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According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights at any instant in time there are approximately 260,000 youth in the foster care system nationwide.  Over 16% of them will be in California.  A 2001 study by Lambda Legal estimated that LGBTQ youth make up between 5 and 10% of all foster youth.

The actual percentage may be even higher since LGBTQ youth are over-represented in the foster care pool due to discrimination and abuse many of these youth face in their families of origin and in their schools.
In one of the only studies of the foster care system in regards LGBTQ youth (undertaken by the Urban Justice Center for the New York Task Force in 2001) it was discovered that 100% of LGBTQ youth in New York City group or foster homes had been verbally harassed at the home on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity, 70% had been subjected to physical violence, 78% were removed or ran away because of hostility directed towards them, and 56% spent time living on the streets because it felt safer than being in the group or foster home.

The abuse experienced was not solely generated by their youth peers, but also was perpetrated by facility staff and service providers.

When Jamie Lee Evans, now project director of Y.O.U.T.H Training Project, was 5 years old, her foster parents at a group home in Los Angeles taunted a boy they believed was gay.  The boy was effeminate.  The foster parents couldn't stand that.

Not only were we required to beat him up but they would say 'we have to beat the gay out of the little kid,'  It was a pretty traumatizing business as you can imagine.

--Jamie Lee Evans

The 2003 California Foster Care Non-Discrimination Act was passed.  It prohibits the harassment of youths on the basis of actual or perceived race, ethnic group, national origin, religion, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

On June 26 a new bill, AB 1856 would require caregivers to complete 40 hours of classroom instruction and presentation of best practices for providing adequate care for LGBT youths in foster services.

Existing law [the California Community Care Facilities Act] requires the department to develop, and an administrator of a group home facility to complete, a certification program that includes training in various areas, including the rights of foster children. Existing law requires a foster family agency to provide, and a licensed foster parent to complete, preplacement training and additional annual training in various areas, including the rights of foster children. Existing law also requires a community college district with a foster care education program to make orientation and training available to a relative or nonrelative extended family member caregiver, as specified.
AB 1856 would require the training for an administrator of a group home facility, licensed foster parent, relative or nonrelative extended family member caregiver to include instruction to increase cultural awareness of and sensitivity to the needs of LGBT youth in foster care.

A 2006 study called Out of the Margins found that LGBTQ foster youth are vulnerable to violence, rejection and abuse not only in the home but also in their schools and communities.

As we delved into it more, we noticed there was a dearth of training in LGBT sensitivity.

--Cecilia Tran, assembly fellow for Rep. Tom Ammiano (D-SF), sponsor of the bill

Why are we accepting foster parents who say [they] don’t want or will not take of an LGBT [children]?  How we can allow that to be?  We just have to teach general acceptance support and love.
AB 1856 will have a hearing before the Senate Committee on Human Services Tuesday.  The bill passed the Assembly 49-25 on May 3.  You can comment here.

Members of the committee are Carol Liu (D-21st district) (Chair), Bill Emmerson (R-37th district) (Vice Chair), Tom Berryhill (R-14th district), Loni Hancock (D-9th district), Tony Strickland (R-19th district), Roderick Wright (D-25th district), Leland Yee (D-8th district).

Originally posted to Milk Men And Women on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 08:57 AM PDT.

Also republished by TransAction.

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