Discrimination against gay and lesbian youths in foster care is prevalent. So much so that federal health officials in 2011 sent a letter to states, encouraging them to develop training for caseworkers and foster parents surrounding the issue.
But while some states have increased their efforts to train caseworkers, recruit foster parents, and assign mentors, LGBT youth in the foster care system do not have an easy time.
While officials do not want to make youths disclose their sexuality, they still want to create an environment that feels safe to the youth when they do decide to open up about their sexual preferences.
The federal government memo adds that without the support, gay and lesbian youths who leave the foster care system can end up on the streets. Kamora Herrington, mentoring program director of True Colors, an organization in Connecticut that helps gay foster youths, explained:
“I’ve had conversations with many youths in the system who will not come out because they saw how staff treated their friends in the system after they came out.”
And for those who do, the foster family may not be accepting. Such was the case for 21-year-old Sixto Cancel, whose conservative foster family often used slurs against him, trashed his room, and talked down to him for his homosexuality. Now a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, Cancel added that the family kicked him out after he live with them for almost 10 years. He went on to say:
“I’ve had foster homes who completely said you can’t live here if you’re gay. For a long time I had that self-hatred and uncomfortableness with I am.”
Cancel’s story is not unique, and it, along with several others, have prompted True Colors and other mentoring programs to spring up across the country. In California, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center trains child welfare workers on gay and transgender issues. In Massachusetts, officials opened a co-ed group home for gay foster teens.
But recruiting foster parents and mentors remains a huge challenge in taking on the discrimination battle over LGBT foster kids. Finding adoptive homes is also a huge challenge, according to Robin McHaelen, executive director of True Colors, who stated:
“Many of our kids have been told they’re not family appropriate: ‘We’re not even going to look for a family for you. We’re going to look for a group home.”
While Illinois child welfare officials are hiring almost 30 new recruiters to look for homes and foster families for young gay people, Florida’s Village Counseling Center has created a regional task force on gay foster youths to train case workers.
How do you think the federal government and local authorities should combat discrimination against LGBT foster kids?
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