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.

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. 

LGBTQI+ | Hoyleton CAREs

LGBTQI+ | Support Group

The LGBTQ support group for the Southern Illinois Region originated in late 2017. The group provides services to foster care youth between the ages of 13-21. Groups are currently provided by William's and Associate and are held with support from Hoyleton Youth and Family Services Fairview Heights location once per month. The support group for  LGBTQ youth was developed and introduced to help children and families with open cases within the DCFS program. Although this group began as a closed group, it has successfully evolved to include community support, mentors, and members of the family to recognize personal protection. 

Up until the COVID-19 pandemic, the group met monthly in person. The group has continued to meet via Zoom meetings during shelter-in-place. Because of this group, the teens have built a shared bond, been encouraged, and the interaction between the teens allows them to share experiences and to receive mutual support. 

The facilitator educates and encourages emotional support, personal protection, preservation, and achievement of permanency. The facilitator leads the youth in open dialogue, offers guidance on health and well-being, and offers a supportive space for the youth to learn and encourage each other. 

A different topic of discussion is determined each month to promote dialogue between the youth about various paths available in their lives. From Being Out and Coming Out to Sexual Protection, Pride Training, Relationships, and Whether They're Ready?

The group seeks to expand support to the youth that identifies as LGBTQ by providing a safe space for social interactions, education, increased peer contact with those in similar circumstances, and offering mentoring services from those within the LGBTQ community. 

For questions or more information, contact Haili Loftin at to learn more about the LGBTQ Support Group, or to link a caregiver with the community.

Ways to Advocate for LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care and In our Communities

Foster youth who are coming of age, are more likely than their peers to battle mental and/or behavioral health issues and encounter difficult issues like homelessness, unemployment and incarceration. Foster youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer are more likely to struggle with these challenges to an even greater degree.

For all youth, statistics indicate that LGBTQ-identifying young people have a 120% higher chance of experiencing homelessness and make up 40% of the total homeless youth population in the U.S., despite composing only 7% of the total U.S. youth population.

In 2003, Illinois DCFS became the country’s first child welfare agency to develop an LGBTQ youth policy, and later added policies that require training for those working with the care of LGBTQ youth in 2017, and clarified protections for transgender youth. Though these policies were created to ensure the protection for this often underserved population, LGBTQ youth needs are still great and require a high level of support and attention – at both federal and local levels. Here are just a few ways you can support LGBTQ youth, starting in your own community:

Create A Safe Environment

Though more spaces are opening up for LGBTQ youth to gather and safely come into their own, it’s necessary to make efforts to expand those safe, inclusive environments. Look into already existing programs and community centers and contact them for ways to advocate for and amplify the work they do. Seek out Southern Illinois civic centres like libraries or schools and contact them to encourage the development of LGBTQ-centered programs, create more inclusive policies, and offer supportive services that cater to LGBTQ-specific needs.

Support LGBTQ-owned businesses

Although donating toward causes that matter provide resources, programs, and services that can greatly benefit a specific cause, sending money doesn’t always feel like a meaningful way to show support. The good thing is, there are ways to give back to important causes like LGBTQ youth rights, on a local, yet financially impactful level. Support fundraisers, bake sales, LGBTQ-owned restaurants or stores (like Rainbow Cafe), where the proceeds go toward supporting services that uphold a mission that aligns with your values of inclusivity and equality.

Attend LGBTQ Events

One of the most fun ways to support LGBTQ youth in your area is by attending community events, like Metro East Pride in Belleville this Saturday, June 8th at noon on Main Street, and PrideFest 2019 in downtown St. Louis at 11am, Saturday, June 29th and Sunday, 30th. Though Carbondale, Illinois’ second annual Southern Illinois Pride Fest already occurred, the event’s Facebook page regularly posts information about upcoming events within the Southern Illinois and Missouri area, including ongoing gatherings like a parent-family support group, Unconditional, which means every third Monday of the month at Rainbow Cafe. As a proud ally and supporter of inclusion, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services hosts LGBTQ support groups. Join the next one June 26th at 5pm!  

These are only a few small, yet meaningful ways to start supporting LGBTQ youth in your community!