Lambda Taps Children's Advocate Colleen Sullivan to Lead Foster Care Project

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Initiative builds on successful drive to protect lesbian and gay youth in schools
January 7, 2000

(NEW YORK, January 7, 2000) — Building on its pioneering work to protect lesbian and gay students in public schools, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund announced Friday that veteran child welfare advocate Colleen Sullivan will lead its nationwide effort on behalf of young people in foster care. Lambda’s new initiative addresses the needs of youth in a system notorious for abuse and neglect.

“Life in foster care is difficult for all young people, but for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, that stress is compounded by anti-gay bias that increases risk for homelessness, HIV infection, substance abuse and suicide,” said Sullivan, who joined Lambda’s New York office this week.

She added, “The future of the lesbian and gay civil rights movement depends on our young people growing up healthy and secure. I am overjoyed to be part of Lambda’s important work on behalf of LGBT foster kids.”

Lambda Executive Director Kevin M. Cathcart said, “We are fortunate to have someone with a wealth of experience in youth advocacy, a vision to improve the lives of LGBT youth in foster care, as well as top-notch legal skills, to guide our foster care project.”

Sullivan will oversee all of Lambda’s foster care-related work, including advocacy for systems that:

  • ensure placement of LGBT youth in supportive homes free of taunting, physical and sexual abuse;
  • improve services in foster care, where homosexuality sometimes is viewed as a behavioral problem or moral failing that should be overcome; and
  • secure adequate access to life-saving HIV-prevention and safer-sex information.

Before Lambda, Sullivan was a Melvin C. Steen Fellow and staff attorney at The Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Division, representing minors in abuse and neglect proceedings in Brooklyn family court. She has also worked at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, and is the author of “Kids, Courts and Queers: Lesbian and Gay Youth in the Juvenile Justice and Foster Care Systems,” published in The Journal of Law & Sexuality.

Sullivan graduated in 1996 from Queens College School of Law at the City University of New York, and holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the State University of New York at Oswego. She served internships with Main Street Legal Services in Queens and Legal Aid’s Juvenile Rights Division in the Bronx. Sullivan also has been an adjunct professor of political science at SUNY Stonybrook.

Lambda’s foster care initiative was bolstered last summer by a $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. Lambda’s successes on behalf of gay youth include a 1996 case holding school officials accountable for not stopping anti-gay harassment, and the first-ever application of a federal sex discrimination statute to combat the sexual harassment of a gay student in 1998.

“The foster care project naturally compliments Lambda’s groundbreaking work to protect the rights of lesbian and gay students because the two primary influences on young people’s development are schools and families,” said Lambda Legal Director Beatrice Dohrn.

Lambda is the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV and AIDS. Headquartered in New York, Lambda has regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta.

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Contact: Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984 (pager)
Colleen Sullivan 212-809-8585 x 218


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