Presentation on theme: "Copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Working with LGBTQ Youth to Ensure Their Safety, Permanency and Well-being The American Bar Association."— Presentation transcript:
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Working with LGBTQ Youth to Ensure Their Safety, Permanency and Well-being The American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law Opening Doors Project http://www.abanet.org/child/lgbtq.shtml http://www.abanet.org/child/lgbtq.shtmlhttp://www.abanet.org/child/lgbtq.shtml Mimi Laver, JD Andrea Khoury, JD Annual CIP Meeting July 22, 2010
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law What will we cover? Context for LGBTQ youth in foster care Exploration of attitudes about LGBTQ youth Information about building relationships with LGBTQ youth Using all this information to best represent and make decisions about LGBTQ youth throughout the life of a case Role of court leaders and advocates in improving outcomes for LGBTQ youth
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Opening Doors Opening Doors for LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care: A Guide for Legal Professionals It’s my Life Multidisciplinary Committees Multidisciplinary team dedicated to improving services, support, and treatment of LGBTQ youth in foster care Establish and advertise LGBTQ friendly services and create resource guide about these providers Support training to increase awareness and improve treatment of LGBTQ youths’ needs – The Opening Doors Project is happy to help! Expand recruitment of LGBTQ foster parents Create a LGBTQ sub-committee of your CIP Committees
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Youth participants at Opening Doors Listening Forums “Social worker identified me as gay at age 6. I didn’t even know what gay meant.” - Denver “The judges aren’t welcoming if they know you’re gay. No one seemed interested in working with me.”–Jacksonville “The judge was patronizing and said ‘Oh, you’re gay now?’ in front of everyone like he thought it was a fad.” –Jacksonville “I wanted to speak on my own behalf…but I did not get to go [to court]. If you are not there, present, your words can get twisted…I feel I was in foster care for longer because of this woman. [GAL]” – Denver
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Who are LGBTQ youth in the foster care system? Estimated that more than 4-10% of youth in state care are LGBTQ identified 25-40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ Half of gay or bisexual young men forced out of their homes because of sexual orientation engaged in prostitution to survive. High rates of substance abuse due to stigmatization 60 percent of gay and bisexual young men are substance abusers, compared with less than 4 percent of youth population as a whole 30% of LGBTQ youth reported physical violence by family after coming out 80% of LGBTQ students reported verbal harassment at school (70% feel unsafe; 28% dropped out) LGBTQ high school students three times more likely to report carrying a weapon to school.
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Why do we need to specifically target efforts to assist LGBTQ youth in the foster care system? Not allowed to participate in programming Told “you are going to hell” Not allowed to dress or groom as they prefer Gender identify is not respected
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law 80% of youth harassed for being perceived as gay identify as heterosexual 5 times more likely to attempt suicide 97% of students hear gay or gender slurs on a daily basis 70% LGBT youth in group homes reported violence based on LGBTQ status 100% reported verbal harassment 78% removed or ran away from placement because of hostility to LGBTQ status Punished for expressing LGBTQ status Why do we need to specifically target efforts to assist LGBTQ youth in the foster care system? (cont.)
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Why are we talking to advocates, attorneys, judges and court leaders? Dealing with homophobic behavior of attorneys and court personnel Addressing expectations of parents Safeguarding LGBTQ youth from being prematurely “outed” Making mistakes about a youth’s sex because of unisex clothing, hairstyles or androgynous appearance Focusing on systemic approaches to improving practice and outcomes
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Why are we talking to advocates, attorneys, judges and court leaders? Increase awareness that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth exist on dependency caseloads. Improve representation for LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system. Provide information to the legal and judicial system regarding the specific needs and services for LGBTQ youth in foster care. Realize the need to address barriers to safety, reunification, adoption, guardianship, placement with fit and willing relatives, or other permanent living arrangements. Realize the need to address risk factors common to LGBTQ youth in the welfare system. Develop advocacy tools to address LGBTQ youth’s needs.
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law What we are telling youth… You have the right to attend your court hearings You have the right to an advocate You have the right to not be placed in a home/congregate care who discriminates against you because of your sexuality You have the right to not be forced to attend religious services You have the right to ask for LGBTQ friendly service providers You have the right to be treated equal to non LGBTQ youth in foster care You have the right to be safe in your school and home environment You have the right to maintain familial relationships
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Impact of Negative Attitudes Confused and hurt by lawyers and judges who ignored them or treated them disrespectfully LGBTQ youth try different coping strategies with poor outcomes They hide their sexual orientation in fear of verbal abuse A youth’s image of the child welfare legal system shouldn’t be an unwelcoming one
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law ABA Codes of Conduct A Judge Shall Perform the Duties of Judicial Office Impartially and Diligently A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice. A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, including but not limited to bias or prejudice based on race, sex,…sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, and shall not permit staff, court officials and others subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so. It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: “engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.” Lawyers and judges may think and believe what they want, but those thoughts may not impact the treatment clients and litigants receive.
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Riddle Scale Riddle Homophobia Scale about Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Identity Four homophobic levels of attitudes about LGB individuals: repulsion, pity, tolerance, and acceptance Four positive levels: support, admiration, appreciation, and nurturance
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Positive Levels of Attitudes Support: safeguard the rights of gays/lesbians Advocates: Develop trusting relationships with your clients Advocate for your client to be in a safe setting, even if you go against the recommendation of the child welfare agency Know who in your community provides services in an LGBTQ- affirming manner and advocate with the agency and court for your client to receive these services Become familiar with the laws protecting LGBTQ youth
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Support, cont. Judges: Have resources available to share with LGBTQ youth, their families, and lawyers Insist the agency care for the youth in an affirming way, if they don’t, consider making a “no reasonable efforts” finding against the agency Challenge the tendency to label age-appropriate sexual activity as predator Avoid double standards for behavior between LGBTQ youth and heterosexual sexually active youth Understand that LGBTQ youth are not mentally ill
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Admiration: willing to truly examine homophobic attitudes, values, and behaviors Use gender neutral language when talking with youth Ex. Ask about the youth’s “partners” or “important relationships” in the youth’s life, romantic and otherwise. Use the youth’s name and pronoun of choice and encourage the youth to dress as he or she wishes
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Appreciation: willing to combat homophobia in themselves and others Display hate-free zone, rainbow flag or triangle signs in your courtroom waiting area with other resources or office Speak out when you hear anyone make homophobic or inappropriate anti-gay comments Learn developmental needs of all young people, including sexual development, and integrate LGBTQ youth into this understanding Judges should require staff training regarding the treatment of LGBT youth
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Nurturance: willing to be allies and advocates for gays/lesbians Advocates: Visit your clients in their placements including in LGBTQ group homes or get to know their friends Be available by cell phone or quickly returning calls for anything your client wants to discuss Work with birth families to accept their children back in their homes Understand and advocate for safe and healthy services for transgender youth
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Nurturance, cont. Judges: Support the youth and his or her family Ensure the youth knows you are proud of accomplishments and show understanding when problems arise Educate colleagues on the importance of nurturing all young people, including those who identify as LGBTQ Promote the development of recreational programs and opportunities for social interaction for LGBTQ youth
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Why does knowing a youth’s LGBTQ status matter for good advocacy? “I don’t care who they are sleeping with, I’m just concerned with their safety and permanency.” “I don’t talk to my straight clients about their love life.”
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Why does knowing a youth’s LGBTQ status matter for good advocacy? In most cases, the fact that a young person has identified or thinks she may be LGBTQ plays major role in her well-being LGBTQ status impacts placement, agency services, school, and safety Personal beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity may impact services provided by foster parents, social workers, and legal community Advocates must forge relationship where youth is comfortable talking about his sexuality
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Why does knowing a client’s LGBTQ status matter for good representation? (cont.) Lawyers: To get youth to share such information, you must be Competent Diligent Communicate effectively Keep confidences Advise properly Advocate without bias
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law The Life of a Case Initial Removal: LGBTQ youth may enter care for a reason related to LGBTQ status or something else Youth may or may not be out and open about LGBTQ status Work to build a trusting relationship Ensure your client is safe and getting needed services at the start of her case
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law The Life of a Case, cont. Early Hearings: Pay special attention to safety issues Watch for red flags that may offer clues about the youth’s LGBTQ status. For example: Youth was kicked out of home Ran away/living on the streets Using substances Attempted suicide Started skipping school
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law The Life of a Case, cont. In Between Hearings – Throughout the Entire Case: Advocating outside court: Participate in meetings with your client Work with agency to get services for your client and her family. Is service provider open to working on LGBTQ issues in a nonjudgmental way? Monitor agency’s permanency planning efforts Set up a satisfactory permanency plan with client, but re-visit together if changes occur If necessary, contact client’s other systems and providers. For example: Make appointment to see a school counselor If client has a delinquency hearing, talk with the criminal lawyer before the hearing Assist in accessing a doctor who is LGBTQ-friendly and treats minors in foster care
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law The Life of a Case, cont. Permanency Hearings (and Reviews): Monitor client’s goals and agency’s goals Don’t forget: reunification is the first choice permanency goal. But, LGBTQ youth must first work with the family about the issues leading to the placement or the chance of reunification working out is poor Visitation is a powerful tool that increases the chance of reunification. Ask the court to order sibling visitation in the most natural setting possible If reunification is not likely, the judge should require the agency to provide information about a viable permanency plan. If not, the judge should issue a no reasonable efforts order and ask that the case be brought back to court soon Adoptive parents and guardians must be comfortable as advocates for the LGBTQ youth A relative who is open to LGBTQ issues may be interested in adopting, being a guardian, or providing a permanent home and connection for the youth.
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law The Life of a Case, cont. Permanency Hearings (and Reviews), cont.: If the agency suggests APPLA as the permanent plan, the judge should ask questions to ensure the transition process is occurring and the youth has access to needed resources. Remember the high percentage of LGBTQ young people who end up on the street – don’t let that happen on your caseload Involve the youth in identifying a permanent resource. Determine if providers are LGBTQ-friendly. Decide what he judge needs to hear, from your client or yourself. Prepare your client to be in court.
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law Conclusion To be an effective advocate for an LGBTQ youth, understand your own attitudes about LGBTQ people Get to know the youth -- earn his respect and trust by including him in the legal process Find answers to the key questions that will help to ensure his safety, permanency, and well-being As the attorney advocate, get what your client needs As the judge, make difficult decisions for the sake of the youth As court leader, share with your colleagues the importance of a focus on LGBTQ youth and on system wide change
copyright 2010 ABA Center on Children and the Law For additional information feel free to contact the presenters Mimi Laver, JD firstname.lastname@example.org@staff.abanet.org Andrea Khoury, JD email@example.com@staff.abanet.org Garry Bevel, JD firstname.lastname@example.org@staff.abanet.org http://www.abanet.org/child/lgbtq.shtml