Leading LGBT Agency Focuses on Foster Youth

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s All Children – All Families initiative has expanded its focus to include issues facing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) foster youth.

Launched in 2006, All Children – All Families started by providing child welfare agencies and prospective foster and adoptive families with tools and skills to effectively work with LGBT foster youth. This included amending policies and practices in child welfare administrations across the country to help LGBT resource families from the point of contact and recruitment up through and including licensing, home study, etc

“Originally it was meant to support and help those who are a part of the LGBT community that were looking to get into adopting or fostering children,” said Ellen Kahn, director of the HRC Foundation’s Family Project.

However, within the last year, the project has taken a turn to include a focus on LGBT foster youth as well as the families that look to take care of them.

“Los Angeles County and Denver County and other large systems who deal with youth that are in out of home care,” Kahn said. “Where they are in residential facilities and other places, would raise questions with us about accommodating and working with the LGBT foster youth community specifically.”

Issues around how to accommodate young transgender foster youth, concerns from resource families about working with children who are “coming out”, and an uncertainty about how to make the best placements for the LGBT youth were among the many questions and concerns that came from these larger county agencies.

In October of 2013, the HRC initiated a process involving an agency self-assessment. Agencies are then are added to the list of participating agencies on the All Children – All Families website.

Staff members helped agencies train their staff to meet the ten “Key Benchmarks of LGBT Cultural Competency,” which range from client and staff non-discriminatory practices to an overall LGBT-inclusive agency environment. Once they are done with the process, which can last anywhere from six months to three years, the agency is designated a “Leader in Supporting and Serving LGBT Youth and Families” and awarded an All Children – All Families Seal of Recognition to assist the agency in outreach within the LGBT community.

“The training has to be modified to meet restrictions or needs the agencies have,” Kahn said.” But essentially we have a full training curriculum for the whole spectrum – for working with LGBT youth and families in all the different ways the child welfare agencies are doing that.”

Kahn notes that some agencies are seeing huge results.

“For Los Angeles County,” Kahn said, “for two years after their earned their Seal of Recognition, 50 percent of the people that attended their orientation identified as LGBT, which was up from a previous five to ten percent.”

Victor Valle is a journalism intern with Fostering Media Connections. 

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