CWLA/Lambda Joint Initiative to Support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth and Adults Involved with the Child Welfare System
Accomplishments to Date
Transitions occur on a number of levels:
- the transitions from foster care to independence,
- the transitions that take place when LGBTQ people come to terms with their sexual orientation or gender identity,
- the transitions that professionals and other adults are going through in their understanding of LGBTQ issues,
- the transitions Initiative hopes to inspire in agencies and other organizations in coming to terms to with LGBTQ issues, and
- the transitions Lambda and CWLA will be going through as partnering agencies.
National LGBTQ Advisory Network
National LGBTQ Advisory Network
Approximately 40 adults and youth, from a range of public and private disciplines, who have experience and expertise in developing programs and services for LGBTQ youth participate in this Network.
All youth who participate in the Network have had experience living in the child welfare system.
The Network first met in March 2003 at CWLA's National Conference in Washington, DC, and established a quarterly meeting schedule; the Network has subsequently met by teleconference in June 2003 and September 2003.
The Network's primary functions are to provide guidance to initiative staff in developing program strategies, materials, and resources, and to disseminate information back to their communities and regions. The Network is a valuable resource to identify supports for a transition to an LGBTQ-sensitive child welfare environment.
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The CWLA/Lambda joint initiative has conducted or is scheduled to conduct presentations at several state and national conferences:
- Florence Crittenton CEO Retreat, Charlotte, North Carolina, February 2003
- Rainbow Families Conference, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2003
- True Colors X Sexual Minority Youth and Families Conference, Hartford, Connecticut, March 2003
- Children Defense Fund National Conference, Washington, DC, April 2003
- Colorado Statewide Child Welfare Conference, Vail, May 2003
- National Youth Advocacy Coalition Conference, Washington, DC, June 2003
- Daniel Memorial Foster Care Youth Conference, Orlando, Florida, August 2003
- North American Council on Adoptable Children international conference, Vancouver, British Columbia, August 2003
- Statewide Public Children's Service Association of Ohio, Columbus, Ohio, September 2003
- Georgia Statewide Juvenile Justice Conference, Jekyll Island, Georgia, September 2003
- Walden Family Services' LGBTQ Foster Care Youth Conference, San Diego, California, September 2003
- Statewide Child Advocacy Board of Iowa Conference , Des Moines, September 2003
- American Association of Children's Residential Centers Conference, Denver, October 2003
- Casey Family Programs It's My Life National Conference, Austin, Texas, October 2003
- National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Creating Change Conference, Miami, November 2003
- Charitable Choice Research Project National Conference, Washington, DC, November 2003
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- CWLA National Conference, Washington, DC, February 2004
- Project YES LGBT Inclusion Conference, Ypsilanti, Michigan, March 2004
- CWLA Teleconference, March 2004
- True Colors XI, Sexual Minority Youth and Families Conference, New Britain, Connecticut, March 2004
- Governor's Child and Family Conference, Baltimore, April 2004
- National Foster and Adoptive Parent Association Conference, Orlando, May 2004
- National Court Appointed Special Advocates Conference, Washington, DC, June 2004
- American Psychological Association LGBTQ Youth Symposium, Honolulu, July 2004
- Sexual Minority Youth in the Heartland Conference, Bloomington, Indiana, July 2004
CWLA's and Lambda's public information offices issued a press release announcing the joint initiative in August 2004. As a result of this media outreach, articles on the initiative have appeared in the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, Chicago Tribune, Detroit News, and local LGBTQ newspapers.
Articles written by initiative staff have appeared in such national publications as Common Ground (New England Association of Child Welfare Commissioners and Directors) and the newsletters of the National Organization of Adolescent Parenting and Pregnancy Prevention and the North American Council on Adoptable Children.
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The initiative is developing a tool kit that that will be a valuable, much-used resource for organizations and individuals who want to become more competent in the care they provide to LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system. The tool kit is designed to give youth and adults information and techniques to work through the multiple layers of transition involved as LGBTQ youth grow within child welfare systems and as those systems change to support the young people.
Proposed topics for the CWLA/Lambda Tool Kit include
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- basic facts about LGBTQ people, including professional standards and principles;
- tips and guidelines for caseworkers, congregate care providers, and foster parents;
- tips and information for LGBTQ young people in care;
- tips and guidelines for working with transgender youth;
- advocating for better policies, training, and services at public and private child welfare agencies;
- resource lists;
- training suggestions and resources;
- cultural contexts that bear on LGBTQ issues (for example, race and ethnicity);
- religious (faith-based) issues;
- mentoring programs for LGBTQ young people;
- tips and guidelines for working with families of origin who are hostile to their child's LGBTQ orientation;
- tips and guidelines for guardians ad litem;
- tips and guidelines for courts;
- clinical issues;
- information for schools of social work, with encouragement to include LGBTQ issues in their curricula;
- funding strategies for LGBTQ training, services, and programs;
- HIV prevention and sexual health issues; and
- protecting the rights of LGBTQ youth in school.
The Initiative has provided consultation to child welfare staff in several states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington State, and Wisconsin to help them transition toward a more competent system of care for LGBTQ youth.
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CWLA and Lambda have worked together on two bills pending in two state legislatures.
Texas was considering legislation to prohibit single or lesbian and gay adults from qualifying as foster or adoptive parents. CWLA President and CEO Shay Bilchik sent a letter to each member of the Texas legislature involved with these bills, expressing CWLA's opposition to them because they were in direct conflict with CWLA's policy of nondiscrimination, as stated in our Standards of Excellence for Family Foster Care Services and Standards of Excellence for Adoptive Services.
A Lambda staff attorney in Dallas hand-delivered the letter and testified in person at a hearing in opposition to the bill. As a result of the advocacy conducted by Lambda, CWLA, and other concerned organizations and individuals, the legislation was defeated in committee and will not become law.
Conversely, the California legislature was attempting to pass a bill that would expressly protect the rights of LGBTQ youth and adults in that state's child welfare system. The sponsor of this bill initiated the legislation based on Lambda's groundbreaking 2001 report, Youth in the Margins: A Report on the Unmet Needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Adolescents in Foster Care. Lambda Staff Attorney Rudy Estrada participated in a working group that included California-based organizations in support of the legislation. Lambda sent letters to California legislators and the Governor urging its adoption.
CWLA President and CEO Shay Bilchik sent a letter to each member of the California legislature involved with this bill, expressing CWLA's support. Lambda staff attorneys helped prepare testimony in support of this legislation. The bill--the first law of its kind in the nation--was enacted.
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