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New Jersey Department of Children and Families Policy Manual

 

Manual:

CP&P

Child Protection and Permanency

Effective Date:

Volume:

VI

Adolescent Services

Chapter:

B

Self Sufficiency

8-30-2016

Subchapter:

1

Transitional Planning

Issuance:

500

LGBTQI Policy

 

Purpose:

 

This issuance establishes policy and procedures for the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) Division of Child Protection and Permanency (CP&P) to provide and ensure a safe, healthy, and inclusive environment for all the children, youth, and families we serve. This policy applies to every child, youth, and/or family member(s) who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex (LGBTQI).

Authority:

 

·         Public Law 2013, c.150 cc (A3371), Title 45:1-54 and 45:1-55: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2012/Bills/AL13/150_.HTM

 

·         N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1, Bias Intimidation – Click here to read this statute.

 

Policy:

 

A) CP&P Protocols

CP&P staff DCF contracted providers are prohibited from engaging in any form of discrimination, bias or harassment on the basis of race, ethnicity, creed, color, age, sex, national origin, religion, marital status or partnership, mental or physical disability, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, veteran status, alienage and citizenship status.

Staff and DCF contracted providers are prohibited from attempting to persuade an LGBTQI individual to reject or modify his/her sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. This includes imposing personal or religious beliefs.

CP&P staff and DCF contracted providers is prohibited from attempting to pressure or coerce a LGBTQI person into disclosing or revealing his/her/their sexual orientation or gender identity.

CP&P does not tolerate harassment, intimidation, or bullying of any kind. Bullying includes any behavior written, verbal, physical, or electronic that would be reasonably perceived as harmful to another person.  

B) Data Base of Resource Parents or LGBTQI Children/Youth

CP&P must make on-going efforts to recruit, train, monitor, evaluate and retain resource parents/caregivers who are LGBTQI affirming. CP&P must place a child or youth who enters foster care and identifies as LGBTQI in a LGBTQI affirming out-of-home placement.

C) Name and Identity Preferences

CP&P allows all youth to request the use of a preferred first name rather than their legal name. Consistent with this policy, individuals may designate a preferred first name that he/she/they wish to use. (e.g., a youth’s legal name is Melinda, but prefers to be referred to as Mel.)

Individuals are referred to by the pronoun that he/she/they prefer which reflects his/her/their identity or expression. Staff will understand the concept of the choice of a preferred name and/or pronoun that is consistent with the youth's gender identity.

All pertinent documentation, under the control of DCF must contain both the legal and preferred name of the youth, and clearly indicate which name is preferred and which name is the legal name.

Procedures:

 

1) CP&P Expectations and Protocols

Knowing someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity and  expression (SOGIE) status may be important to making an informed case decision, which serves the youth’s best interests and protects the youth’s safety. Staff will exercise professional discretion in asking for a youth’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression.

Staff must respect each child, youth, and family member’s right to confidentiality and right to choose which individuals have knowledge of their LGBTQI status. To support the youth’s health, safety, and well-being, staff must be mindful when a youth or family member discloses their LGBTQI status. This is considered sensitive information and is kept confidential, including non-disclosure to the youth’s formal and informal supports (e.g., family members, community providers, therapists, and teachers). CP&P staff will encourage and provide opportunities for a continued relationship between the youth and their family, while promoting acceptance and understanding within the family dynamic. This is critical to the overall health and well-being of the child.

Staff shall provide an inclusive and respectful environment.  This  includes, but is not limited to, the use of sensitive, gender neutral, and inclusive language that signals to all young people that they will be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of how they identify.

In addition, staff will be mindful that a youth’s identity and expression may change over time, and that it is not unusual for changes to occur.

2) Provision of LGBTQI Information and Specialized Services

Staff provides information of LGBTQI community resources to all youth or families, for whom this information would be helpful.

Safe Space Liaisons in the CP&P Local Office are utilized as consultants to provide information and guidance regarding case practice and help inform decision-making. Safe Space Liaisons also assist CP&P Local Office staff to identify community based resources specific to LGBTQI needs.

 

3)  Safety Factors Specific to the LGBTQI Population

 

LGBTQI individuals may face risk of abuse or alienation when their sexual orientation and/or gender identity is disclosed regardless of whether or not the disclosure was consensual. Individuals who may not identify as LGBTQI but may be perceived to be LGBTQI may also experience maltreatment based on the perception of another person.

 

When assessing safety and risk of a child or youth, CP&P staff assess   how a parent or other family members’ attitudes and/or behaviors with regard to the child or youth's actual or perceived gender,  identity, or sexual orientation might impact the safety and well-being of that child.

4)  Protective Factors Specific to the LGBTQI Population

CP&P staff is responsible for utilizing the Strengthening Families and Youth Thrive frameworks by promoting:

·   Parenting/Youth Resilience – by assisting individuals in identifying and managing the stress and trauma that they might have experienced and then validating those experiences.

·   Social Connections – by encouraging and assisting individuals with identifying positive and permanent relationships with LGBTQI affirming caring adults and peers.  Ensure children, youth and families are familiar with the resources within their community and making referrals as necessary, can facilitate the growth of such relationships Knowledge of Child/Adolescent Development – by understanding that youth/childhood and adolescence is a period of growth, during which neurologic (cognitive) functioning is not fully developed, that the reactions, actions and behaviors of youth may frequently change, and that these changes do not mean that a child or youth who identifies as LGBTQI is uncertain of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

·   Concrete Support in Times of Need – by ensuring that the child, youth, and family needs are met. CP&P Workers facilitate opportunities for to engage in meaningful and strength-based activities that promote an increased sense of self-worth. The child, youth, or family may desire to be connected to an organization that is relevant to their sexual orientation or gender identity, such as a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA). This does not mean that all LGBTQI individuals want to be referred or connected to a LGBTQI friendly group/organization; however they should be informed of the resources available.

·   Cognitive and Social-Emotional Competence – CP&P Workers and caregiver(s) facilitate this in several ways, including but not limited to:

o   Using appropriate pronouns, preferred name, and supporting the individual’s gender self-expression, including clothing and grooming style choices, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex or gender at birth;

o   Assisting children and youth in building critical thinking, decision-making, conflict resolution, and communications skills;

o   Assisting children and youth in understanding one’s own personal developmental history and needs; and

o   Assisting children and youth in positive risk-taking behaviors.

5)   Assessing and Interviewing the Parent/Caregiver of LGBTQI Youth

The individual may not always disclose that he/she/they identify as LGBTQI. Issues in a case may or may not be related to the youth's or adult’s sexual orientation or gender identity.  Since it is not always clear whether an individual identifies as LGBTQI, staff will be receptive and use inclusive language when speaking with all youth and families.

Interviews with parents of LGBTQI youth include, when appropriate and consistent with confidentiality guidelines, a discussion of the child's sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

When the alleged abuse or maltreatment, is related to the child or youth’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression; the Worker’s focus will be on eliciting information about the attitudes and beliefs of family members with regard to gender expression and/or sexual orientation including the attitudes and beliefs of parents, caregivers, siblings, and other significant individuals.

In the event that a youth is not open about his/her/their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or has not made such a disclosure to his/her/their parent or caregiver, eliciting information will be done without divulging or confirming information about the youth’s actual or perceived LGBTQI status or identity except with the permission of the youth. Workers must determine if the youth is at risk of future physical or emotional harm.

6) Service Referrals for LGBTQI Individuals Served by CP&P

 

As appropriate, staff is responsible for making referrals for counseling, health, mental health, or other services, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. If an individual discloses that he/she/they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning, the child, youth, and/or family member(s) are offered the opportunity for counseling and information to support the individual and family, if needed. Referrals are made to community-based providers who demonstrate cultural competence in working with LGBTQI individuals. Individuals who identify as being LGBTQI do not necessarily need counseling or other services.  Workers will understand that being LGBTQI does not equate to having a mental illness or the necessity to be referred for mental health services.

When an individual youth is referred to an outside provider, because of an LGBTQI-specific issue, and the determination of the provider agency is that this is not a case that can be supported by their involvement; the provider communicates this to the CP&P Worker who then consults with the Local Office Safe Space Liaison. 

 

Note: In accordance with accepted health care practices and Public Law 2013, c.150 cc (A3371) - Title 45:1-54 and 45:1-55, attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is harmful. CP&P staff does not make referrals to providers or community resources who attempt to change a youth's sexual orientation or gender identity, (i.e. conversion therapy).

 

7)   NJ SPIRIT Documentation

 

When documenting progress notes in NJSPIRIT, Workers use the youth's legal name followed by the preferred name (e.g. John aka Jennifer). Gang affiliated or derogatory names are not permitted.

 

8)   Completing the In-Home Safety Assessment of an LGBTQI Child or Youth in NJ SPIRIT

The parent/caretaker's beliefs and attitude about the child or youth’s gender identity or sexual orientation, and the parent’s behavior that may stem from their beliefs or attitude, is carefully considered when identifying safety factors in cases involving LGBTQI youth. As with any other safety assessment, the focus of the assessment is on what behaviors the caregiver displays which impact upon the safety of the child or youth, or places the child or youth at risk of physical or emotional harm. Safety Factors that may be present include, but are not limited to:

·   Child/youth is fearful of caregiver or others living in the home (Safety Factor #2).

·   Caregiver is verbally hostile when talking to/or about the child/youth and has unrealistic expectations (Safety Factor #3).

·   Caregiver caused serious physical harm or plausible threat to cause harm (Safety Factor #4).

·   Caregiver has not, will not, or is unable to provide care and supervision necessary to protect the child/youth from harm, including self-harm (Safety Factor #7). i.e., the parent will not allow the child/youth to remain in the home because of the child’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

·   If a parent is verbally abusive to the child, ostracizes the child, ridicules, or belittles the child; select (Safety Factor #10). Parent(s)/Caregiver(s) view, describes or acts toward the child(ren) in predominantly negative terms and/or has extremely unrealistic expectations of the child(ren).

·   If the child is afraid to remain in the household out of fear that the parent may harm the child, or allow the child to be harmed; select (Safety Factor #14). Child(ren) expresses or exhibits fear of being in the home due to current behaviors of Parent(s)/Caregiver(s) or other persons living in or frequenting the household.

Safety planning for LGBTQI youth should include interventions that allow the youth to be both physically and emotionally safe.

 

Key Terms (Definitions):

 

·         Bisexual – refers to a person who is attracted to, and may form sexual and romantic relationships with either men or women.

·         Bullying – intentional, unprovoked attempts to cause physical or emotional harm to one or more targets; which creates an imbalance of physical and/or psychological power between target and perpetrator.

·         Gay - generally refers to a person who is emotionally, romantically, and sexually attracted to people of the same gender. Sometimes, it may be used to refer to men and boys whereas “lesbian” is used to refer exclusively to women and girls. It is preferred over the term "homosexual" which is often considered offensive.

·         Gender Expression – The manner in which a person represents or expresses their gender to others through gender markers including clothing, hairstyle, behavior, activities, interests, attitudes, voice inflection, mannerisms, etc. (See Gender Identity)

·         Gender Identity – An individual’s internal view of their gender; one’s own innermost sense of being a man or woman or of having another gender, e.g. being “genderfluid.” This often influences name and pronoun preferences.

·         Intersex – A person who is born with (or develops naturally, not as a result of medical treatment) a combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones, internal reproductive organs, external genitalia, and secondary sex characteristics that include some characteristics that are typically considered “male” and some characteristics that are typically considered “female.” The term “hermaphrodite” is an outdated and offensive term for intersex individuals.

·         Lesbian - refers to a woman who is emotionally, romantically, and sexually attracted to other women.

·         LGBTQI – an acronym commonly used to refer collectively to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex individuals, issues, or communities.

·         Sexual Orientation – refers to a person’s emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction to persons of the same and/or different gender.

·         Transgender or Trans* – used as an umbrella term to include all persons whose gender identity or expression does not align with their sex assigned at birth in the way expected by their society. For purposes of protection from discrimination and harassment, transgender refers to both self-described transgender individuals and individuals perceived as transgender or gender non-conforming without regard to whether they qualify for a diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria.

·         Questioning – generally refers to a person who is exploring or questioning issues of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in his/ her/their life.

 

Related Information:

 

·         LGBTQI youth and families can also call 311 for further information.

 

·         National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), www.nclrights.org

 

·         Best Practices in Child Welfare for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, and Transgender (GLBT) Youth, http://www.cwla.org/our-work/advocacy/race-culture-identity/lgbtq-issues-in-child-welfare/

 

·         The Human Rights Campaign (HCR), www.hrc.org

 

·         New Jersey Youth Resource Spot (NJYRS), http://www.njyrs.org/

 

·         Glossary of Terms Related to Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression.