The Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ (Maine DHHS) Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) introduced a new “LGBTQI+ Policy” in October 2023 directing caseworkers to affirm children’s “gender identity,” shield information from parents, and to facilitate children’s access to “gender affirming” sex change hormones and surgeries, according to a copy of the policy obtained by the Maine Wire.
“The LGBTQI+ Policy acknowledges that OCFS respects all affirmed gender identities and gender expressions of children, youth, young adults and families they work with,” the OCFS policy states.
“When a caseworker is working with a child who expresses that they are, or may be, LGBTQI+ the caseworker will assure the child that they will support the child in their feelings and self-identification,” the policy reads.
As part of supporting a child’s “assertion of their LGBTQI+ identity,” OCFS caseworkers directed to “use the child’s expressed names and pronouns,” and are required to discuss with the child whether or not they want information regarding their “gender identity” to be shared with others — including their parents.
The policy goes on to require caseworkers “not to share information without the child’s consent, aside from the child’s caregiver, unless it is to ensure the child’s safety”:
“In situations where the caseworker believes disclosure is necessary to ensure child safety over the child’s objection, the caseworker will consult with their supervisor as well as with the child about whether there are alternatives to disclosure.
If there are none, they will first inform the child to whom the information will be disclosed, what will be disclosed, and why the information needs to be disclosed.”
In the case of children who are under DHHS custody and are put in “out of home placements,” caseworkers must ensure that those placements “are consistent with and supportive of the child’s expressed sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression,” the policy states.
“Resource parent(s)” in out of home placements are required to have a discussion with a child’s OCFS caseworker regarding “their ability to support the child in their sexual orientation, gender identity, or exploration of those aspects of themselves.”
Placements in sex segregated facilities, such as a residential facility or hospital setting, must also be scrutinized by a OCFS caseworker to ensure it is “affirming of the child’s sexual orientation and gender identity.”
What is considered “affirming” under the policy is to allow children to “express their LGBTQI+ identity” by their clothing, accessories, and hair styling, to use their “expressed names and pronouns,” and to allow them to participate in educational or extra-curricular activities “in accordance with their gender identity.”
Under the OCFS policy, children will be placed in a facility in accordance with their “gender identity whenever safe and possible.”
Caseworkers are required to seek a placement change for a child if the facility in which they are placed is not adequately “supportive of the child’s identity.”
The policy also directs OCFS staff to “facilitate access to affirming services” for the children with whom they work.
“Affirming services,” under the policy, refer to any assessments, evaluations, psychosocial assessment, medical treatment, and interventions from medical providers.
Caseworkers are required to refer “LGBTQI+” children to a medical provider to consider whether they require “gender affirming medical care.”
Parents are required to be informed of the request for referral or evaluation under the policy, expect in cases where “parental rights have been terminated.”
The “gender affirming” care includes puberty blocking medication, sex change hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, menstrual suppression medication, and androgen blocking medication.
If a parent object to their child receiving the “gender affirming” medical services, the policy states that the “OCFS Director has the legal authority to consent for the medical referral/evaluation of the child in DHHS custody.”
OCFS may consider genital surgeries for children with intersex characteristics, for the purpose of resolving “significant functional impairment” or removing “imminent and substantial risk of developing a health- or life-threatening condition.”
The policy states that elective sex change surgeries will not be performed for children in DHHS custody “without the parent(s) informed consent and approval by the OCFS Director.”
“Culturally competent services may be offered to children and adolescents to assist them in making a decision regarding elective surgery,” the policy reads.
Additionally, OCFS caseworkers are told to connect and provide “LGBTQI+”-identifying children with access to “social support groups, books, apps, and other resources as available.”
Child welfare supervisors and caseworkers, along with other OCFS staff, were required to complete a “LGBTQI+ Policy Quiz” to ensure that they read and understand the new policy.
The Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee is set to hold a work session Thursday on LD 1735, a controversial bill that would block law enforcement from reuniting children from out-of-state with their parents if they were brought to Maine to receive sex change medication or surgeries.
Last year, Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a bill that allows 16-year-olds to obtain puberty blocking medication and sex change hormones, even if the minor’s parents have objected to hormonal interventions.