This campaign on behalf of LGBTQ youth in foster care is the first of its kind in the nation and offers free online resources and provides support to legal and social services professionals - from judges to children's attorneys and social services personnel - who are involved in the foster care community.
Via an online video, "The Kids are Listening"campaign encourages people of all ages and walks of life to stand up to hate speech and discrimination of LGBTQ youth. "The Kids are Listening" video and resources are available for free athttp://thekidsarelistening.org.
Follow the campaign on Facebook (facebook.com/KidsAreListening) & Twitter (twitter.com/kidsrlistening).
A growing coalition of support is coming from major organizations across the nation including the American Humane Association; the Anti-Defamation League; Cartoon Network's Stop Bullying: Speak Up Campaign; Lambda Legal; the Child Welfare League of America; the National Association of Counsel for Children; the National Black Justice Coalition; The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges;the National LGBT Bar Association; Safe Schools Coalition; and the It Gets Better Project created by syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage.
"The Kids are Listening" campaign is part of the ABA Center on Children and the Law's Opening Doors Project, which was created in 2005 to increase the legal community's awareness of LGBTQ youth in foster care and the unique issues they face and to provide the legal community with advocacy tools to successfully represent these youth.
"Youth in foster care grapple with serious and often devastating risk factors including substance abuse, health issues, harassment in foster care and school, and high suicide rates," said Mimi Laver, Director of the Opening Doors Project and Legal Education at the ABA Center on Children and the Law. "'The Kids are Listening' campaign is about creating much-needed awareness in communities across America and teaching them how to address issues of bullying and discrimination to LGBTQ youth in a way that can be immediately implemented. We can all make a difference in the lives of these vulnerable children and teens - judges, lawyers, child welfare professionals, teachers, guidance counselors, and community members alike."
According to Laver, recent statistics on LGBTQ youth - both in and out of the foster care system - portray a grim reality for these children and teens:
LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to experience sexual abuse before the age of 12Research conducted by the ABA Center on Children and the Law has found that LGBTQ youth are less safe in foster care than other children and teens; have less of a chance of being reunified with their families or getting adopted; and their health, emotional health, and educational needs are not being met.
LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to attempt suicide as non-LGBTQ youth
80% of LGBTQ youth reported physical violence by their families after coming out
Homeless youth suicide rates are more than twice as high (62%) than non-LGBTQ homeless youth (29%)
80% of LGBTQ students reported verbal harassment at school (70% feel unsafe; 28% dropped out)
70% of LGBTQ youth in group homes reported violence based on their LGBTQ status
100% of LGBTQ youth in group homes reported verbal harassment
79% of LGBTQ youth were removed or ran away from placement because of hostility to their LGBTQ status
More than 4%-10% of LGBTQ youth in state care identify as LGBTQ
Between 11% and 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ. One half of homeless kids have spent time in foster care
"It's essential for child welfare professionals to understand what's going on in the LGBTQ community because we've been hidden in the dark for so long," said Milan, a 19-year-old woman from Louisiana who was involved with the juvenile justice system. "There's a younger generation that's coming behind me and they need to be well-prepared for the battles they are about to face. But they can't do it alone. The Opening Doors Project made a big difference in my life because I finally got to see people come together to make a change in my LGBTQ community."
For more information about "The Kids are Listening" visit http://thekidsarelistening.orgor call the ABA Center on Children and the Law at 202-662-1720.
Opening Doors Case Study: Prince George's County, MD LGBTQ Youth Task Force-
In 2007, social services workers and child advocates in Prince George's County, MD, just outside of Washington, DC, identified a problem. The LGBTQ children in their care faced bullying and unique challenges, and the staff and volunteers were not equipped to adequately help. With assistance from the Opening Doors Project, the Prince George's County LGBTQ Youth Task Force was formed to provide training and support for legal and social service professionals on the front lines of this issue. The county's foster kids are now benefiting from the Task Force's initiatives: they established a group home Bill of Rights for LGBTQ youth and have published resource guides for professionals working with foster kids. The initiatives reinforce the message that everyone deserves respect for who they are.
About the ABA Center on Children and the Law-
The American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law is a full-service technical assistance, training, and research program addressing a broad spectrum of law and court-related topics affecting children. The attorneys working on the Opening Doors project have, combined, 35 years working in the child welfare legal community. They have represented the child welfare agency, as well as children and youth in the foster care system. They focus much of their work on permanency issues for youth in foster care with an emphasis on LGBTQ youth.