The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families is proposing a rule aimed at assuring that LGBTQ+ and intersex youth in foster care are placed in supportive homes, the federal government announced Wednesday.
“The proposed rule would require that every state’s child welfare agency ensure that LGBTQI+ children in their care are placed in foster homes where they will be protected from mistreatment related to their sexual orientation or gender identity, where their caregivers have received special training on how to meet their needs, and where they can access the services they need to thrive,” says a White House fact sheet.
The rule also “would require that caregivers for LGBTQI+ children are properly and fully trained to provide for the needs of the child related to the child’s self-identified sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression,” adds an HHS press release.
The proposed rule will be published online and will be subject to 60 days of public comment before becoming final. It is in keeping with an executive order President Joe Biden issued directing HHS to protect LGBTQ+ and intersex youth in the foster care, where they are overrepresented because of family rejection and abuse. But they often face mistreatment in foster care as well, and the new rule is aimed at preventing that.
The Administration for Children and Families is issuing another proposed rule, this one designed to expand access to legal representation for children in foster care, parents, and kinship caregivers by allowing state and tribal child welfare agencies to use federal funds to provide legal services. It will also let these agencies provide legal representation to parents seeking restraining orders and young people exiting the foster care system.
It has put out a final regulation that allows a child welfare agency to adopt simpler licensing or approval standards for foster homes that include one of the child’s extended family members, such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles. It also requires that states provide these caregivers with the same level of financial assistance that any other foster care provider receives.
“This is a historic package that underlines the Biden-Harris Administration’s steadfast commitment to putting children’s well-being first,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the release. “This package allows kin to step into a critical caretaker role, proposes necessary legal representation to keep families together, and a safe and accepting environment in which children can thrive. The Administration is providing vital resources to remove barriers for child welfare agencies to provide supports necessary to accomplish that mission.”
The proposal was welcomed by LGBTQ+ advocacy groups.
“LGBTQ+ youth face higher risks of rejection and abuse than their peers – a reality being made worse by the wave of right-wing hate that has plunged our community into a state of emergency,” said a statement from David Stacy, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president of government affairs. “This proposed rulemaking is an important step toward ensuring LGBTQ+ youth in foster care, who make up nearly one in three of the children in the foster care system, have the safe, healthy, and affirming environments they need in order to thrive. We applaud the Biden-Harris Administration for proposing such a critical new rule and look forward to working together to protect these young people.”
“All young people in foster care, including those who happen to be LGBTQ, deserve affirming, supportive environments to call home,” Kasey Suffredini, interim senior vice president of prevention at the Trevor Project, noted in a press release.
Suffredini referenced research conducted by the Trevor Project that showed queer young people in foster care report higher odds of attempting suicide than youth outside the foster care system. The group also found that LGBTQ+ youth in foster care are more likely to be subjected to the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy.
“The proposed rule specifically carves out protections against this abusive practice and, instead, calls on foster families to provide support and respect to LGBTQ young people, through access to mental health and medical care, honoring who young people know they are, and using names and pronouns that match who they are. Especially at a time when we continue to see so many lawmakers pushing politicized policies that harm these youth, it gives us hope to see an informed, data-driven effort to protect and support the health and well-being of LGBTQ young people,” Suffredini said.