by René Bennett-Carlson, Managing Attorney
Summer 2011 brought not only continuing progress with our work on behalf of LGBT youth in out-of-home care but also an exciting new partnership for CHLP with the legendary Hetrick Martin Institute (HMI). As part of its Teen SENSE initiative to ensure that youth in state custody - young people in foster care, juvenile detention and other group facilities - have comprehensive sexual health care, CHLP and HMI created an eight week intensive summer program for peer educators to advocate for change in New York state custodial facilities. The participants in the program have spoken extensively on sexual health care issues relating to youth. Young people who have been enrolled in the summer program will be meeting with staff of New York City's Division of Youth and Family Justice at the end of the month to discuss the need for standards concretizing sexual medical care and sexual health education services for youth as well as LGBT cultural competency training for staff.
Youth in state custody are more likely to have HIV, STIs, and unplanned pregnancies. These same young people are also disproportionately LGBT and may have had a history of living on the street, engaging in high risk survival behavior, or have been subject to sexual violence. Teen SENSE was developed to respond to this need and the fact that not one state in the country has consistent requirements for LGBT-inclusive sexual health care or staff training for the young people whose basic health needs they are responsible for. Comprehensive sexual health care for queer youth not only is their right, it is an opportunity to proactively introduce prevention and treatment efforts to youth from communities that have demonstrated sexual health disparities.
This partnership with HMI is an exciting opportunity to engage youth directly in advocacy efforts that affect their peers and communities. We look forward to our continued collaboration with the staff and young people at HMI to ensure that youth in state custody have a voice and the care they deserve.