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MA Commission on LGBTQ Youth Releases FY24 Report and Recommendations

May 11, 2023

May 10, 2023


Background:

In April, the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth released their annual report and recommendations. Over the past year, nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced across the United States, many of which have already passed. These bills aim to strip away the autonomy of LGBTQ+ youth and their caregivers, which compounds the serious health disparities and detrimental socioeconomic experiences many LGBTQ+ youth have already been facing.

As the state with the only Commission on LGBTQ Youth in the country, the Massachusetts Commission is determined to uplift the voices and needs of this underserved and vulnerable population. While Massachusetts is a state leader in LGBTQ rights, much more still needs to be done in order to ensure that inequities and systemic barriers are eliminated for the most marginalized communities.

With this report, the Commission intends to "amplify, not replace, the voices of the most marginalized young people in our communities, especially Black, Brown, Indigenous, immigrant, disabled, neurodivergent, transgender, intersex, and gender expansive youth, as well as those in foster care, experiencing homelessness, are incarcerated, or have experienced sexual exploitation."

Report's Recommendations:

This report is extensive in its recommendations to the Governor, the State Legislature, and all child-serving state agencies across Massachusetts. The following recommendations highlight asks to the governor and legislature on child welfare issues, as well as recommendations to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA). For recommendations on other topics, such as public health, homelessness, juvenile justice, and recommendations for other child-serving state agencies, please refer to the full report.

FY 2024 Recommendations to the Governor and Legislature on Child Welfare

  • Introduce the legislation needed to bring Massachusetts up to minimum standards of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Create a program for universal basic income for foster care youth (which would entail passing An Act providing for a universal basic income for youth aging out of foster care S.114)
  • Establish an independent foster care review office (which would entail passing S.66 /H.158)
  • Codify the foster child bill of rights in state law (which would entail passing An Act Establishing a Bill of Rights for Children in Foster Care S. 68 / H.164)
  • Protect youth in the foster care system from having their federal benefits stripped away (this would entail passing An Act Protecting Benefits Owed to Foster Children S. 65 / H.157).
  • Solidify parental rights for LGBTQ families (this would entail passing An Act to Ensure Legal Parentage Equality S. 947 / H.1713)
  • Improve Massachusetts child abuse laws to explicitly include the withholding of gender-affirming care for LGBTQ youth
  • Explore the creation of an LGBTQ youth maltreatment code system within the Department of Children and Families
  • Update Chapter 119, Section 89 of the Massachusetts General Laws to include the Commission on the Juvenile Justice Policy and Data (JJPAD) Board as a voting member (this would entail passing An Act Updating the Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Board S. 78)

Recommendations for DCF:
First and foremost, DCF must implement intentional, mandatory, and expansive SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) data reporting to ensure there is accurate quantitative information on LGBTQ+ youth across state agencies. Additionally, it is imperative that LGBTQ+ inclusive policies are implemented, staff have the proper training, resources, and knowledge to care for LGBTQ+ youth, the recruitment of LGBTQ+ affirming foster parents is improved, and that a statewide database of LGBTQ+ affirming homes is created. DCF must also work to improve family preservation services and ensure youth receive sexual health and health care education. Furthermore, DCF must improve interagency work to support “warm hand-offs” for transition-aged youth attempting to access services, in partnership with the Department of Mental Health, MassHealth, and DYS. (For a more comprehensive overview of recommendations for DCF, see page 206 of the report.)

Recommendations for OCA:
OCA is tasked with fully investigating complaints and requests for assistance from LGBTQ youth, ensuring youth-serving facilities are equipped with proper training, and visiting, investigating, and reporting on the condition of congregate care facilities. With regards to data reporting, the OCA must also analyze, publicize, and report on SOGI data for youth, including child welfare and juvenile justice SOGI data. Furthermore, the OCA needs to address the needs of LGBTQ transition-aged youth, address LGBTQ youth in public affairs work, ensure meaningful LGBTQ community participation and input in all projects and initiatives, and identify opportunities to address suicidality among LGBTQ youth. (For a more comprehensive overview of recommendations for the OCA, see page 213 of the report.)

CLM's Take:

The Children's League of Massachusetts commends the Commission on LGBTQ Youth for creating such a comprehensive report on how the Governor, State Legislature, and child-serving state agencies across Massachusetts can better serve this population. The recommendations outlined in the Commission's report are integral to ensuring that our most marginalized and at-risk children and youth are being prioritized, supported, and protected, no matter their circumstance.

The Commission has advocated for the passage of many bills that are included within CLM's priority and endorsed legislation. CLM is aligned with the Commission on the importance of enhancing SOGI data reporting mechanisms across all child-serving state agencies. CLM's priority bill, an Act to eliminate disproportionality and inequities for at-risk children, aims to support this measure and codify this practice. Furthermore, it is crucial that we prioritize the perspectives and voices of those with lived experiences. CLM urges state agencies to not only foster the participation of the LGBTQ community in all projects and initiatives, but to empower members from the LGBTQ community with active roles in decision-making processes.

**Click here to read the full report**


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