Gretchen Whitmer's Solution for Broken Child Welfare System: 'Sexual Orientation' and 'Gender Identity' Consulting

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer (D.) / Getty Images
October 3, 2022

Months after a federal judge described the state of Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer’s child foster care system as "devastating," the Democrat's administration is turning to an atypical antidote: a "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" consultant.

Whitmer's Children's Services Agency on September 12 issued a contract proposal for a "Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression (SOGIE) Consultant" to assist the agency's "Diversity Equity and Inclusion Unit," documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show. Included in the proposal are directives to distribute surveys on "the needs and concerns of LGBTQIA+ … children," develop "training curriculum" on topics such as "implicit bias," and identify "community services for Native American Two Spirit youth."

The proposal comes as Whitmer faces a high-profile reelection bid against Republican challenger Tudor Dixon. It also comes as the Democrat's Children's Services Agency faces scrutiny from a federal judge over a "devastating" January report that detailed the foster system's shortcomings. The issues laid out in the report, however, seemingly have little to do with "sexual orientation" and "gender identity."

In one case, two foster children were found wandering around a hotel unsupervised after the children's caregiver asked an unnamed "male friend" to watch them. In another, a foster parent allowed a 12-year-old to supervise seven younger children—including a blind and autistic 10-year-old and a 2-year-old—while the foster parent left home to run an errand. The two-year-old twice left the house "dirty and without pants," and police later described "deplorable conditions" at the foster home, such as "spoiled food and garbage strewn throughout, rabbit feces outside a rabbit cage, and child access to alcohol and pet food." In both cases, the report states, Whitmer's Children's Services Agency did not find evidence to substantiate claims of "improper supervision."

Still, the September contract proposal expresses optimism that a focus on "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion" will "encourage a culture shift," increase "resources within child welfare of people who are marginalized," and "create increased sensitivity on issues relating to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) population within Children's Services." Both Whitmer and Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services did not return requests for comment.

It's unclear what kinds of questions will be included in the "survey" laid out in the proposal, which is set to be distributed to "staff, stakeholders, youths, and families" within "the first and last 30-60 days" of the contract. But in one "confidential SOGIE questionnaire" posted by California's Foster Youth Education Task Force, children as young as 10 were asked if they were "born a boy, girl, or something else"; if they "feel like a boy, girl, or something else"; if they "prefer to wear boy clothes or girl clothes"; if they "like and/or date girls, boys, both, or neither"; and if they were "gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, questioning, straight, or something else." That survey was set to be distributed to "ALL children and youth ages 10-21 years" within Alameda County's Social Services Agency, according to the questionnaire.

Similar surveys are already making their way into public schools in the United States. In Rhode Island, for example, the state's survey partner, Panorama Education, asks whether students are "transgender and/or Gender non-conforming" in its state demo survey. Dixon has criticized Whitmer on so-called woke education—in a Wednesday press release, the Republican touted a bill requiring "school districts to ensure that their schools do not provide classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade," adding that Whitmer "won't agree to these common-sense measures."

"Gretchen Whitmer will not come out and say that she opposes sex and gender theory being taught to our kids," Dixon said in the release. "She won't even come out and say that it is wrong and obscene for her attorney general to advocate for putting a drag queen in every classroom," a reference to Michigan Democratic attorney general Dana Nessel's June remarks calling for "a drag queen for every school." "That is what would be fun for the kids and lift them up when they are having emotional issues," Nessel said.

Michigan's child welfare system has been under federal court oversight since 2008, when the state settled a lawsuit from the nonprofit Children's Rights that alleged it was failing to keep foster children safe. As a result of the settlement, Michigan's foster system is routinely subject to monitoring reports that evaluate the state on a number of performance benchmarks. In January's report, Michigan only met the required standards in 8 of 32 areas—the state, for example, failed both to keep an adequate percentage of siblings together who are placed in foster care at the same time and to "make immediate efforts" to reunite siblings who are separated. A quarter of the state's maltreatment investigations, meanwhile, were considered "deficient," according to the report.

Should Dixon defeat Whitmer, the Republican's health department would take control of the embattled agency. The pair will square off in November after Dixon won her August primary by 18 points. Whitmer ran unopposed in her own primary.