A new California law gives all transgender children in foster care the right to placements consistent with their gender identity, regardless of the sex listed in their court or child welfare records.
Known as SB 731, the law will mandate child welfare workers consider a child’s gender identity in placement proceedings. Before Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 731 into law, the state did provide specific guidance on placing youth who are transgender.
The new law will go into effect January 1st and will have a significant impact on youth of color, many of whom have already faced trauma and rejection by their families. Youth in state custody mirror California’s racial and ethnic demographics: most of them identify as black, Latino or Asian-Pacific Islander.
"Young people have a better opportunity to thrive in situations where they are fully accepted and supported for who they are,” said Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who introduced the bill earlier this year in February. “Entering the foster care system is challenging for all youth, but it can actually be damaging for young people whose identities are not affirmed by their caregivers and peers.”
Over 86% of foster care youth in Los Angeles identify as Latino, black, or Asian Pacific Islander, according to a 2014 study by the L.A. LGBT Center and the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA that studies public policy and the LGBT community.
The study found 19% of foster youth identify as LGBTQ, 13.4% as LGB or questioning, and 5.6% transgender—twice the estimated percentage of LGBTQ youth who are not in foster care.
Leno, the senator who introduced the bill, represents the San Francisco region. The bill was co-sponsored by some of the leading national trans rights groups including The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California, and the Transgender Law Center.