04-09-2008, 08:16 PM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Capital area of NY.
NY takes a step to protect LGBTQ youth
A little good news for young people in juvenile facilities. Sent from Pride Agenda.
Our community won an important victory this week and I wanted to make sure you knew about it because your support of the Pride Agenda helped make it happen.
For the first time, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) adopted a policy and guidelines that prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in juvenile justice and other facilities it operates all across the state.
Having this policy and the detailed implementation guidelines in place are critically important because many youth in facilities operated by the OCFS have been verbally and physically bullied and harassed simply because of who they are, sometimes by other youth and sometimes by staff. This harassment is particularly tragic since many youth end up in the juvenile justice system in the first place because their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression led to life on the streets after being kicked out of their homes or abused by a parent or guardian.
Another exciting aspect of this new policy is that we believe this is the first state agency that explicitly includes protections based upon gender identity and expression in the services it provides to the people of New York.
The effort to secure protections for LGBTQ youth that are ‘wards of the state’ has been a long time coming and has been waged in both the legislative and state agency arenas for a number of years by the Pride Agenda and other organizations. For example, the Assembly unanimously passed this year and last the Safe and Fair Treatment for Youth (SAFETY) Act to address this issue (there is no companion bill in the State Senate). We were part of meetings that were held with the OCFS Commissioner under Governor Pataki and continued this effort when new life was given to the issue on the agency level with the election of Governor Spitzer, the appointment of OCFS Commissioner Gladys Carrion and the guidance of the task force she convened to address this issue.
At the forefront of the movement was the New York Juvenile Justice Coalition (Coalition) who came to us several years ago and asked for us to provide our expertise in working with New York State government. The Coalition is coordinated by the Juvenile Justice Project at the Correctional Association of New York and strongly supported by the Peter Cicchino Youth Project at the Urban Justice Center.
This effort is a great example of how the Pride Agenda’s knowledge in moving state government can support advocates who have expertise in specific topic areas but don’t know less about the state legislative or agency process. It turned out to be an excellent partnership. Our allies were the experts on protecting LGBTQ youth in state facilities, and we were able to provide strategic advice on how to move the levers of government, especially about applying pressure when obstacles were encountered.
Many other groups were also instrumental in the process, adding expertise, time and energy. They include the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the LGBT Community Center in New York City, Lambda Legal and the NYS LGBT Health and Human Services Network which is coordinated by the Pride Agenda. I also want to highlight the great work of Ross Levi and the rest of our Pride Agenda staff in Albany in achieving this victory.
We talk to you a lot about the high profile bills we work to get passed into law. But there are many projects, like this one, where we work behind the scenes sometimes for years on less splashy initiatives that benefit our community in equally profound ways. Without your continued support of our work that would not be possible!
So THANK YOU and TAKE PRIDE to have been part of this effort to combat bias harassment in juvenile justice settings and help make them truly responsive to the needs and rehabilitation of disenfranchised LGBT youth in New York.
Alan Van Capelle
PS--It’s always important to say thank you when a government official steps up for our community. Please a take one minute to email Commissioner Carrion and let her know that we appreciate her efforts on our behalf. Click here, http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/contact/contact.asp, to send Commissioner Carrion a message.
- Andy's blog
Sins are always worse when they're different than mine