Voice for Adoption (VFA), the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) and the Center on American Progress have released a new study, Welcoming All Families that analyses discrimination against LGBTQ youth in foster care and discrimination against the recruitment of foster and adoptive parents.
The report finds that although same-sex parents are not banned from fostering or adopting, they are still largely unprotected from discrimination. According to the report and research the vast majority of states (42) lack laws or policies that explicitly protect LGBT people from discrimination in the foster system.
The report indicates that among the eight states that have affirmative nondiscrimination protections for foster parents, five states protect prospective parents from discrimination based on sexual orientation, while three states and Washington, D.C., protect against discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. They also say that forty-three states lack explicit laws protecting LGBT prospective parents from discrimination in adoption. Seven states protect parents from such discrimination based on sexual orientation, while only three states and Washington, D.C., protect parents based on both sexual orientation and gender identity.
The other major issue in dealing with discrimination involves youth in the foster care system. LGBTQ foster youth continue to report mistreatment and discrimination at twice the rate of their non-LGBTQ peers. The authors cite studies that have found between 19 percent and 23 percent of youth in the U.S. foster care system identify as LGBTQ, meaning that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system by at least a factor of two. They point out that abuse, rejection by their families, and discrimination all contribute to this overrepresentation.
LGBTQ youth in foster care generally have more nondiscrimination protections than LGBT prospective parents. However, 13 states still lack explicit nondiscrimination protections for foster youth. There are 37 states that provide protections for youth in the child welfare system through laws, regulations, or agency policies: Twenty-four states and Washington, D.C., provide protections on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity, and 13 states provide protections on the basis of sexual orientation only. Three states with nondiscrimination protections have issued explicit guidance to agencies to house transgender youth according to their gender identity. Nine states with nondiscrimination protections require child welfare agency staff and/or foster parents to undergo LGBTQ-inclusive cultural competency training.
While these protections are crucial to ensuring that LGBTQ youth are treated fairly in the U.S. child welfare system, not all states offer them.
The report includes several profiles and examples of discrimination in placement and recruitment as well as an examination of several state policies.