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Last week, I chronicled one very good cop’s encounter with kids who were victims of homophobia. I also wrote about one foster child‘s horrific journey through the District’s child-welfare system. This week I’m going to focus on my interviews with the lawyers, judges, and advocates who see homophobia up close via their involvement with the child-welfare system and the family court system. This is just a sampling.
Shane Salter, the Executive Director of D.C.’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), recalls a case: “One foster parent put a kid out for creasing his jeans. He was a little too prim and proper. It was a conflict around the boy wanting a crease in his jeans—-as if that was the end of the world.”
Salter remembers another case, a transgender youth who ended up in the D.C. Jail. “He was put out, his father didn’t want him. His father beat him at one point. He dressed like a girl.”
A D.C. Superior Court Judge recalls a case they had recently involving a younger kid with serious behavioral issues. “[The parents] were distraught that she’s dressing like a boy and acting like a boy. They’re whole take is very religiously based. I keep trying to focus on the fact that she took a gun to school and threatened a kid with it…The gender identity thing is the last thing you’d focus on.”
This judge and another D.C. Superior Court Family Court judge agree that they see a strong percentage of LGTQ kids having issues with placements, and safety. “Absolutely,” says a family court judge. “I know it comes up. I know it’s come up on my caseload and on other judge’s caseloads. I couldn’t begin to tell you percentage. It’s obviously an issue that needs to be addressed. You’ve got kids who have been taken from their family of origin and they’re already experiencing abandonment issues and rejection issues and we’re placing them in another home we are saying is going to be better than where they came from. It’s critically important that wherever we place them, the people are capable.”
This judge has heard the dress complaints as well. “Who cares how they dress?” they say. “For whatever reasons, there’s a lot of focus on that.”
LGBTQ kids face rejection from their foster homes and group homes. And, says one lawyer who has represented LGBTQ kids in the child-welfare system, indifference from social workers: “I think it’s absolutely the most neglected population. The gay child is just out in left field. There’s nothing specifically designed for them.”