Know Your Rights

What You Should Know If You're Living in Foster Care, a Group Home or Juvenile Justice

If you're a young person in foster care, the juvenile justice system or in another out-of-home-care setting, and you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) or living with HIV, you have the right to be treated with respect and to feel safe.

If you need additional help or guidance about any of the following, contact Lambda Legal at 866-LGBTeen (866-542-8336, toll-free) or visit www.lambdalegal.org/help.

You have a right to be free from anti-LGBTQ verbal and physical harassment and discrimination.

  • Caseworkers, staff, foster parents and other service providers may not subject you to harassment.
  • They have a responsibility to protect you from mental, emotional, physical and sexual harm in your placement, school and community.
  • Service providers should not ignore harassment or abuse against you because you are LGBTQ or living with HIV. This must be taken as seriously as harassment or abuse against other youth.

You have a right to be treated equally and to get the same services and care as other youth. Adult caretakers and service providers should not treat you differently because you are LGBTQ or living with HIV.

  • Service providers should not apply rules to LGBTQ youth or youth living with HIV that do not apply to other youth. For example, if a facility has a “no hugging rule,” staff should not only use it against LGBTQ youth or youth living with HIV, but with everyone.
  • You should not be physically isolated from other young people because you are LGBTQ.

You have a right to receive health care.

  • You have a right not only to medical healthcare, but also to appropriate mental healthcare.
  • You should not be given “conversion therapy,” or any type of treatment that tries to change your sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • If you are a transgender person living in the custody of the state and have medical needs because of a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID), healthcare providers may be obligated to help you receive appropriate treatment, including hormones.
  • If you are a youth living with HIV you have a right to see a doctor and to receive treatment based on their medical opinion.

You have a right to freedom of expression, including being open and affirming about being LGBTQ or living with HIV if you choose to be so.

  • Service providers should not require you to hide that you are LGBTQ or living with HIV if you don't want to hide it.
  • You have a right to express your gender identity through the clothes you wear, your name and your choice to be referred to as “he” or “she.”
  • Staff should not punish you or single you out for being open about being LGBTQ or living with HIV.

You have a right to practice the religion of your choice, as well as a right not to practice a religion.

  • You should not be required to participate in religious activities that condemn homosexuality.
  • Caretakers and service providers should not intimidate or force you into adopting any particular religious beliefs.

If you are harassed, abused or discriminated:

  • If you are in danger, get emergency assistance.
  • Talk to someone you can trust. Talk to an adult involved in your care, social worker or case worker, guardian ad litem, attorney, therapist or another service provider about what happened.
  • Write down what happened including who harassed or abused you, what they said or did, who witnessed what happened and any other information you think is important.
  • If there is a system to report harassment or abuse in your placement, school or community, use it to report what happened to you.

If you need additional help or information, contact Lambda Legal at 866-LGBTeen (866-542-8336, toll-free) or visit www.lambdalegal.org/help.