Supporting LGBTQ2SIA+ families means doing no harm

At Casey Family Programs, we believe in the intrinsic dignity and value of every person. We believe that every person is entitled to be safe and feel safe in their families, schools and communities. We believe every person has a right to life-supporting medical care and related services to ensure their health and well-being at every age. We believe that no one should face barriers to understanding who they are — their history, their culture, their unique and important story.

We have seen time and time again during our more than half a century of working with — and for — children and families across our nation the restorative power and resilience that come from knowing who you are and feeling recognized and supported by your loved ones and community. Research shows us that how, and whether, communities support LGBTQ2SIA+ youth can have lifelong, or life-threatening, impacts.

Each of us has a responsibility to uplift these values and provide the opportunities for all children and families to build fulfilling lives.

LGBTQ2SIA+ youth are at greater risk for abuse and are overrepresented in the child welfare system. They are at greater risk for depression and suicide. But when they have the support of caring adults in their lives, that risk is significantly reduced.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation, with 42% of LGBTQ2SIA+ youth having seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. Parents not only have a right, they have an affirmative obligation to make informed decisions in consultation with trusted health care providers about all necessary and appropriate medical care to ensure the safety and well-being of their children.

All of us have a responsibility to protect and support our youth and children. Our support is critical, and all of us must recognize that our words and actions can place the safety of vulnerable children and youth at serious risk of harm. Denying access to information, knowledge and activities that support the healthy development of LGBTQ2SIA+ youth is damaging, degrading and dangerous for countless children and families.

A child welfare investigation is a traumatic event for all involved and should never be taken lightly. And we know from our work that an unwarranted child welfare investigation not based on a safety assessment that identifies the potential for serious harm causes irreversible trauma to a child — especially if it is not handled in ways that are developmentally appropriate, sensitive and trauma-informed. This kind of government intrusion does not support or strengthen youth and families, it endangers them.

It is critical that those trusted with the authority to investigate families and remove children ensure that child protection resources are devoted, targeted and prioritized to engage and investigate families in which children’s lives are at stake. As a nation, we should be centering all of our child protection agencies toward the goal of eliminating the more than 1,750 abuse and neglect related deaths that occur each year. Initiating child welfare investigations for any other purpose is an inappropriate government overreach into a family’s life and a gross misappropriation of already scarce child welfare resources. Moreso, it unnecessarily places the lives of children in jeopardy. As people who want what’s best for our own children, families and communities, we have a shared responsibility to recognize and support the health and well-being of each person. We have a shared responsibility to build hope in the lives of every person.

At Casey Family Programs, we applaud the caring communities and organizations working to address these threats to the health and well-being of children and families. We will continue to support that work and to influence the changes that must take place to ensure that every child and family have what they need to achieve their full potential.