Know Your Rights Guide: Chapter 16 - LGBTQIA Protections

Jennifer Pokempner,

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All youth in the foster care system deserve to be treated with respect, to be safe, have their needs met and to be supported in achieving their goals.  Youth who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex or Asexual (LGBTQIA) deserve the same protections and support as all young people.  Like all youth, they also have the right to be accepted and affirmed.  This chapter provides information on some of the specific laws and requirements that exist to protect LGBTQIA individuals specifically as well as how laws that apply to all youth may be useful to you. 

Are youth in foster care who identify as LGBTQIA protected from discrimination and bad treatment?

What should I do if I am being harassed, discriminated or treated badly against because of my sexual orientation or gender identity?

  • You deserve to be safe and if you ever feel unsafe or you are being harmed, you should get help immediately by calling your caseworker or his or her supervisor.  If it is an emergency, you should call 911.  
  • If you are being treated badly or different than other youth because of your LGBTQIA you should:
    • Talk to your case worker and go up their chain of command if you are not getting a response. 
    • Talk to your lawyer.  Your lawyer’s job is to advocate for you and protect your interests. If you tell your lawyer about your concerns, they can help you file a grievance, advocate on your behalf to the county agency, raise the issue at your next court hearing, or ask for an earlier hearing. For more information about attorneys and court hearings, see Chapter 18.
    • File a grievance. Each county’s children and youth agency and private providers of child welfare services must have a grievance policy in place and must inform youth of the policy and how to file a grievance. The agency must assist youth with filing a grievance. For more information about grievances, see Chapter 17.
    • If you live in a city or county with additional discrimination protections, you may also be able to file a complaint with your local government. For example, youth in Philadelphia can file a complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations for violations of the local nondiscrimination ordinance.  

Where can I go for more information or resources for LGBTQIA youth in foster care?

  • Call your lawyer to ask for help. 
  • Call Lambda Legal at 212-809-8585.


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