LGBTQ Youth Resource Guide

Gain a better understanding of the lgbtq youth in your care with this compiled list of local resources, including support groups, affirming care centers, and guides for supporting youth to the fullest.

The Importance of Cultural Identity for Foster Youth

Cultural identity plays a key role in children’s lives; it is a significant part of who they are. Oftentimes cultural identity is marginalized or disregarded for children in foster care, which can lead to higher levels of loneliness and depression, lower self-esteem and difficult psychological adjustments that in turn affect coping skills and learning. Therefore, the role cultural identity plays in the overall well-being of a child cannot be ignored.

Currently there are only four states in the US that legally and explicitly provide the right to cultural heritage activities for youth in foster care via their foster youth bill of rights. In Illinois, the law states it is the foster parent’s responsibility to support activities for foster youth that continue a relationship with their cultural heritage. In Missouri, the law states foster parents shall provide care respectful of a youth’s cultural identity. However, in both states, there is little legal accountability to make sure foster parents are actually engaging in such practices. In many instances, even the most intentioned foster parents find it difficult to find the proper cultural resources for the child.

There are many ways foster parents, as well as other individuals working with youth, can promote cultural identity. It begins by asking the youth questions about the cultural practices, norms or traditions that are important to them. Cultural identity forms during primary socialization, a stage in life when a child learns how to view the world through their immediate family and close friends. If this core group can expose the foster child to their heritage in this stage, the child can develop a higher level of social well-being. Key cultural distinctions are food, holidays, age milestones, music, dancing, clothing and language. Connecting foster youth to these aspects of their culture by pursuing activities that expose them to ethnic food, music, rituals and events is key to helping them strengthen their identity. By recognizing and teaching a foster child about their cultural background, the child acquires the group’s core values and adopts their sociocultural practices and rituals, which helps the child position him or herself in society.

In 2016, with more than 437,000 children in foster care in the United States, 44% identified as white, 23% black, 21% Hispanic, 9% multiracial and 2% unknown ethnicities. All of these children should have the right to learn and embrace their heritage. If you are currently caring for a foster child or will be with family this holiday season with a child from another ethnic group, please recognize and celebrate their culture with them. We can all learn from each other.

Inclusion and Equity for In-Care Youth

In July of 2018, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services obtained a contract through Illinois’ DCFS for the Wraparound programPart of the contracted agreement is to host monthly support groups for in-care LGBTQ youth and provide a safe space to learn, mature, and safely be themselves With the greater part of our mission to empower people to live the life God intended them to live, this is a natural fit for our organization. 

The monthly support group is maintained and facilitated by Williams and Associates, a non-profit organization based in St. Louis, MO. Williams and Assoc., according to their website, is an organization delivering programs and services such as health education, HIV/STI prevention, violence prevention, and sensitivity to the LGBTQ+ community. Williams and Assoc. contracts independent facilitators to conduct and lead the monthly support group hosted through Hoyleton. 

Haili Loftin, a Service Coordinator for FORWARD Counseling Care, here at Hoyleton, facilitates communication between in-care youth, their caseworkers, and Antwan Chambers, the current group facilitator. While the group is sponsored by Williams and Associates, it is Antwan who connects with youth on a more personal level.  

Antwan, a school-based social worker, and a former middle school and high school history teacher, has a passion for helping teens discover who they are and supporting them in their journey. Antwan finds he is fulfilling his personal passion by sharing and empowering these teens others to find themselves. When asked why he changed directions in his career, he states he started to realize education is not the sole contributor to the success of a youth or young person. He realized change starts at home and within the environment of the youth and education is only a component of success. As a social worker, he gets to be larger part of a solution for today’s youth and the struggles they face, especially in the LGBTQ+ community. 

The LGBTQ+ Support group participants fluctuate between 10 to 19 individuals at each meeting. There are only two other organizations that currently participate. It is Antwan’s hope this number grows and awareness starts to spread as restrictions due to COVID start to relax. Currently, this program, hosted by Hoyleton, is the only program of its kind for in-care youth within the state of Illinois. 

The monthly group is more than a safe space for youth to engage with one another. Each meeting has a purpose and is designed to provide tools and skills to transition from adolescence to adulthood. Topics are frequently geared around life skills such as managing finances, leadership skills, self-care, responsible sexual health, and others. Participants are always encouraged to ask questions and given the opportunity to guide topics to subjects relevant to current life situations. While the meetings are designed to provide LGBTQ youth-in-care a safe space, it is also open to allies of these young people as well. It is not uncommon for a youth’s caseworker to attend for moral support.  

It is important to notefacilitators and caseworkers do not guide youth as to how they should feel or identify. Facilitators encourage youth to speak to a trusted adult or mentor, who is not a family member, concerning guidance in questioning their sexuality or gender identity.  

Meetings are reserved for in-care youth referred through the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. It is a hope that eventually opportunity will evolve into a broader audience and also spark additional, yet separate, groups to include adults.  

As an organization that promotes, diversity, inclusion, equity, and education, Hoyleton is excited for the opportunities to host these meetings and provide safe spaces for tomorrow’s emerging adults. If you would like to partner with us in providing a safe, secure, and welcoming environment to hold future gatherings for our group, please reach out to Haili Loftin at or contact us directly at 618.688.4727. 

Every month is Black history month

A reminder of why Black lives matter

February offers an opportunity to honor, learn and re-learn about the achievements, accomplishments, and contributions of Black Americans.  Daily posts with stories and little- known facts create awareness and better understanding of the importance of a group of people who were omitted from the history of the United States of America. Honoring the contributions of Black inventors, artists, educators, researchers, athletes, writers, entertainers and “changemakers” instills great pride in Black communities while educating those in other communities where such stories were rarely shared. I always think of February as a time for recovering—and re-covering—a history but also as a time to consider applying what is learned this month in ongoing daily actions and interactions.

Yes, February can be a time to learn beyond the shared stories. Black history month can also be a time to prioritize a commitment to do more to value and honor those in Black communities today, people who still struggle with the same systems of racial discrimination, disparities, inequities and social injustice that omitted them from the story told in this country.

“Honoring Black History” can occur every month when it includes valuing Black lives and communicating that worth in everyday actions, large and small. This is the call of the Black Lives Matter movement—a recognition of the value of a human life.  Omission from the narrative of a history of a country sends a powerful message that communicates who matters and who does not.  That narrative shapes the interaction between those who live in that country. Just as February centers the historical contributions of Black Americans—the Black Lives Matter movement centers value, worth and recognition across contemporary interpersonal interactions and public policies. This is an honoring that can occur every month in many ways.

Consider what honoring looks like in children’s books with main characters who are Black and have skin tones and hair textures that look like the ones Black children share and see in their families and communities. It is a message that says to them, “you matter”.  To see someone who “looks like me” on pages and in other forms of media is a powerful message of a child’s value and worth.  There are so many books now that send that message and they are available all year long!

For those who have a hard time understanding the reasons to honor Black lives daily, with more intention, in the Black Lives Matter movement—remember what you have learned in Black History Month. What was not included in history books and stories shared was a result of centuries of Black lives in the U.S being not just omitted but devalued. May Black History Month 2021 be the year to extend the honoring of Black lives by committing to actions—large and small—that center value, worth and humanity throughout the entire year.

Hoyleton | Why Diversity is So Important

Why Diversity is So Important for Our Team and Clients

The definition of Diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, one’s religious or ethical values, national origin, and political beliefs.

Sit and think about that for a minute.

Let me begin by stating that this blog is not a blog to start a debate on any of the topics listed above. However, this is a blog to educate you how Hoyleton has the capability to serve ALL people, no matter the range of human differences because of our own unique differences because of the people we employ. 

As this new week began at Hoyleton, we were lucky to have a new staff orientation. On weeks like these, we get to meet our new family members that will join our specific areas of service within our family and community. Each of them are unique and have different backgrounds, experiences, education, and social understandings. Some of them are starting their first job. Some are beginning a second career in life. And some are just glad that in the age of COVID we are hiring and they can support their families. Our new family may also be single parents with master degrees in social work or a young adult that is starting their first job as a youth counselor at the Hoyleton campus. Some are joining us to see how we operate the CARE model compared to their previous organization. No matter why they have chosen Hoyleton, we are glad they are here. 

Each and every one of them brings a new and unique perspective to the departments that they will serve. They bring a history of personal experiences, cultures, beliefs, and values, which has molded them to be who they are today and how they will serve our clients. 

The uniqueness of each of us at Hoyleton is what makes this serving the community we live in, support, and serve even better. 

Here is what we asked our employees during our annual employee survey and why we know they love and seek to work at Hoyleton.

“What do you like most about working here?” 

The number one answer was the mission and the people we serve.

81% Responded with the Mission and the People we Serve

The mission is what we do and the people are who we are and who we serve. And to have 81 percent of the organization stand behind the mission tells the real story at Hoyleton. This response is very clear because at no time does one area or one department get singled out to carry what the agency does as a whole but the WHOLE agency does it all.

The second highest response to the question was working with their co-workers. This response promotes the family feeling you get when you join the Hoyleton family. While salary, benefits, and even flexibility were choices for the survey, the top two responses support the purpose and the history of CARE, which was created and taught by Cornell University, that we give and that the employees support that as well.

If you are ready to join Hoyleton and start a new career you can join our diverse staff by clicking We know that you will be a great addition to our family and we look forward to you joining us.