Improving child welfare protections for transgender, gender-expansive and gender-nonconforming youth

The study by Children’s Rights, Lambda Legal, and the Center for the Study of Social Policy revealed gaps in the child welfare system for TGNC youth.

Last month, leading national advocacy organizations Children’s Rights, Lambda Legal, and the Center for the Study of Social Policy published a study on transgender and nonbinary youth in the foster care system called Safe Havens: Closing the Gap Between Recommended Practice Reality for Transgender and Gender Expansive Youth in Out-Home Care.                            

According to the study, only 5-7 percent of the U.S. youth population are LGBTQ+, but they represent almost 25 percent of youth in foster care, 20 percent of those in the juvenile justice system and almost 50 percent of youth experiencing homelessness. In addition, transgender, gender-expansive and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) youth, who may identify across the sexual orientation spectrum, are overrepresented in these systems at even higher rates than youth who identify as LGBQ.

Definitions from the Safe Havens report:

  • Transgender: a person whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned to be at birth
  • Gender-expansive: a broad term referring to aspects of gender expression, identity, and interests that go beyond cultural binary prescriptions of behaviors and interests associated primarily with boys or girls.
  • Gender non-conforming: a person whose gender expression differs

Nebraska is among the lowest-ranking states in terms of legal protections for TGNC youth in the child welfare system. Nebraska does not have explicit protection against discrimination on account of sexual orientation, gender identity or sex (or gender) in child welfare-specific statute, regulation or policy.

It’s important for all states, including Nebraska, to have licensing, regulations and training, and other requirements that protect the welfare of TGNC youth, in addition to LGBQ youth. Some of these recommended requirements include making sure that definitions of sex and gender are inclusive of everyone, having regulations that promote TGNC youth to express themselves, and creating requirements for staff to be trained to support the needs of youth.

For more details on the ways other states have removed barriers for youth in different child welfare placements, congregate care settings and for those who are homeless, you can read the full report here.

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