When the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) placed Alyssa Rodriquez, now 20 years old, in the Red Hook Residential Center in 2002–2003, it placed her in a male facility. Rodriquez, who is transgender, had been on hormone therapy. But once in the facility, she was forced to go without it, which lead to health consequences and emotional distress due to withdrawal symptoms. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) and Lambda Legal filed a complaint against OCFS on Rodriguez’s behalf on January 11 of this year, claiming Rodriquez was denied appropriate medical treatment and punished for her gender expression in New York juvenile facilities.
This week, a settlement was reached in which Rodriguez received $25,000. In addition, OCFS will work with Lambda Legal and SRLP during the next five years to evaluate its policies about transgender youth and to distribute information about SRLP and Lambda Legal to transgender and gender-nonconforming youth in its care.
As a result of advocacy around Alyssa, OCFS designated two of its facilities where transgender youth will be placed and began educating its staff on the needs of transgender youth in care.
“OCFS placed Alyssa in a male facility, denied her appropriate health care, and punished her for being herself,” said Gabriel Arkles, staff attorney at Sylvia Rivera Law Project. “This is a clear example of why it is critical that institutions such as OCFS are educated about the needs of transgender youth before anyone is harmed.”
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