Most states lack anti-discrimination policies and staff training needed to protect transgender youth in foster care, juvenile detention facilities and homeless shelters, according to a new report.
There are clear federal standards for the treatment of such youth, but states and communities don’t always follow such rules, said Currey Cook of the civil rights organization Lambda Legal, which helped write the report.
“Most placements and facilities are sex-specific and too often don’t affirm their identities,” Cook said.
The data on transgender youth is limited, but experts say transgender youth are a small portion of the overall population but represent an outsize percentage of youth in settings such as detention halls and homeless shelters.
The report recommends states improve their anti-discrimination policies and require ongoing staff training in LGBTQ issues to better protect transgender youth, who often face family rejection, trauma, discrimination and mental health or behavioral issues.
Last fall, a transgender boy killed himself at a Maine youth corrections facility. His mother said he didn’t receive the mental health treatment he needed. The 16-year-old boy’s death has led to calls for improved conditions and treatment for all incarcerated youth, particularly transgender young people and those navigating mental health issues.
The state Department of Corrections is working with the nonprofit Portland Outright to hold group sessions for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at Long Creek Youth Development Center. Knowles was a member of the group, which said it supports community-based alternatives to incarceration for young people.
New York and California are the only states with comprehensive non-discrimination policies that apply to transgender youth in out-of-home care settings, although communities in other states are showing promise too, according to the report.
The report was co-authored by the Washington-based Center for the Study of Social Policy and New York-based Children’s Rights, a child welfare advocacy group.