A new report finds that LGBTQ youth, and particularly LGBTQ youth of color, are vastly overrepresented in the juvenile justice system. The report – titled Unjust: LGBTQ Youth Incarcerated in the Juvenile Justice System – was published by the Movement Advancement Project, with co-authors Youth First and the Center for American Progress.
Among the data included, the report finds that nearly 40% of incarcerated girls identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, compared to 7-9% of all youth generally, and that 85% of incarcerated LGBTQ youth are youth of color.
Once incarcerated, LGBTQ youth face myriad challenges including lack of oversight, unsafe placement, inadequate healthcare, lack of supportive services, limitations on family visitation, and abuse and mistreatment by staff and peers.
The overrepresentation of LGBTQ youth in the juvenile justice system can be traced, in part, to the discrimination, stigma, and increased chance of familial rejection faced by LGBTQ youth, and particularly LGBTQ youth of color. These factors can in turn lead to increased family instability, homelessness, interactions with law enforcement, and criminalization.
Child welfare systems have the potential to play a crucial role in reducing the number of LGBTQ youth who find themselves involved in the juvenile justice system. Increasing LGBTQ cultural competence, and eliminating anti-LGBTQ discrimination, are key goals of the Every Child Deserves a Family (ECDF) Act, currently introduced in Congress.
Family Equality Council is a leading advocate for the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would increase the number placement rates for all youth in care, by removing the discriminatory barriers that prevent so many LGBTQ adults from serving as foster or adoptive parents. In 2015, over 20,000 children “aged out” of the foster care system, leaving them at higher risk of poverty, homelessness, and incarceration. Passing ECDF is one step that would help ensure vulnerable LGBTQ youth do not experience the challenging circumstances uncovered by MAP, Youth First, and CAP in this report.
To learn more about the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, visit: https://dev-fec.pantheonsite.io/ecdf