Lawsuit Aims at Trump Halting Data on Native American, LGBTQ Foster Care Youth

Angel Gonzales, president of the board of Facing Foster Care in Alaska, warned that data collection for queer youth in Alaska is already inadequate.

Several Native American tribes, foster care groups, and a slate of organizations that serve LGBTQ and two-spirit Native American youth are filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration in response to the White House’s rule ending data collection of several vulnerable groups in foster care.

The rule, first proposed last year and finalized in May, was rolled out with the goal of downsizing data collection efforts in foster care by one-third overall. But it was revealed that data pertaining to queer and Native American youth would be wiped out entirely.

The rule specifically takes aim at an Obama-era rule stemming from 2016 when the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) revised the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) system to require the collection of demographic information and experiences of individuals in Native American tribes, including foster children, as well as LGBTQ youth in foster care. That Obama-era rule also called for reports on the voluntary disclosure of sexual orientation data pertaining to foster youth who are 14 or older and to foster parents.

The new Trump administration’s rule immediately sparked an intense wave of backlash from advocates and members of Congress who warned that stopping data collection would leave folks in the dark about how to best care for marginalized youth in the foster care system.

The coalition’s lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California alleges that the rule pushed forward by the federal Department of Health and Human Services and ACF violates the law in rolling back the data collection requirements.

The plaintiffs, which include the Cherokee Nation, the Yurok Tribe, and the nonprofit Facing Foster Care in Alaska, are represented by Lambda Legal, Democracy Forward, and the Michigan State University College of Law’s Indian Law Clinic.

“The Trump administration undid more than a decade of hard work when it unlawfully prevented the collection of critical data about how American Indian and Alaska Native children and LGBTQ+ youth fare in the nation’s foster care system,” the coalition of groups said in a written statement. “The data is critical to improving outcomes for American Indian and Alaska Native children and LGBTQ+ youth. The administration’s unlawful actions will keep many of America’s most vulnerable foster children and youth in the shadows.”

Advocates are taking President Donald Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to court in response the administration’s rule stopping data collection of queer and Native American youth in the foster care system.Reuters/ Erin Scott

Statistics show that Native American youth are vastly overrepresented in the foster care system in certain parts of the country.

Alaskan natives, for example, represent a whopping 60 percent of the children in the state’s foster care system despite making up a fraction of the state’s population, according to Angel Gonzales, who was previously in Alaska’s foster care system and is president of the board of Facing Foster Care in Alaska.

“There is no good data for our LGBTQ community, which is very unfortunate,” Gonzales said during a Zoom call with reporters on August 27. “I have seen quite a few of our young people becoming homeless because they come out to their families…”

The other plaintiffs in the case are the California Tribal Families Coalition, the Ark of Freedom Alliance, which combats youth expoitation and human trafficking, the queer youth advocacy group True Colors, Inc., and the Ruth Ellis Center, which serves LGBTQ youth and young adults in the Detroit area.

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