Maryland has officially enacted policies aimed at making the foster care system safer for foster youth who identify as LGBTQ. Many LGBTQ youth who enter the foster care system are subject to more trauma and violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. An article from The Washington Post illustrates a story of one girl who identifies as transgender being forced to stay in an all-male group home, and subsequently running away to survive on the streets because of the bullying she endured. Without proper training and screening, it can become difficult to protect LGBTQ foster youth from additional trauma.

Maryland’s new policies will include requirements for the following:

  • Screening foster homes for possible bias.
  • Additional sensitivity training for case workers that includes instruction around recognizing subconscious bias, proper language to use with LGBTQ youth, and how to normalize being gay or transgender.
  • Youth who identify as Transgender will no longer be placed in “all-boys” or “all-girls” homes that do not follow their gender identity.
  • Prohibits “Conversion Therapy.”
  • Urges foster parents of transgender children to refer to them by their preferred pronouns. 

Maryland is among 21 states that have policies banning discrimination against foster youth based on sexual orientation, and is one of only 14 states that extend those protections to foster youth who identify as transgender. It is important that the foster system continues to address discrimination issues through enacting policies that ensure foster youth do not endure more trauma when they enter care that is supposed to keep them safe from harm.

To read the Washington Post article in full, please visit: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/maryland-tries-to-strengthen-foster-care-for-gay-and-transgender-youths/2016/08/28/fcec3132-63d0-11e6-96c0-37533479f3f5_story.html

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about Project Wait No Longer, Barker’s older child adoption program, please contact Alex Williams, MSW at awilliams@barkerfoundation.org