In an executive order issued this month, President Joe Biden detailed his administration’s plans to improve child welfare, health care and education for LGBTQ youth and adults.
The order that Biden signed June 15 aims to address the systemic inequities that, it states, prevents LGBTQ individuals and families from “full participation in our nation’s economic and civic life,” and to safeguard against “unrelenting political and legislative attacks” on LGBTQ children and their families.
While LGBTQ people continue to face criminalization in “some 70 countries around the world,” Biden urged those he called into action — including Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) the Secretary of Education and Secretary of State — to protect against dangerous practices waged against LGBTQ youth, like “so-called ‘conversion therapy.’”
Biden pledged to address discrimination in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems toward LGBTQ children, parents, families and caretakers. LGBTQ youth comprise one-third of the children in foster care, but they often struggle to get adequate support. The order directed HHS to coordinate with the Assistant Secretary for Family Support on a partnership to address disparities within foster care, including high rates of abuse, placements in hostile homes and overrepresentation in congregate care. The order also cited the high rate of homelessness foster youth experience when they leave state care. According to the National Foster Youth Institute, about 25% of young people experience homelessness within four years of aging out of the system.
The executive order also highlights the need to remove barriers and exclusionary practices that make it difficult for LGBTQ children and adults to access quality health care, including mental health care, reproductive care and HIV prevention and treatment. That includes “working with states on expanding access to gender-affirming care.”
Addressing conversion therapy, Biden called upon the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, among others, to create a plan to “promote an end to its use around the world.” The Secretary of HHS will consider whether to issue specific guidance that programs or agencies using conversion therapy don’t quality for federal HHS funding.
Biden also recommended increasing public awareness and formal training for social service and health care providers about the risk associated with the practice.
Education was another facet of disparities for LGBTQ youth that Biden ordered his administration and Secretary of Education to address. To support students, educators and other school staff who may be harmed by state or local laws, Biden said the administration should adopt policies strengthening the rights, the safety and the success of LGBTQ students.
Under the Secretary of Education, a new Working Group on LGBTQI+ Students and Families will be tasked with establishing practices for safe, inclusive learning environments; identifying ways to make school-based mental health services available; and seeking funding for programs that improve health and educational outcomes for LGBTQ youth.
The group will also strengthen supportive services like those provided by the National Center for Homeless Education for LGBTQ students and families dealing with homelessness, and pursue funding opportunities for programs and grants that would enhance health and education outcomes, particularly mental health outcomes for undeserved and LGBTQ students.
“Through these actions, the Federal Government will help ensure that every person — regardless of who they are or whom they love — has the opportunity to live freely and with dignity,” Biden said in the order.