The Florida Department of Children and Families is advancing proposed discrimination protections
for LGBTQ foster youth after backtracking
on the rules earlier this year.
The rules ban anti-LGBTQ bullying, discrimination and conversion therapy, which attempts to change a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity. After objections from religious groups, DCF officials crossed out "gender expression" and "sexual orientation" on the proposed rules, which prompted a backlash
from LGBTQ groups.
Equality Florida, the state's largest LGBTQ group, says in a news release
that the organization and child welfare advocates shared their concerns with DCF Secretary Mike Carroll after the initial backtrack.
"We are grateful to Secretary Carroll for his commitment to ensuring LGBTQ youth are properly protected," says Nadine Smith, executive director for Equality Florida, in a statement
. "These rule changes are common sense; they reflect tested, best practices and confront the reality that LGBTQ youth disproportionately face discrimination, bullying and psychological abuse...The Secretary has assured us that the Department will never fund or condone conversion therapy, a psychologically harmful practice that has no place in the child welfare system."
Smith says DCF also plans to develop training to implement the LGBTQ protections and create the position of ombudsman who would address discrimination in the child welfare system.
"Florida needs more people willing to open their homes and their hearts," she says. "We need greater diversity among our foster families. A Muslim child or Orthodox Jewish teenager needs a home that acknowledges and respects their faith. A gay or transgender child needs a family that will love and accept them for who they are. Children with special needs deserve a family who can provide for them."
The Tampa Bay Times
reports the protections will not go into effect right now and could go through public hearings.