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Bowing to Baptist and Catholic Pressure, DCF Backs Off Protecting LGBT Children from Discrimination

| April 9, 2016

lgbt children discrimination dcf

They just don’t get it. (Tamara Craiu)

The Florida Department of Children and Families is under fire for backing off of part a proposal that would protect LGBT kids who live in group homes from discrimination — including so-called “conversion therapy” aimed at changing their sexual orientation.

The language is part of a wide-ranging draft rule that deals with group care for foster youths and has been in the works for months.

Last fall, when DCF Secretary Mike Carroll approved provisions protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, advocates celebrated. At that point, the draft rule banned staffers at group homes from “(a)ttempt(ing) to change or discourage a child’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

However, that language was opposed by the Florida Baptist Children’s Home and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, and by late January, it was gone.

At a Friday hearing on the proposed rule, dozens of speakers — foster youths, advocates and child-welfare professionals — asked DCF to reinstate it.

“Deletion of this language is worse than never having addressed it,” said Hannah Willard, the Orlando-based outreach coordinator for the advocacy group Equality Florida. “Arguably, removing this prohibition implies the department endorses the use of conversion therapy. And the fact that the department removed this language at the request of faith-based providers is particularly disturbing, given that many children are subjected to these practices by unlicensed pastors in churches or other faith-based institutions.”

Carroll, who did not attend the hearing, said in a statement that DCF does not and will not tolerate any discrimination or bullying against any vulnerable child for any reason.

He also deplored the politicization of child welfare, which he said requires “everyone under the tent” to contribute, and noted that many faith-based groups are among the best providers of foster and group care in the state system.

“I don’t want to get bogged down for the next two years arguing over words on a political document when really, I need to be talking about practice, I need to be talking about training, I need to be talking about developing adequate resources to serve these kids so that they’re better served from the outset in places where they’ll flourish,” Carroll told The News Service of Florida.

The Florida Baptist Children’s Homes and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops submitted their written comments in January, but did not participate in Friday’s hearing.

“Zero tolerance is expected by staff regarding any type of discriminatory, harassment, or bullying behaviors regarding residents or other employees,” the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes wrote in January. “Faith based milieus allow for spiritual guidance that respect(s) the differences among God’s creations and can do so in a safe, non-judgmental manner. Therefore, a special designation for sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is unwarranted.”

“The definition of ‘sexual orientation’ could encompass sexual conduct outside of marriage, thus legally affirming and specially protecting that conduct,” cautioned Michael Sheedy of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Clearly, every child should be safe from bullying and harassment in the care of state of Florida. An expectation of abstinence for school-aged children from sexual activity should be established.”

But Willard and others warned Friday that although discrimination and bullying for reasons such as race are banned, they occur nonetheless. For example, they said, in some group homes the straight boys are allowed to date, but not the gay ones.

Advocates also noted that LGBT youths were afraid to submit comments for the rule hearing.

“The children are so scared of retaliation, losing placement and feeling even less accepted,” wrote Amanda Williams and Deena Ruth, a lesbian couple in Gainesville who specialize in fostering LGBT kids. “Of the 10 children whose stories I asked to share or asked to write a letter, they ALL declined out of fear and even asked that I not give their specific examples. If the element of fear that LGBTQ youth face isn’t enough of a statistic, I don’t know what is,” said the comment, using an acronym that also includes children “questioning” their sexual identity.

Carroll said he would take another look at the language addressing conversion therapy. And he said DCF needs to do “a better job of identifying these children” and matching them with parents and providers who will accept them as they are.

But Mandi Hawke of SunServe, a Broward-based agency that provides services for LGBT youth, said the department has a long way to go.

“We have sat open for months at a time without placement, because people are afraid to discuss LGBT status with young people,” Hawke said. “With the number of LGBT youth we know that are in care, this is horrific that we are told repeatedly how many foster youth need homes, and yet the proper matches are not being made.”

Advocates suggested that Gov. Rick Scott had overruled Carroll on the draft language. Asked to respond, Scott spokesman John Tupps said: “The governor’s office collaborates with all state agencies and we are fully aware of rulemaking going on at DCF. We encourage all parties to provide their input during this process.”

The Department of Children and Families will accept public comment on the draft rule until April 15.

–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida

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17 Responses for “Bowing to Baptist and Catholic Pressure, DCF Backs Off Protecting LGBT Children from Discrimination”

  1. YankeeExPat says:

    Children need Love, Protection and Kindness. If someone feels that children with different Sexual Orientation don’t deserve the same as others, perhaps it’s time for some Personal reflection of what kind of Human being you are.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Suffer the little children…especially if said child happens to be Gay or transgender.

  3. Donald Trump's Tiny Fingers says:

    Well to be honest, it’s not like DCF protects kids in the state of Florida anyway so this article is more like “just to let you guys know, we aren’t protecting LGBT kids either.”

  4. Knightwatch says:

    That does it! I am sick of Baptists. I am sick of Catholics and Protestants, of Lutherans and Methodists and most of all, evangelicals of all Christian persuasions. They cling to their bibles and hypocritical religious freedoms and promote exclusion and discrimination. Humanity is ill served by their faith-based bigotry. Some day, unfortunately not in my lifetime, rational thought and science-based knowledge overcome religion and social sanity will prevail. Until then, fear and hate will run rampant in this country.

  5. Dave says:

    Hey Knightwatch fear and hate run rampant throughout the world and LGBT is not the only item. Kids get bullied at school for just looking different , being better off or not better off than the others, They get bullied from being from a different part of the country or having a different color skin. The get bullied just because of their name. Its not just about which religion a person believes its just pure bad upbringing brought about largely by the example set by parents. Little kids are NOT born to hate, they are taught to hate by the failure of parents or some adult in their life. Just think of the terrorist overseas and within that hate ALL Americans regardless of their race, sexual preference, rich or poor or what faith they believe in , they just hate people in the US and the free world. That’s the hate running rampant around the world. Like Yankee noted in the first post, “Children need Love, Protection and Kindness”.

  6. Knightwatch says:

    Agree in part, Dave. But religion as practiced here in America has turned hateful and discriminatory. Religion is teaching our children not to love and accept, but to stereotype, to exclude, to fear and thus, to bully. It unfortunate that ancient dogma overrules 21st century knowledge, reason and reality. It is even more unfortunate that otherwise good people are ill informed and purposefully misled by their repressive, narrow-minded and pedantic religious leaders in order to keep filling their places of worship, and coffers, with befuddled sheep.

    Organized religion is dying a slow, painful death. But it’s not going without a fight, without sowing as much discrimination, bigotry and social discord as it can muster.

  7. Will says:

    The worship of God and his rules of moral and natural law will be around a lot longer than those “enlightened and intellectual” individuals and the countries they are trying to redefine. Today, people are no smarter than they were in ancient Rome.

  8. STEVE says:

    Just another reason I have no use for religion.

  9. virginia man says:

    This is one of the reasons I moved back to va. Child molesting men of god. What a joke.

  10. Outsider says:

    There is actually one religion that is not dying a slow painful death, but is actively killing off all others. If you don’t like the whatever it is you consider hatefulness toward LGBT people, you will be really disappointed in how they are treated under Islamic control. Of course, I imagine you are one of those that insists we accept everyone, regardless of their religious views, or in other words, tolerate the intolerant.

  11. NortonSmitty says:

    Good God, is there any two groups of people in this world less qualified to discuss childrens sex issues than Catholic Priests or Baptist Preachers with how many of them they have raped?

  12. Geezer says:

    NortonSmitty:

    You’ve been a stranger lately. Glad to see your words in print again.
    I used “poltroon” the other day– a word I learned from you.
    Thanks a bunch…

    Geezer

  13. Knightwatch says:

    Outsider … two things come to mind. In this country, Christians are the ones who are practicing and preaching discrimination and pushing forward hateful and bigoted laws, not Muslims.

    Secondly, I am no more a fan of Islam than of Christianity. Both have the propensity to urge people to hate, fear and oppress, and they do with a vengeance. But in both cases, I blame not the tenets of these religions, but the corrupt leaders and the blind sheep who follow them.

  14. Sherry says:

    Hola! Geezer, Norton Smitty and Knightwatch. . . three fantastic individuals whose comments are most often sublimely and accurately to the point. We here in Javea, Spain salute you!! Ole!

    To those (you know who you are) who often point to other countries/cultures/religions as some really “lame” excuse for not doing the reasonable/sane/civilized/educated thing in the USA. . . what should be making America really great is stepping up and “doing the right thing” when others aren’t. Didn’t your Mama ever tell you that “two wrongs don’t make a right”?

  15. Geezer says:

    Sherry:

    We have a good bunch of commentators here (I always want to write “commenters”)
    that seems to be growing. It’s no accident that I continue to pore over articles and
    comments on Flaglerlive despite having moved 1400 miles away!

    ¡Enhorabuena! Savor your trip, take it slow–take lots of pictures.
    Regards to you and your “esposo.”

  16. k says:

    Hey, Sherry … Hola! ¿Cómo te va todo? And yes, I agree. Far too many Americans point to supposed injustices in Islamic countries to rationalize injustices here. You know … if we discriminate against gays here, they’ye still better off in, say, Syria. The worst example of such false comparisons is the Great American Buffoon, Donald Trump. He says that since ISIS tortures people, we are justified in doing the same to beat them. In other words, that fascist as*##ole proposes, as president, to bring America down to the same level of inhumanity of terrorists. Yeah, make America great again.

  17. Sherry says:

    Buenos Dias Cara Geezer and K! Especially you “K”. . . welcome to the group of open minded, caring, reasonable, logical, educated thinkers! Great to have you aboard!

    Paella tonight. . . YUM!

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