Last Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion, authored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, which directs LA County Counsel Mary Wickham and her staff to oversee the investigation into the suicide death of a transgender foster youth last month.
Andrew Martinez, 19, had been hospitalized for a drug overdose weeks prior to taking his life on September 4.
The LA County Office of Child Protection is lead agency in the investigation, however, supervisors are seeking to determine whether systemic failures lead to Martinez’s suicide. Wickham is due to report back to the supervisors with answers and recommendations for improving the county’s supportservices for LGBTQ+ youth in the county’s foster care.
Both Andrew’s biological mother and his aunt appeared before the board last week to decry his treatment in the hands of DCFS during the public comment period of the meeting reported WitnessLA journalist Taylor Walker.
“You took my child away from me alive, and now I’m planning his funeral?” said Andrew’s bereaved mother, Abigail Martinez.
“You didn’t focus on his mental health,” she said. “I request that even in court. I requested every time I went, just to focus on his mental health. He didn’t have any treatment. At all.”
Three months before his suicide, the teen’s mother said, Andrew was in the hospital for an overdose. Social workers, she said, chose to send him home alone. “Why was he sent back home alone? Why? Why did they do that? He was not capable to be alone.”
Why, the two women wanted to know, was Andrew not connected with services for transgender youth. “Now he is dead,” said Claudia. “We need to know why he did not receive the support that he needed” for his depression, and why “he became just a number” to DCFS.
Addressing her fellow Board of Supervisor members and the public in attendance, Supervisor Solis noted; “Tragically, LGBTQ+ children and youth endure abuse, abandonment, and neglect before they enter the foster care system, much like other children and youth. In addition, many LGBTQ+ children and youth carry an added layer of trauma that comes with being rejected or disparaged due to sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression.”
A report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015 cautioned that Lesbian, gay, and bi young people almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide, and three times as likely to seriously contemplate suicide compared to their non LGB peers.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a report also issued in 2015, found that 40 percent of transgender adults reported having attempted suicide. And of those who reported suicide attempts, 92 percent said they were under age 25 when they tried to kill themselves.
The GoFundMe page soliciting funds to cover the young man’s funeral said: “Despite his battle with depression, he helped give words of encouragement and helped so many of his friends who are alive today because of that.”
The family also said on the page “[…] we are not just raising money for the memorial, but whatever we raise that is left over will be donated to an organization(s) that is making a difference in providing mental health support for youth who are in need and battling similar battles like the one Andrew did for as long as he could.”