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Maryland Judiciary Holds First-Ever LGBTQ Foster Youth Summit

The Maryland Judiciary is holding a summit to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning young people in the foster care system. The summit, “Identifying, Supporting, and Meeting the Needs of LGBTQ Youth,” is thought to be the first in the nation designed to help judges, court professionals, attorneys, social services professionals, and others who work with foster youth identify the barriers LGBTQ foster youths face and develop actions plans for their local jurisdictions. Teams from 21 jurisdictions across the state will hear from national experts and LGBTQ foster youth at the event, which will be held Wednesday, Sept. 10, at the Maritime Institute and Conference Center in Linthicum, MD. 

“Maryland’s courts are dedicated to providing, for everyone, full, fair, and equitable access to justice. We therefore are very interested in finding ways to eliminate the challenges these young people may face as they interact with the courts and the foster care and juvenile justice systems,” said Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera. “This summit brings us together to identify the challenges and explore specific and realistic ways to address them.”

There are 47,000-95,000 young people in Maryland who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning (LGBTQ), according to a recent report from the Maryland advocacy group Youth Equality Alliance. Drawing on national studies, the report estimates that, across the United States, one-third of LGBTQ youth never finish high school, three out of four experience prejudicial treatment by foster care service providers because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and as many as 70 percent allege they were victims of physical violence in foster care group homes. The report goes on to state that LGBTQ youth are 40 percent more likely to be arrested, and physical safety is a critical problem for LGBTQ youth in juvenile facilities.

Separate sessions will be held for judges and masters, agencies and attorneys who work with LGBTQ youth. and caregivers. Teams will also meet together to develop action plans and strategies for educating and training others about LGBTQ issues in their home jurisdictions.

The summit is sponsored by the Maryland Judiciary’s Foster Care Court Improvement Project in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Human Resources, the National Resource Center (NRC) on Legal and Judicial Issues and the National Resource Center for Youth Development, and Free State Legal Project, a statewide legal advocacy nonprofit organization that serves low income LGBTQ individuals and families.