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Foster home rule changes heavily opposed by LGBT community

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Rule changes for foster homes that work with the state are being opposed by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Two faith-based groups sent letters to state officials speaking out against the proposed protections, but they did not show up to the hearing Friday.

LGBT advocates who showed up at a rule making meeting for the state’s Department of Children and Families were angry with DCF for the proposed rule change.

"LGBT youth have unique needs that they’re a vulnerable population, that the DCF has a responsibility as an agency to basically make sure that the providers that are taking care of LGBT youth are given the right guidance," said Carlos Smith, of Equality Florida.

DCF included specific protections for LGBT foster children in a draft rule, including one that specifically banned controversial conversion therapy, but the latest draft took those protections out.

DCF said even though the proposed protections are scratched out, they won’t tolerate discrimination. But advocates said that isn’t good enough.

"We don’t need to segment a particular population of kids within the rule," said Tory Wilson, of DCF. "But we need to make sure the rule has protections to cover all children that we’re serving."

Rachel Greene, who works with Capital City Youth Services, a crisis center for endangered children, said the protections are needed to make sure one of the most at-risk foster kid populations isn’t ignored.

"We have youth who run away from our program because of fear of going into a program that’s not affirming," Greene said.

Dozens of other advocates chimed in on the phone. No one at the public meeting spoke in favor of having the protections removed.