“All young people, regardless of what they look like, which religion they follow, who they love, or the gender they identify with, deserve the chance to dream and grow in a loving, permanent home.”
National Foster Care Month 2015 Presidential Proclamation
Throughout the United States, there are over 400,000 children and youth in the foster care system. 1The Children’s Bureau estimates that LGBTQ youth are over-represented within the foster care system. In the general population, 5 to 10 percent of youth identify as LGBTQ. Within the foster care system, 24 percent of females and 10 percent of males self-identify as part of the LGBTQ community. Great strides have been made to educate individuals regarding the welfare of LGBTQ youth in care. However, misconceptions and our own inherent biases leave LGBTQ youth vulnerable to abuse.
While LGBTQ youth find themselves in foster care for many of the same reasons as other youth, these youth live at the intersection of multiple identities. While grappling to understand who they are and their place in society, LGBTQ youth carry the additional weight of processing race, class, gender identity, and sexual orientation in often hostile environments.
Hoyleton Youth and Family Services, in partnership with William and Associates, is providing a safe space for LGBTQ youth in care to process their feelings and openly discuss matters that affect their lives. An LGBTQ Support Group meets on the third Wednesday of each month. The group discusses various life events, and covers an array of topics from building healthy relationships with partners and caregivers, to navigating how to handle discrimination in school, on the job, or within the community. LGBTQ youth, referred by their case manager, to Hoyleton’s Wraparound Program, benefit from a non-traditional support system. As part of the Wraparound Program, LGBTQ youth have access to support that is tailored to meet their specific needs. If a youth requires clothing while transitioning, the Wraparound program has access to resources to meet the need. Advocates are there to provide a safe space so LGBTQ youth in foster care can live their best life.
Like everyone, LGBTQ youth are looking for a loving, nurturing environment where they can thrive. The Wraparound Program offers a quarterly class to Foster Care Parents and LGBTQ Youth. The class provides an opportunity to have open, honest discussions about fostering LGBTQ youth, dispelling misconceptions, using gender-neutral language, and other topics that promote open lines of communication and provide a welcoming home environment for LGBTQ youth.
By educating ourselves and our communities, Hoyleton is helping to promote equality and a safe home for all youth in care. For more information on the LGBTQ Support Group or to mentor youth within the LGBTQ community, please call the Wraparound Program at 618.688.4741. Together, we can provide a safe space where all young people can thrive.
1Children’s Welfare Information Gateway (Children’s Bureau/Administration for Children and Families/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) (May 2013). Supporting Your LGBTQ Youth: A Guide for Foster Parents. Retrieved from: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/LGBTQyouth/.
2William and Associates is a community-based outreach organization focused on addressing healthcare disparities in minority communities in the St. Louis bi-state region. William and Associates provides preventative health education, disease prevention, and health promotion by working with individuals to gain access to quality healthcare and foster relationships that build trust between care providers and the community. For more information, visit http://minorityhealthstl.org/.