Obama admin statement – via the Dept of Education – about two of the rash of suicides

Posted on 02 Oct 2010 at 11:44am

As we have been mulling about the silence by the White House about the rash of suicides today, it’s interesting to receive this in a late Friday afternoon dead drop.

Statement by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the Recent Deaths of Two Young Men

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today released the following statement:

“This week, we sadly lost two young men who took their own lives for one unacceptable reason: they were being bullied and harassed because they were openly gay or believed to be gay. These unnecessary tragedies come on the heels of at least three other young people taking their own lives because the trauma of being bullied and harassed for their actual or perceived sexual orientation was too much to bear.

“This is a moment where every one of us – parents, teachers, students, elected officials, and all people of conscience – needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms. Whether it’s students harassing other students because of ethnicity, disability or religion; or an adult, public official harassing the President of the University of Michigan student body because he is gay, it is time we as a country said enough. No more. This must stop.”

Michael Petrelis has been asking for statements from the admin. One from Kevin Jennings materialized:

From the Desk of Kevin Jennings

As is the case for most of those reading this message, I have been horrified by the recent media coverage of student suicides prompted by bullying. I am fortunate to have a boss who is just as horrified and today made the below statement.

I hope each of you will consider ways you can help bring bullying to an end and urge you to check out www.bullyinginfo.org for useful resources in so doing.

Kevin

“His boss” being Arne Duncan. He’s put in a request to see if the LGBT liaison, Brian Bond in the Office of Public Engagement has any comment on the issue. I’ll keep you updated if a statement surfaces.

Then I received a press release entitled “ACF awards grants to reduce long-term foster care” from the WH Communications Office that seemed a weird one-off to stem the criticism that the Obama admin “doesn’t care.” This passage was highlighted in the email:

Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, which will create a county-wide system of care to address barriers to permanency and well-being for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning children and youth that are in or at-risk of placement in foster care, placement in the juvenile justice system, or homelessness.

You can read the full release about the LA award below the fold.

It’s really not about whether the administration cares; it’s about leadership and recognizing a crisis that concerns families across the country. When the rash of school shootings, including the tragedy at Columbine, it seemed every elected official had something to say, legislation to consider, and outreach to discuss the breakdown that caused them. Any WH, not just the Obama admin, has to consider that it has a role to play to reassure families that it is listening. Silence is not good for PR or for leadership.

Anyway, do you all have any thoughts about these statements from the administration departments?

HHS Awards Landmark .3 Million Grant to Fund L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s

Development of Model Program to Serve LGBTQ Foster Youth

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 1, 2010-Today the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center was awarded a landmark .3 million, five-year grant from the Federal Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Administration on Children, Youth and Families to create a model program that will provide life-saving support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in the foster care system.  Following a highly competitive review process, six grants were awarded-the Center’s grant is the only one specifically to support LGBTQ youth and the only grant that did not go to a government agency or academic institution.  It’s also the largest federal grant ever awarded to an LGBT organization.

The need for services for LGBT youth in foster care is dire.  According to a 2001 (Feinstein) study, 78% of LGBTQ foster youth were forced to leave their foster placements due to hostility related to their sexual orientation or gender identity.  In a 2001 study from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, 70% reported physical violence and 100% reported harassment in their group home.  Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services (GLASS), the only group home for LGBTQ foster youth in Los Angeles, closed its doors in 2008 (with its displaced residents turning to the Center for much-needed support).

“LGBTQ youth who aren’t living on the streets because of a hostile home environment are often in the foster care system,” said Lorri L. Jean, chief executive officer of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.  ”Many are rejected by foster parents and move from home to home or are considered unadoptable and live in overburdened group homes.  In either case, they’re more likely to turn to turn to drugs and crime, engage in unprotected sex, or commit suicide-and when they age out of the system at 18, they’re coming to us homeless.  This landmark grant will fund the development of a much-needed, model program to protect the health and well-being of LGBTQ foster youth-a program that will save lives, save taxpayer dollars, and could be replicated in cities around the country.”

By developing and leading a 19 organization collaborative that will include foster care agencies, researchers and government departments, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center will create a comprehensive system of  care to help LGBTQ youth stay in school, and in homes where they feel safe and welcomed, until adulthood.  The collaborative will include: foster care agencies, researchers, Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), the Los Angeles Unified School District and government agencies, including: Los Angeles County’s departments of Children and Family Services, Mental Health, Probation and Juvenile Court.

“The public systems across the country that are charged with the care and well-being of children and adolescents have largely been unresponsive or slow to acknowledge the needs of LGBTQ youth, and in some cases even hostile” said L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Chief of Staff Darrel Cummings, who led the team that developed the grant proposal.  ”As a result, these systems deliver misguided, uninformed, and ultimately second-class care that harms LGBTQ youth in their custody.  All too often they’re housed in isolation ‘for their own safety,’ blamed for being harassed because they’re open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, or disciplined for engaging in age-appropriate conduct that would not be punishable were it between youth of different sexes.  It’s the system that’s harming them and we’ve got to change that.”

Key features of the program will include research, evaluation and documentation.   “We will be recording, studying, and analyzing the program carefully,” said Cummings.  ”We want to know what works for our youth and when we learn it, we will document the success so that our program can be duplicated around the country.”

The Center’s proposal to HHS was enthusiastically endorsed by: the Los Angeles Juvenile Court, the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, County of Los Angeles Probation Department, Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaraslovsky and Hathaway-Sycamore Child and Family Services.

The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center is a national leader in serving and advocating for LGBTQ youth.  In addition to a 24-bed transitional living program, where homeless youth (ages 18-24) can live for up to 18 months while developing the skills and resources to live independently, the Center operates the Jeff Griffith Youth Center, which provides meals, emergency beds, clothing, counseling and support services to youth seven days a week.   And to support the healthy development of LGBTQ youth, the Center’s LifeWorks program offers: mentoring by specially trained adults, peer-support programs, college scholarships, social activities and much more.

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