In the summer of 2014, New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services adopted a trans-inclusive standard of care for youth in its foster care and criminal justice systems: Safe & Respected: Children’s Services Releases New Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) Best Practices Guide. The guide features an overview of the barriers that TGNC children and youth face in foster care and juvenile detention, a glossary of terms, an overview of affirming resources, policies, and best practices especially meaningful to staff to help affirm and support TGNC young people.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services Family and Youth Services Bureau reviewed New York’s ground-breaking guidelines and praised and recommended them in July, saying “And though it’s specific to New York in some places, we think ‘Safe and Respected’ is a great primer for anyone who may come into contact with transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth.”
The guide has also been recommended by the National Institute of Corrections, who say that “You should be familiar with this report if you work with transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) youth.”
After the federal government’s approval and recommendation, the guide for safe care of trans and gender-diverse youth is drawing conservative ire and religious talking points. Conservative newspaper The Weekly Standard is bringing “Safe & Respected” to the attention of its readers under the guise of religious freedom. In an article Foster Care and Religious Freedom – A looming problem for Christian family service agencies They posit that recent changes in guidelines for caring for trans and gender non-conforming youth in the foster care system in New York, guidelines that the federal government has recommended, will be a threat to religious-based social service organizations:
It may be that the LGBTQ agenda will eventually squeeze religious organizations and individuals out of the care of orphans and other children in crisis—services pioneered by Christian and other religious organizations. Already the evidence suggests that the deck is stacked in favor of the pro-LGBTQ side of the issue. This raises the question of what is truly the main priority: the child’s best interests or the interests of an increasingly secular state. If religious groups do not have a place at the table when such regulations and guidelines are developed, they are likely to see their values and concerns continue to be marginalized and their freedoms further diminished.
The Standard article goes on to pull passages from the guide and use scare quotes about how religious organizations and individuals are restricted from applying conversion therapy tactics from the vulnerable trans youth in their care. As same-sex marriage is becoming legal, religious conservatives are turning their attention to trans people and particularly trans youth as a means to advance their anti-LGBTQ agenda.