Tagline: Until the Work Is Done
Leno Bill Requires Caregivers to Consider Gender Identity When Placing Transgender Foster Youth in Homes
April 22, 2015 at 8:44 am

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April 22, 2015

CONTACT: Jason Howe, Equality California
PHONE: (323) 848-9801/MOBILE: (415) 595-9245/EMAIL: jason@eqca.org

SACRAMENTO – Caregivers tasked with placing California foster youth in homes would be required to take a young person’s gender identity into consideration when making this critical decision, under new legislation passed by a key Senate committee. Senate Bill 731, authored by Senator Mark Leno, is designed to ensure that all foster youth, including those who identify as transgender, are placed in appropriate homes where they feel safe and accepted. The bill passed the Senate Human Services Committee on Tuesday with a 3-0 vote.

“Young people have a better opportunity to thrive in situations where they are fully accepted and supported for who they are,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “Entering the foster care system is challenging for all youth, but it can actually be damaging for young people whose identities are not affirmed by their caregivers and peers.”

When a child enters California’s foster care system, welfare workers and caregivers consider a host of factors when choosing an appropriate placement. The Foster Care Bill of Rights gives all foster youth the right to fair and equal access to services and the right to be free from discrimination based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. State law, however, does not provide specific guidance on placing youth who are transgender. SB 731 provides that needed direction. The bill is co-sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California and Transgender Law Center.

“As a former foster youth who was in the system for 16 years, I am living proof that a supportive environment helps nurture success,” said Kevin West, a Sacramento student and nanny who entered the foster care system as a toddler. “My caregivers fully embraced my gender identity as a teenager and helped create a situation where other foster kids also accepted me. Not all transgender foster youth have stories like mine, but with this change in law, I’m hopeful they will.”

Studies show that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth are at higher risk for homelessness, abuse, depression and suicide. Transgender youth in particularare at high risk for poor health outcomes due to the rejection and harassment they face. These risks are magnified for young people in foster care, many of whom have already experienced significant trauma.

“When a transgender foster child is inappropriately placed in a home that is not welcoming and supportive, that young person is at an even higher risk of bullying, harassment and abuse,” said Shannan Wilber, youth policy director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “The foster care system should be a place that embraces all young people, not a place that makes them feel ashamed of who they are.”

“Honoring and respecting the gender identity of foster care youth will give them a better chance at becoming successful, healthy young adults,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “This legislation helps ensure that all foster youth feel safe and respected.”

SB 731 will be heard next in the Senate Judiciary Committee.


Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization dedicated to creating a fair and just society. Our mission is to achieve and maintain full and lasting equality, acceptance, and social justice for all people in our diverse LGBT communities, inside and outside of California. Our mission includes advancing the health and well-being of LGBT Californians through direct healthcare service advocacy and education. Through electoral, advocacy, education and mobilization programs, we strive to create a broad and diverse alliance of LGBT people, educators, government officials, communities of color and faith, labor, business, and social justice communities to achieve our goals. www.eqca.org

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