Learning Session: LGBTQ Youth Impacted by the Juvenile Justice and Foster Care Systems

AFF’s learning sessions are an opportunity to highlight the work of our grantees and other leaders in the field, as well as a chance to help convene funders and practitioners to continue learning. Through these sessions, we seek to create a learning community that can help advance effective practices in service of all young people.

AFF grantee/funder partners and colleagues will take a closer look at the unique obstacles LGBTQ face in the juvenile justice and foster care systems. Youth and their adult allies share organizing and advocacy efforts led by and for queer trans youth in Alabama, New Orleans and nationally.

Panelists discuss the barriers to health, housing, education, and re-entry services they face as immigrant, low-income, queer and trans youth, and highlight federal policies and litigation trends that will promote equitable social services and protections from harm. Speakers provide recommendations for how local, state, and federal partners can better support youth through programmatic and federal policies, and how funders can fill the gaps aimed at better supporting these communities.

Speakers include:

  • Kris Hayashi, the Executive Director at the Transgender Law Center.
    • TLC is the largest national trans-led organization advocating self-determination for all people.
  • Daroneshia Duncan-Boyd, the founder of TAKE (Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable Empower) a resource center in Birmingham, Alabama.
    • TAKE works to support trans women of color identify and overcome barriers they face. Daroneshia is joined by a young person at TAKE. Lyle Matthew, the Director of Research and Communications at Funders for LGBTQ Issues. Lyle leads the organization’s analysis of trends, gaps and opportunities related to LGBTQ funding.
  • Alexandra Citrin, the Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for the Study of Social Policy.
    • Citrin helps advance CSSP’s child welfare system change efforts through providing direct technical assistance through National Quality Improvement Centers funded through the Administration for Children and Families and child welfare systems operating under federal consent decree.

Disrupting Inequity to Heal, not Harm: Empowering NOLA’s LGBTQ Youth

In our last blog post, we saw how grantee partner YEP is disrupting the structural inequities affecting opportunity youth in New Orleans. Now, you’ll see how grantee partner BreakOUT! is dismantling the inequities that impact LGBTQ youth.

Research shows that LGBTQ youth—specifically trans and gender non-conforming youth of color—are disproportionately profiled by police and jailed for minor infractions in New Orleans. The criminalization of these youth puts them at an increased risk of being homeless, jobless, victims of sexual assault and other acts of violence. Through advocacy and direct service, BreakOUT! is making New Orleans a safer and more just city for their members.

“BreakOUT! amplifies a collective voice of LGBTQ youth of color in New Orleans and mobilizes young people to change the system.”
Wes Ware, BreakOUT! Founding Director

Many BreakOUT! youth have discriminately been pushed out of their schools and homes and into incarceration. In response to this injustice, BreakOUT! supports New Orleans’ LGBTQ youth who have been marginalized by unjust systems that fail to protect them and often target them for arrest, while at the same time, empowering them to become advocates for social justice.

BreakOUT!’s office serves as a drop-in center and is the only one of its kind to provide a safe haven for LGBTQ youth of color in New Orleans. At this space, BreakOUT! also facilitates healing workshops and educational classes for its members. The Posh Academy is an example of educational programming offered at BreakOUT! Through a partnership with YEP, BreakOUT! offers its members an opportunity to get high school equivalency test training within the center’s familiar setting.

Through leadership development training and member-led organizing, BreakOUT! members are actively engaged in dismantling an unjust system, holding city decision-makers accountable, and learning to exercise their rights. Upon completion of BreakOUT!’s Building Our Power Institute, members are eligible for internships, stipended positions as trainers for local youth service providers, and travel to conferences and convenings. Most importantly, all of BreakOUT!’s initiatives are informed by their members —3 of their 5 staff members were cultivated directly from youth membership.

BreakOUT! has made great strides to end the criminalization of LGBTQ youth. They helped implement policies within the New Orleans Police Department to end discriminatory policing practices targeting the LGBTQ community and youth of color. They have made the city’s only youth homeless shelter more welcoming of LGBTQ residents. They have bridged the divide between the criminalization of undocumented workers and LGBTQ youth of color in New Orleans. And they have garnered greater awareness both locally and nationally of the injustices that negatively impact LGBTQ young people.

Despite their accomplishments, their work is far from done.

Many of BreakOUT!’s members are in need of stable housing, jobs and overall safety. Transgender women of color continue to be murdered at an astonishing rate and are routinely victims of violent crime. For this reason, BreakOUT! has recently launched a new campaign in honor of a community member who was murdered earlier this year.

We are proud to support BreakOUT! in their approach to advocacy and justice for all LGBTQ youth.

In the final chapter of this blog series, you will learn about the legal services and advocacy work grantee partner Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights provides New Orleans’ vulnerable youth. We will also explore how all of our New Orleans-based grantee partners work together to amplify their impact.