforms to the characteristics traditionally associated with their assigned sex at birth (i.e., not transgender).
  • 'Gay' refers to a boy or man who has a continuing enduring emotional, romantic, and affectionate attraction for other boys or men.
  • 'Gender expression' refers to how an individual expresses their gender, such as through behavior, clothing, haircut, jewelry, voice, or body characteristics.
  • 'Gender identity' means an inner sense of being male, female, another gender, or in between, which may not align with the individual's assigned sex at birth.
  • 'Gender nonconforming' means having or being perceived to have gender characteristics and/or behaviors that do not conform to traditional or societal expectations. This can apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and heterosexual children or youth.
  • 'Genderqueer' is a term that is embraced as an option to the binary language of LGBTQ-umbrella terms that offers an alternative to an LGBTQ youth who does not feel that the identity of gay or lesbian accurately describes them and who is not bisexual. This term would fall under the umbrella of transgender identities.
  • 'Intersex' or 'intersexual' refers to a person born with the full or partial sex organs of male and female or with underdeveloped or ambiguous sex organs. About 4 percent of all births are intersex to some degree. This term replaces hermaphrodite.
  • 'Lesbian' refers to a girl or woman who has a continuing enduring emotional, romantic, and affectionate attraction for other girls or women.
  • 'LGBTQ' is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning. This is an umbrella term that is inclusive of many identities.
  • 'Queer' is an inclusive identity reclaimed by some people in the LGBTQ community to describe sexual orientation and gender identity beyond the constraints of a binary gender system. Often used as an umbrella term, it is more commonly used and embraced by youth as inclusive of various identities.
  • 'Questioning' refers to a person who is exploring their sexual and/or gender identity. It is a common part of adolescent human development.
  • 'Sexual orientation' is the scientifically accurate term for an individual's enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectionate attraction to individuals of a particular gender. Sexual behavior and sexual orientation are distinct terms; the former only pertains to sexual activity whereas the latter refers to feelings and identity.
  • 'Straight/heterosexual' refers to a person who has continuing enduring, emotional, romantic, and affectionate attraction to persons of the 'opposite' gender (i.e., not lesbian, gay, or bisexual).
  • 'Transgender' refers to individuals whose gender identity and/or gender expression does not conform to the characteristics traditionally associated with their sex assigned at birth.
  • 'Transsexual' is a term for someone who transitions from one physical sex to another to bring their body more in line with their innate sense of their gender identity.