Mackenzie Becker

  • Hosted by Children's Law Center of DC
  • Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Steptoe & Johnson LLP
  • Service location Washington, District of Columbia
  • Law school Howard University School of Law
  • Issue area Children/Youth
  • Fellowship class year 2017
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Mackenzie created a model for culturally competent legal representation for LGBTQ foster youth in Washington, DC by directly representing youth, engaging in coalition building and outreach, and training stakeholders.

Research has consistently shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are overrepresented in foster care. While they enter the child welfare system for many of the same reasons as non-LGBTQ youth, these experiences can be compounded by family rejection surrounding their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Even when sexual orientation is not the impetus for foster care entry, many LGBTQ youth deal with an added layer of trauma stemming from such rejection or mistreatment and often stay in care longer because of a lack of culturally competent legal representation and a dearth of supportive placements. Unfortunately, bias and discrimination doesn’t only originate with other youth; social workers, attorneys, judges, group home staff, and policy barriers all can prevent LGBTQ youth from accessing much needed services or finding permanency.

Fellowship Highlights

During the Fellowship period, Mackenzie has:

  • Directly represented 7 LGBTQ individuals and provided case consultations to other attorneys with LGBTQ clients
  • Testified before the DC Council on a bill addressing LGBTQ cultural competency for foster parents
  • Established relationships with local and national community partners, including the Whitman-Walker Health and SMYAL
  • Completed and published Children’s Law Center’s LGBTQ Advocacy Practice Kit
  • Gave 4 trainings on topics related to providing affirming representation to LGBTQ youth

What’s Next

Mackenzie will be continuing as a staff attorney at Children’s Law Center at the conclusion of her fellowship. She hopes to continue to provide representation and support for LGBTQ youth in foster care.

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