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Friday, November 4, 2011

Sweeping DSHS changes could benefit LGBT&Q foster youth

November 3, 2011
Families Like Ours, Inc.
David Wing-Kovarik Executive Director
206-441-7602, ext 6

Sweeping DSHS changes could benefit LGBT&Q foster youth 
Seattle - With news that the Braam agreement will bring a sweeping overhaul to the Washington foster-care system, Families Like Ours, Inc. (FLO) see’s hope for LGBT&Q Washington foster youth.

Under the agreement, DSHS has until December 31, 2013 to meet 21 outcomes which include increasing safeguards to protect children from being shuffled from foster home to foster home, provide for timely medical and mental-health care and limit the number of social worker caseloads.

“Actually this isn’t new, changes as a result of the Braam lawsuit started in 2004. With our work with the foster care system, we have seen some positive changes as a result. We hope that those changes continue but we fear that under the current budget constraints it will be a challenge,” says David Wing-Kovarik Executive Director of Families Like Ours located in Seattle.

Opening their nonprofit doors in 2000, Families Like Ours provides community outreach, and education to overcome barriers for traditional and non-traditional families wishing to foster or adopt children of all ages and backgrounds. As part of that they actively seek out families for foster youth needing forever families, including LGBT&Q foster youth.  

“I think some of the challenges will be the medical care, the smaller caseloads and stabilizing foster home placements with the current budget problems the State is facing.”

Families Like Ours sees that the LGBT&Q (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) foster youth will benefit the most.
“These are often the forgotten kids; the most current survey found that 14.5% of Washington foster-youth are self identifying as LGBT&Q. This is a big number, even for us.” Wing-Kovarik continues.

“In real numbers this means between 1,300- 1,700 kids currently in foster care are LGBT&Q youth. We’re hoping that these changes will benefit these kids that have higher rates of being moved around, and often wait longer for medical and mental-health care.”

According to a paper by David Wagner for the Center for American Progress, “studies show that 78% of gay and transgender youth placed in foster care are moved or run away from their foster homes due to conflicts over their sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally 70% of gay and transgender children are victims of violence within the foster care system.”

In another report it was found that LGBT foster youth receive few services than their non-LGBT counterparts and are often labeled as difficult. They also have a longer stay in foster care, have more frequent placement changes and have difficulties accessing appropriate medical and mental-health services.

It was 12 years ago that Families Like Ours started helping LGBT families through the often confusing and limiting maze of adoption and foster care. Since 2003 FLO has also been working to finding safe and welcoming homes for LGBT&Q foster youth.

“It is a challenge, while we’ve worked with kids as young as 5 years old, more often these are older kids, 10 and above. Finding a family for a foster youth over the age of 10 is a challenge, adding LGBT&Q to the mix often makes it even harder.”

“We started doing this after several calls came into the office back in 2003 from frustrated social workers unable to find foster homes for LGBT&Q kids on their case load. One of the calls came after a foster parent contacted the state social worker and told her to ‘get this FAG out of my house’. I wouldn’t say this is the norm here in Washington with foster parents, but there is a level of discrimination and lack of knowledge within the social service system and foster community.” Explains Wing-Kovarik.

Using volunteers and non-state funding, Families Like Ours addresses the needs of these kids by working directly with foster care social workers, foster and adoptive parents and private placement agencies.

Their SAFE project provides education and community outreach to social service professionals, and foster and adoptive parents about LGBT&Q foster youth.

Families Like Ours takes a family-centered support approach, promoting positive adolescent development, and provides resource referrals for welcoming families, social service professionals and foster youth.

Foster care in general is always in need of new foster parents, respite providers and adoptive families for kids in care. For LGBT&Q youth in particular the need is great. Families Like Ours is encouraging families who are able to open their homes to contact FLO and find out more about how they can become a welcoming family for a LGBTQ kid who needs a safe place to call home.