D.C. Family Court Hosts Annual Interdisciplinary Conference; Focuses on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth

The Family Court of the District of Columbia held its 11th Annual Interdisciplinary Conference on October 4th, 2012. This year’s topic focused on ways that professionals in the juvenile justice system can provide supports that are culturally appropriate and inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth and their families.

AIR’s Jeffrey Poirier and research assistant Mitchell Delaney shared the LGBTQ Toolkit at the conference. The toolkit includes more than 125 resources related to LGBT youth and their families, and was developed through the Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health (TA Partnership). The toolkit provides information and resources from organizations around the country to build knowledge about LGBTQ populations and implement recommended practices.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) children and youth experience various disparities, including barriers to effective, fair supports in juvenile justice settings. A 2009 national report from The Equity Project found, for example, that juvenile justice professionals lacked knowledge about and did not accept LGBT identity. The report also noted that delinquency courts failed to protect the due process rights of LGBT youth (especially effective counsel), and that LGBT youth were unnecessarily and disproportionately detained while awaiting trial because of a lack of understanding of their life experiences. Given these conditions, it is important to build capacity in juvenile justice systems to more effectively support and more fairly treat LGBT youth.

The TA partnership, run in collaboration by AIR and the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, provides training and technical assistance to professionals from the juvenile justice, child welfare, and mental health fields to build their capacity to improve services and outcomes for children, youth, and families. The TA Partnership is supported with funding from the Child, Adolescent and Family Branch of the Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The D.C. Family Court selects a different topic each year related to youth and families who come into contact with the court and other D.C. systems. Over 350 participants attended the conference, including judges, attorneys, probation officers, social workers, court staff, psychologists, and those working in the D.C. Public Schools.