One Million Kids for Equality Comments on the HHS AFCARS rule

Published in Vital VOICE

http://www.thevitalvoice.com/one-million-kids-for-equality-comments-on-the-hhs-afcars-rule/

Once again the well being of Native Peoples, LGBTQ youth, and families are in jeopardy, and One Million Kids for Equality are issuing this public statement on the issue. In response to Trump’s Executive Order 13777 on Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda to lower regulatory burdens on the American people, issued on February 24, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has published a Proposed Rule (RIN 0970-AC72) on the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) with comments due June 13, 2018. AFCARS collects and records data from state and tribal title IV-E agencies on children in foster care and those who have been adopted. This data includes sexual orientation and gender expression of the children, as well as the sexual orientation of the adopting parents and foster data for Native people. By doing so, it ensures the safety and well being of LGBTQ youth, families, and Native peoples in the foster system. However, Trump’s order to “streamline” AFCARS is stripping sexual orientation, gender expression, and Native identity from foster care reporting, opening children up to exploitation, discrimination, and abuse.

One Million Kids for Equality, issued a formal comment yesterday to the HHS on the Proposed Rule, “One Million Kids for Equality is very concerned with the well-being of LGBTQ foster children due to this proposed rule, and feel very strongly that the streamlining of AFCARS will have an overwhelmingly negative impact on LGBTQ foster children and potential adoptive families due to the reasons outlined below.”

They are also expressing many points that defend the collection of sexual orientation, gender identity, and Native data and why they should continue to be collected. Our points state that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster system (meaning that there are more children who identify on the LGBTQ spectrum than not), and in being so they are reported as more likely to be treated poorly, be hospitalized due to emotional trauma, or become incarcerated in Juvenile Justice Facilities. These facts are reported by the federally-funded R.I.S.E study. The removal of this data will negatively impact the ability to track and prevent outcomes such as these, including similar outcomes in Native children.They also assert many reasons why sexual orientation and gender identity question need to be included on foster care forms.

“LGBTQ and Native children are not a burden and that the notion of “streamlining” our adoption system by erasing them from data is appalling and abhorrent. When it comes to youth, we need to take every step necessary to ensure their safety and livelihood. This move by the Trump administration is a blatant attack on LGBTQ and Native people, and we will not let it go unchallenged,” the organization said in a statement.

To read the full comment or read about the Proposed Rule, visit: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ACF-2018-0003-0094

 

Recent losses in LGBTQ community prompt conversation about mental health

Published on St. Louis Public Radio

http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/recent-losses-lgbtq-community-prompt-conversation-about-mental-health#stream/0

While LGBTQ Pride Month is typically a time for celebration among the local queer community, mourning has also marked this year’s observance as several St. Louis-area residents have died by suicide and overdose in the wake of national news of celebrity deaths.

“The numbers of suicide attempts and LGBTQ people taking their own lives is something like nine times the rate for trans people and three times the rate of the national average for LGB people, and it’s very much increased by victimization and discrimination that we face every day,” Steph Perkins said on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air.

Perkins, the executive director of Missouri LGBTQ advocacy group PROMO, cited harassment, physical and verbal abuse, workplace and housing discrimination as a few of the factors that commonly affect the mental health of the LGBTQ population.

Also joining host Don Marsh for the discussion was mental-health clinician Emily Klamer and executive director of One Million Kids for Equality Curtis Galloway.

“I am encountering more and more individuals who share that their mental health struggles do not stem from their sexual orientation or gender identity on its own, but rather their interactions with people in their lives that reflect homophobic or transphobic attitudes,” Klamer said. She often works with the LGBTQ community and is creating a support group for LGBTQ people at Diversified Health and Wellness.

Sometimes those attitudes lead a person, voluntarily or involuntarily, to conversion therapy – an unaccredited method of “making someone straight.” As cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association has stated that this practice “is not effective and may be harmful to LGBTQ individuals by increasing internalized stigma, distress, and depression.”

Despite the APA’s policy, this practice is still legal in the majority of the country, including Missouri. According to a recent study conducted by UCLA, nearly 700,000 LGBTQ adults in the U.S. have received conversion therapy.

“From the standpoint of a conversion therapy survivor, I understand the feeling of alienation,” said Galloway, who was made to see a therapist for about four months after coming out to his parents when he was 16. “I was pretty messed up … that really tore me and my family apart, so I really receded into myself and really lost a sense of who I was.”

However, Galloway said he uses his experience as a platform for his organization to prevent others from having to go through what he did. He was among many who shared their stories publically to help pass a ban on conversion therapy for minors in Illinois in 2015.

Across the Mississippi, Perkins said PROMO is working with state representative Tracy McCreery to pass the “Youth Mental Health Preservation Act,” which would be a statewide law to ban licensed professionals from practicing conversion therapy on minors.

In addition to this, Perkins said PROMO is continuously working to include sexual orientation and gender identity to the Missouri Human Rights Act, which protects people from “discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.”

“This is not a party issue … both Republicans and Democrats see this as an important issue for their own family members,” Perkins said.

For therapeutic services, Klamer suggested Diversified Health and Wellness, as well as the Schiele Clinic at the St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute, which offers sliding scale services with gender and queer-affirmative therapists.

For trans kids and parents of trans kids, Perkins referenced Transparent and PFLAG, which are both national organizations providing support to those families. He also mentioned the local organization, the Metro Trans Umbrella Group, which offers several support groups for adults who identify as trans and queer. Growing American Youth is another resource for LGBTQ youth in the St. Louis region.

“If you don’t feel held in [an] unconditional and positive regard, or if you don’t feel fully seen by your therapist or feel that they’re judging you or trying to change you – you deserve better,” Klamer said.

If you or someone you know is in a crisis situation, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “HOME” to 741741 for free 24/7 support from the Crisis Text Line. The Trevor Lifeline is also available for LGBTQ youth in crisis at 1-866-488-7386.