LGBTQ+ Youth Deserve Safe and Supportive Foster Homes

Why Outright Supports the Vermont Department for Children and Families Policy 76

All young people deserve safe, supportive families. And yet, an election-year lawsuit by conservative extremists is asking the state to permit families to mistreat LGBTQ+ youth by misgendering them, isolating them from the LGBTQ+ community and denying them access to affirming medical care. In other words, using vulnerable youth for political fodder.

We firmly support the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) Policy 76 that outlines the rights of LGBTQ+ youth and the responsibilities of adults caring for them. It aims to establish non-discriminatory practices to ensure that all youth have access to the care they need in the foster system.

Importantly, youth in the foster care system have already experienced multiple forms of trauma, sometimes related to their identity. Nationally, LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in child protective services and face more instability and volatility in their placements than their cisgender, heterosexual peers. In one study, 78% of LGBTQ+ youth were removed or ran away from their foster placements because of hostility toward their sexual or gender identities. And, we also know the severe impact of family rejection: LGBTQ+ youth who endure high levels of family rejection are eight times more likely to attempt suicide over their lifetime.

It's in part because of this stark reality that a new federal rule enacted in 2023 grants LGBTQ+ youth age 14 or older the right to request gender-affirming homes, which is a significant step at the national level toward ensuring inclusive care. The federal rule also requires any state that receives federal funding for its foster care systems to adhere to this rule, which is reflected in DCF's Policy 76. Fundamentally, Policy 76 not only fulfills a federal requirement, but aligns with what is widely understood as necessary to establish critical protections that ensure all homes fall within an affirming spectrum, thereby protecting LGBTQ+ youth from further harm.

DCF must avoid placing LGBTQ+ youth in foster homes where there is a condition that in order to have housing, they must hide their most authentic sense of self. This type of conditionality squarely places the burden of safety on the youth in a foster home, and further destabilizes their sense of security, confidence, and self-worth. For any youth in the foster care system, it's the responsibility of the adults to ensure their safety and create a culture of care. DCF’s policy supports that for LGBTQ+ youth.

Additionally, affirming families help foster resilience and a sense of belonging, which are essential for healthy development. DCF’s policy ensures that foster families are willing to show up for young people for who they are, and it allows for crucial discernment when families are not willing to extend that regard to the young people in their care..

Our collective aim should be to provide all youth unconditional care in the place they call home, and we should fight for nothing less when it comes to LGBTQ+ youth in foster settings.

If you or a loved one knows the importance of showing up for LGBTQ+ youth; if you have ever considered foster or respite care for youth, contact your local DCF district office to get involved. You can be the care they deserve.


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