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In Celebration of Ali Forney’s Birthday, Sign On To End the LGBTQ+ Youth Crisis in New York’s Child Welfare System

As we mark Ali Forney’s birthday this month, we stand together to end the pervasive homophobia and transphobia within the New York State Office of Child and Family Services (NYSOCFS) and New York City Administration for Child Services (NYCACS) that are endangering the lives of LGBTQ+ youth every day. The time for change is now. 

This is a crucial and urgent first step toward safeguarding our youth from the deep scars of homophobic and transphobic abuse and will save lives. In celebration of Ali Forney, we call upon NYCACS and NYSOCFS to implement the following changes to keep LGBTQ+ children in accepting home environments that affirm their identities, support their mental health, and keep them safe:

Immediate Policy Reform - We must see homophobia and transphobia more clearly addressed as forms of abuse in the child welfare policies of NYSOCFS and NYCACS. Provide staff with more clear guidance on how to identify homophobia and transphobia and hold staff accountable when not followed. This recognition is the first step toward safeguarding our youth from the irreparable damage brought on by intolerance in foster care from families and staff members alike. Recognizing abuse is only the beginning – we need a robust system of support that intervenes effectively when LGBTQ+ youth are in crisis.

Tailored Mental Health Services, a Lifeline for LGBTQ+ Youth - LGBTQ+ youth in the foster system are significantly more likely to experience mental health challenges, with rates of depression and anxiety far surpassing their non-LGBTQ+ peers. When homophobia and transphobia are reported in the system, access to mental health services specifically designed to address the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth is needed. These services can be life-saving– they don’t just provide a safe space to talk, but a critical validation of identity and experience that significantly reduces the risk of self-harm and suicide.

Affirming Family Therapy to Build Bridges and Heal Divides - Family rejection is a harsh reality for all too many LGBTQ+ youth– studies show that family acceptance is linked to significantly lower rates of depression and substance abuse, and promotes overall well-being for young people. Placement on a prevention path of family therapy can educate and bridge gaps in understanding, reducing family conflict and increasing acceptance while keeping families out of the system.. When a child reports homophobia or transphobia and physical and sexual abuse is not present, providing families with affirming family therapy can ensure that home is a safe place for LGBTQ+ youth. 

Educational Programs to Empower Change from Within - Ignorance breeds fear and prejudice. Educational programs targeting both families and child welfare staff can dramatically shift perceptions, attitudes, and treatment of LGBTQ+ youth in the system. From providing staff with clear examples of how to identify the abuse and guidelines on what actions to take when homophobia and transphobia are occurring in the home– by offering training programs that include LGBTQ+ history, the importance of accurate pronoun use, empathic consciousness-raising, and the impacts of discrimination, NYSOCFS and NYCACS must equip caregivers and professionals with the knowledge to support and affirm LGBTQ+ youth. Such education not only fosters a safer environment but also increases the potential for successful family reunification. It furthermore promotes advocacy and allyship, essential components in combating homophobia and transphobia within the system.

Every day, LGBTQ+ children are facing crises that lead to severe mental health issues, homelessness, and worse. We cannot stand by while the futures of our most vulnerable youth are at risk.

By signing this petition, you're not just advocating for policy changes in our city and state agencies; you're fighting for the lives and futures of LGBTQ+ children. Let's honor the memory of Ali Forney by committing to a child welfare system that stands as a beacon of hope, safety, and inclusion for all.

Together, we can transform our child welfare system into a safe haven for LGBTQ+ youth. Sign, share, and demand action today. 

Sign Our Petition

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Thank you for helping us make a difference!

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