SACRAMENTO – Governor Jerry Brown today signed legislation authored by Senator Mark Leno and sponsored by Equality California that provides new protections for transgender foster youth. Senate Bill 731 ensures that all foster youth, including those who identify as transgender, are placed in appropriate homes where they feel safe and accepted. It requires caregivers tasked with placing foster youth in homes to take a young person’s gender identity into consideration when making this critical decision.
“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 foster placements for youth who are transgender. SB 731 provides that needed direction.
The bill is co-sponsored by Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Transgender Law Center.
“Children are placed in foster homes to remove them from dangerous situations and protect them from harm,” said Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California. “Too often, transgender kids are placed into home situations that are more hostile than the ones they left. This law is simple common sense and will help ensure that vulnerable children are kept safe.”
Studies show that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth are at higher risk for homelessness, abuse, depression and suicide. Transgender youth in particular are 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.
SB 731 takes effect on January 1, 2016.
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