In an unprecedented movement, the agency responsible for protecting our state’s most vulnerable youth recently cut vital resources for LGBTQ youth in crisis.
Senior Child Protection Officials of the Ministry of Family and Protection Services withdrawn a long-standing web page which provided resources for LGBTQ youth in acute crisis or struggling with suicidal ideation, as well as resources for youth experiencing discrimination or abuse related to their identity. The The Houston Chronicle reported the webpage fell hours after Don Huffines, one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s top Republican challengers, tweeted about the site and accused the governor of “promoting transgender sex policies among Texas youth.”
In fact, Abbott has a habit of exploiting LGBTQ youth to earn cheap political points with his base. Just look at the governor’s continued calls this year to ban transgender students from participating in sports teams aligned with their gender identity, a Texas House measure spent last week. With the removal of the LGBTQ youth webpage, however, it is the actions of the state’s top child welfare officials that should sound the alarm bells for Texans.
LGBTQ youth are among the most vulnerable youth in our state. One in three teenagers who commit suicide this year will have an LGBTQ identity, and 42% of LGBTQ youth report experiences of suicidal ideation in the past year. Compared to non-LGBTQ peers, LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to consider suicide.
Crisis lines have proven to be a lifeline for people with suicidal thoughts, especially for marginalized populations who face additional barriers to mental health care. Almost 80% of callers to crisis lines report that the calls have been effective in preventing them from injuring themselves.
LGBTQ youth are also more vulnerable to almost all forms of child abuse, and they are placed in foster care at disproportionately high rates. Almost 1 in 3 adolescents in the foster care system has an LGBTQ identity. Once in care, LGBTQ youth are much more likely to suffer discrimination and disruption of placement. As a result, LGBTQ youth are more vulnerable to homeless and child trafficking than any other youth population.
The ministry’s decision to cut support resources for young victims of abuse and discrimination adds to this vulnerability. LGBTQ youth who experience some form of discrimination are more than five times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBTQ youth who do not experience discrimination.
DFPS commissioner Jaime Masters and his leadership team are ultimately responsible for the safety of young people in Texas. By cutting a lifeline to our state’s most vulnerable young people as they face their greatest crises, child welfare officials are neglecting the very children they are charged with protecting. Since neglect and failure to protect are among the most common accusations the ministry brings against families, perhaps they should consider how their own actions violate the family code they claim to abide by.
LGBTQ youth deserve to be protected and supported. Given the additional vulnerabilities many LGBTQ youth face, DFPS leaders should strive to protect them in a way that asserts their identity rather than creating barriers to their safety and well-being.
The decision to remove access to these resources should be immediately reversed and the resource web page should be easily accessible. Additionally, child welfare leaders and advocates across the state should use their platforms to assert the dignity and worth of LGBTQ youth and publicly condemn department leaders for their failure to protect the most vulnerable young people. vulnerable in our state.
McCormick is Associate Professor of Social Work at St. Edward’s University and author of the book LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care: Enabling Approaches for an Inclusive Care System.