Colorado lawmakers hope to curb discrimination for LGBTQ youth in the foster care system

By: - March 17, 2021 5:19 pm

Two people fly a rainbow LGBTQ pride flag and a transgender pride flag in front of the Colorado Capitol building during a celebration on Nov. 7, 2020. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)

Colorado state lawmakers gave a signal of approval on Wednesday for a bill that would prohibit adoption agencies and foster youth service providers from discriminating against LGBTQ youth or prospective adoptive or foster parents.

“No prospective parent should ever be denied the right to start a family, and no young person in Colorado should ever be denied the foster services they need because of who they are or who they love,” state Rep. Meg Froelich, an Englewood Democrat who is sponsoring the bill, said in a written statement. 

Lawmakers in Colorado’s House of Representatives approved House Bill 21-1072 on second reading on Wednesday. The entire body will vote one more time before the measure heads to the Senate.

The bill, if passed, would prohibit a foster service or adoption agency from denying any person the opportunity to become an adoptive or foster parent, or from delaying or denying the placement of a child on the basis of disability, race, creed, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identiy, gender expression, marital status, national orgitin, ancestry, or any communicable disease, including HIV. In addition, the bill states that an out-of-home placement must be provided in a way that is culturally responsive to the complex social identity of the youth. 

The legislation, which is also being sponsored by state Sens. Rhonda Fields and Sonya Jaquez Lewis, requires that certified foster parents receive 12 hours of additional training related to the rights of a foster child to have fair and equal access to all available services including health care, educational programs, and emancipation and independent living skills. 

During the bill’s first hearing in the House Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee on March 9, foster parents and youth expressed support for the bill.

“As a longtime foster parent, I recognize the importance of appropriate training and support for foster parents,” said Heather Crate, a therapist based in Longmont who has been a foster parent with her wife for six years. “While we are required to have 20 hours of training a year, we’ve never been required to attend a training on the topic of supporting LGBTQ children or youth, although it is well known that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in out-of-home placement.”

A 2019 study in California found that over 30% of youth in foster care self-identified as LGBTQ and 5% as transgender, compared to 11% and 1% of youth not in foster care.

The bill received criticism from Republican lawmakers during the committee meeting. 

State Rep. Colin Larson, a Littleton Republican, said that although he has a “soft spot” for the LGBTQ community, he couldn’t support the legislation because it would not allow religious-based organizations to access state funding if they participated in discriminatory practices.

“I worry that under this bill that we would disrupt religiously-affiliated providers who are doing work in this space right now and take away state funds from them, potentially resulting in fewer placements being made,” Larson said.

“I think there’s a lot of religiously-oriented providers that are probably placing with same-sex couples, I would hope that they would all do that,” he added.

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Moe Clark
Moe Clark

Moe Clark is a freelance journalist and former Colorado Newsline reporter who covered criminal justice, housing, homelessness and other social issues.