SOUTHERN COLORADO — Colorado lawmakers are proposing a bill aimed at protecting LGBTQ youth and prospective foster parents.
House Bill 1072 would prevent state agencies that receive state funding or offer services to place children in adopted or foster care from discriminating against people with disabilities, race, color, sexual orientation, etc. It would also require pre and post-placement training for foster parents.
Brian and Deanna Blair had always wanted to be foster parents. After two years, they decided to make their dream a reality.
"It's been amazing, the kids that have come through our household have been incredible and my life has been immeasurably enriched by being able to love the kids that come through our household," says Deanna Blair.
One of their placements, a nine-year-old transgender boy.
"We were prepared by the caseworker that the little boy was trying to access whether he was safe in disclosing his identity to foster parents. We were warned before he came by the caseworker that he may or may not disclose his identity to us," says Blair. "When he arrived at our first door, I introduced myself and he looked me up and down. He gave me his birth name which was heartbreaking because he had accessed I wasn't safe enough to give him his chosen name."
Blair says if foster parents were to receive training for how to handle LGBTQ youth, it could not only benefit them but the children in their care.
"I have taken it upon myself to do a lot of self-education, but there really isn't any kind of training in the program for those kinds of issues. I know it must be incredibly difficult for children walking into the placements to not know whether they're being placed where they are loved and supported for who they are," says Blair.
Lawmakers behind House Bill 1072 hope to change that.
"We want to make sure that LGBTQ youth receive the services that they should receive and that they are placed in affirming homes. There is a lot of churn in the system and when the placement isn't affirming or is a mix-match, they get placed back in the system," says Rep. Meg Froelich, D-Englewood.
She says LGBTQ members are over-represented in the foster care system, both as foster youth and foster parents, and there is a shortage of parents.
"When we close off the ability to adopt or foster to same-sex couples or LGBTQ individuals in general then we are lessening the pool of folks that are open to fostering and adopting," said Froelich. "We're not saying LGBTW youth need to go to LGBTQ homes, that all homes can be loving and affirming."
The bill would require that foster parent training include instruction on the right of a foster child or youth to have fair and equal access to all available services and other health and educational services available to foster children and foster youth, including siblings in foster care.
"The training would help them feel more comfortable to express who they truly are and to feel like they are going to be supported and loved for who they truly are," said Blair.
She encourages foster parents to be open mind with each child they receive because they not know if they are LGBTQ.