The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to implement preventive measures that will ensure a continuum of care for youth and children who are in the County’s child welfare system and who identify as LGBTQ+. The recent suicide of Andrew M., a transgender transitional age youth who was in foster care, heightens the immediacy of the need to enhance services to LGBTQ+ children and youth who are in LA County’s foster care system. As a result, today the Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, and co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, that directs County Counsel to oversee an investigation of Andrew M.’s death to be conducted by the Office of Child Protection and to evaluate any potential systemic issues that need to be immediately addressed in order to promote the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ foster youth.

“Tragically, LGBTQ+ children and youth endure abuse, abandonment, and neglect before they enter the foster care system, much like other children and youth. In addition, many LGBTQ+ children and youth carry an added layer of trauma that comes with being rejected or disparaged due to sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression,” said Supervisor Solis. “One death is one too many. Any death prompts immediate attention and urgency. With Andrew’s passing, disparities in treatment will be corrected in recognition of how important these young people’s lives are to me, to their families, and to this County as a whole.”

“It is very important to make sure that our DCFS staff truly understands the unique history and traumatic experiences of these young people so they can effectively and sensitively work to place LGBTQ+ foster youth in homes that will support them and allow them to thrive and feel safe,” said Supervisor Kuehl. “This is not a cookie-cutter population and training is needed to find appropriate approaches.”

Andrew M., 19, died on Sept. 4, 2019 while in the foster care system as a transition age youth, and his death has reverberated throughout his community. LGBTQ+ youth in LA County’s child welfare system face a heightened risk of suicide attempts, substance use, and rejection from family, according to a 2014 study by UCLA’s Williams Institute. Nearly 20 percent of the County’s foster youth identify as LGBTQ+, nearly twice the percentage of LGBTQ+ children in the general population, according to the study.

“The Los Angeles LGBT Center applauds the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for taking a necessary step in addressing the immediate needs of LGBTQ+ youth in their systems of care. In our 15 years of experience working directly with this population, we know first-hand the need for dedicated, affirming services that assist LGBTQ+ youth in reaching permanency, wellbeing, and success. We are hopeful that this motion is the foundation for a county where LGBTQ+ youth are happy, equal, and complete,” said Darrel Cummings, Chief of Staff, Los Angeles LGBT Center.

In January 2018, the Board unanimously approved a motion, co-authored by Supervisor Solis, to improve services to LGBTQ+ youth who are in the County’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems after hearing from many LGBTQ+ youth describe enduring multiple home placements, unsupportive environments, and the possibility of homelessness.

Since then, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Probation, the Department of Mental Health (DMH), the Department of Public Health (DPH), and the Department of Health Services (DHS) have been working extensively on embracing LGBTQ+ inclusive policies, procedures, and programs meant to empower LGBTQ+ youth who are in the County’s child welfare system. Throughout, Supervisor Solis has led and supported efforts to advance the care of LGBTQ+ youth in LA County’s child welfare system, including:

-In November 2018, Supervisor Solis authored a motion directing DCFS, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), and other agencies to enhance the array of housing options available to the County’s more than 3,000 transitional age youth (TAY) who have outgrown the foster care system and are experiencing homelessness. Many of these youth are LGBTQ, and most are African American or Latino.

-In May 2019, Supervisor Solis introduced a motion to create the Office of Equity (OOE) within DCFS, which will implement practices that reduce implicit bias and promote racial and cultural equity, while addressing the overrepresentation of LGBTQ+ youth in foster care. DCFS is working on establishing the OOE, and will request funding from the Board for staff positions in early October 2019.

-In August 2019, DCFS, Probation, DMH, DPH, and DHS made a series of recommendations to improve care for LGBTQ+ youth in response to an April 2019 motion co-authored by Supervisor Solis. Under the Board’s leadership, these Departmental recommendations will lead to institutional changes, including offering more LGBTQ+ identity awareness training to County staff, caregivers, and providers.

-In September 2019, the Board of Supervisors passed a motion requiring that the County collect sexual orientation and gender identity data, with a focus on LGBTQ suicide rates, violent deaths, and hate crime incidents. The County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office will regularly report back to the Board with the intent of developing more prevention and safety policies.

Today’s motion directs County Counsel to oversee the investigation of the death of Andrew M., which will be conducted by the Office of Child Protection (OCP), and to report back in 60 days with an evaluation of potential systemic concerns, and to include recommendations to strengthen or modify services.

This motion also directs DCFS to work with the Chief Executive Office, OCP, DMH, and Probation, in consultation with experts from the LGBTQ+ community, to swiftly:

  1. Create and implement training for prospective caregivers, caregivers, and providers associated with DCFS and Probation so they will more fully understand LGBTQ+ identity development, and be informed of key community resources;
  2. Create and implement, in consultation with labor partners, training for employees at DCFS and Probation on LGBTQ+ identity development, so they can be equipped to provide meaningful support, and be informed of community resources;
  3. Create and implement prevention and intervention services that shore up support for youth and their communities when a youth confronts family rejection; and
  4. Create and implement youth development programs that focus on their wellbeing, while considering the specific challenges and discrimination that LGBTQ+ youth uniquely face.

Today’s motion also requests a status report on the implementation of Supervisor Solis’ November 2018 Board motion that sought more housing options for TAY who are transitioning out of the County’s foster care system, with details on how the additional capacity will meet a variety of needs within the TAY population, including youth who identify as LGBTQ+. This motion also calls for a 60-day report back on the implementation of the above directives and identified funding, with consideration of the proposed budget pursuant to the Jan. 9, 2018 Board motion report back.

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Contact: Rosa Maria Santana, Deputy Communications Director, rsantana@bos.lacounty.gov or 213-359-0795