According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Administration for Children & Families, there are over 150,000 youth aged 12-20 in the foster care system in need of immediate foster placement. This is the age range when many youth first identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Too often, these adolescents are isolated or rejected by their families of origin.
The Child Welfare League of America reports that LGBT youth are "disproportionately represented" in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Studies show that approximately 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT and that well over half of these youth stay on the street because they feel "safer there than living in group or foster homes." Social workers across the country have long struggled to find foster and adoptive families that can provide LGBT adolescents with the support they need during the transition to young adulthood.
Sylvia Fogelman, Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency's (SCFFAA) President & CEO, shares her concern for these youth. "Children who self-identify as LGBT in the foster care system are faced with extra challenges. Too often, they are displaced from their homes, then face extreme challenges in finding safe shelter."
Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency (SCFFAA) is taking a bold step in its efforts to develop a targeted recruitment of resource families for LGBT foster youth. It has partnered with RaiseAChild.US, a non-profit organization that encourages LGBT people to build their families through fostering and adoption.
Rich Valenza, Founder & President of RaiseAChild.US explains the four phase plan designed to find viable solutions for LGBT youth. "We have created a survey, located at our website, and invite the general public across the nation to participate, to help us to measure attitudes and concerns about fostering and adoption. After analyzing the data, we will build an infrastructure of support to address those concerns. Then, we go back to the public with a campaign to educate, advocate and recruit safe and loving homes for these children."
Over the past 18 months, RaiseAChild.US has run three campaigns in Los Angeles, engaging over 500 prospective parents, with 400 attending recruitment events. SCFFAA is now training and certifying many of these recruits.
Robyn Harrod, SCFFAA Adoption Program Director, explains the goals of the collaboration. "Foster youth who self-identify as LGBT need many of the same things all youth need--but above all, acceptance. There are many prospective foster parents who can provide this--our task is to educate and cultivate these homes for this chronically neglected segment of our foster population."
"SCFFAA has a remarkable track record working with LGBT parents," according to John Ireland, Co-Founder of RaiseAChild.US. "We are honored to collaborate with them as they focus on the unique needs of LGBT foster youth. While it may be a logical assumption that LGBT prospective foster parents might be a good resource to provide a safe, accepting, and loving home for LGBT adolescents, we will go much further. We will search to find all viable supportive home options that will be able to produce resilient young men and women."
The effort includes implementation of a survey to gather data from prospective foster parents, which will inform the development of a recruitment protocol. The collaboration will also yield a robust linkage system for resources and services these foster parents can connect with to best support the youth in their care. SCFFAA's efforts to serve LGBT foster youth are supported, in part, by a grant from the David Bohnett Foundation.
For more information:
John Ireland, firstname.lastname@example.org