On October 11, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a landmark bill that protects transgender children in the foster care system.
Authored by Senator Mark Leno, Senate Bill 731 gives critical guidance to child welfare workers regarding the placement of transgender youth in out-of-home care. The bill, co-authored by Senator Jim Beall, amends the Foster Care Bill of Rights to specify that foster youth have the right to be placed according to their gender identity, regardless of the sex listed in their court or child welfare records. SB 731, which went into effect on January 1, 2016, also requires the California Department of Social Services to issue regulations implementing this provision. By providing specific guidance to the child welfare field, the bill promotes the safety, permanency and well-being of transgender foster youth.
Many transgender youth face rejection, harassment, and abuse from their families, communities, and schools due to bias and stigma related to their gender identity or expression. These children are at extremely high risk for poor health and mental health outcomes. These risks are magnified for children in foster care, most of whom have experienced significant trauma. Placement of transgender youth consistent with their gender identity is necessary to protect them from further rejection, harassment, and abuse.
SB 731 was co-sponsored by NCLR, Equality California, and the Transgender Law Center, and supported by the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, the County Welfare Directors Association of California, Family Builders, the Gender Health Center, the Juvenile Court Judges of California, the Youth Law Center, the National Center for Youth Law, Legal Services for Children, the East Bay Children’s Law Offices, and Gender Spectrum.