NAFI Connecticut, Inc.‘s Foster Care Services Division proudly announces being recognized in the 2021 Change-Makers Report, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s third annual report highlighting 119 child welfare agencies across the country that have worked with the HRC Foundation’s All Children – All Families (ACAF) program to improve the services they provide to the LGBTQ+ community, including children in foster care, 1 in 3 of whom are LGBTQ+, and prospective foster and adoptive parents.
These organizations, recognized with a Change-Makers Seal of Recognition, serve more than 1 million clients annually in 35 states and employ more than 24,000 employees.
“We are honored to be recognized by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s All Children – All Families program,” said NAFI CT Executive Director Lynn Bishop . “While NAFI has always been committed to best practices for serving LGBTQ+ foster youth and families, the ACAF program provided a roadmap to identifying areas where we could improve our practices. Earning the Seal of Recognition further demonstrates our agency’s commitment to an intersectional approach to DEI-related organizational policies, practices, systems, and culture.”
“Here in Connecticut alone, there are approximately 4,000 children and teens residing in foster care at any given time,” added Liz Sitler, Project Director, NAFI Connecticut Foster Care. “We know that LGBTQ+ youth are over-represented in the foster care system. Additionally, many LGBTQ+ individuals, couples, and families are interested in fostering. To be recognized through the All Children – All Families program is a testament to NAFI’s efforts to achieve permanency and well-being for LGBTQ+ youth in care and to providing welcoming and affirming services for the many qualified LGBTQ+ individuals and families who dream of fostering.”
“The third edition of our Change-Makers report shows that, despite the many hardships of the last year, more organizations than ever before are working alongside the Human Rights Campaign Foundation to make impactful change for the LGBTQ+ youth and families they serve,” said Alison Delpercio, Human Rights Campaign Foundation Director, All Children – All Families. “This year’s participants also demonstrated a growing commitment to intersectionality and ensuring organizational policies and practices do not reinforce the same systems of oppression that put youth and families at risk in the first place. By taking on these challenges, the change-makers featured in our 2021 report are models for youth-serving professionals everywhere.”
The release of the report comes at a time when many have been sounding the alarm about the particular risks foster youth face due to COVID-19. LGBTQ+ inclusion work in foster care systems could not be more important. Studies have shown that LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in foster care, and that child welfare systems must do more to ensure that the trauma of foster care, where LGBTQ youth already face an increased risk of both negative experiences and outcomes, is never compounded by that caused by unsafe and non-affirming foster homes:
- Approximately 1 out of every 3 youth in foster care is LGBTQ+
- LGBTQ+ youth report higher rates of mistreatment while in care
- LGBTQ+ youth report more frequent placement disruptions
- LGBTQ+ youth report a higher likelihood of being placed in congregate care settings
The agencies featured in the report conducted an internal self-assessment, provided professional development to staff and implemented ACAF’s “Benchmarks of LGBTQ Inclusion,” which track policy and practice changes within agencies. The 2021 Change-Makers report features three “Tiers of Recognition,” which celebrate the progress agencies have made toward becoming fully welcoming to their LGBTQ+ clients. With 32 new participants this year, ACAF also expanded the program’s reach into six new states—Alabama, Connecticut, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico and North Carolina—and the District of Columbia for the first time. Ninety-two percent of participants met a tier of recognition, and 14 of the returning organizations advanced to a higher tier of recognition.
- Innovative Inclusion: 44 organizations met all 25 applicable criteria and are going beyond to innovate their services for LGBTQ+ youth and families
- Solid Foundation for Inclusion: 40 organizations met all 25 applicable policy and practice criteria for LGBTQ+ inclusion
- Building Foundation for Inclusion: 25 organizations met foundational criteria, including non-discrimination protections
The report features profiles of four child welfare organizations that are setting the bar for LGBTQ+ inclusion while adapting to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to calls for an end to systemic racism — including in child welfare: Vista Del Mar in California; Extraordinary Families in California; Texas Casa in Texas; and 360 Youth Services in Illinois. The report also features interviews with individuals who have been impacted by LGBTQ+-inclusive services, including: Manuel Padilla, a foster parent in Colorado; and Victoria, a former youth in care and now trainer at Lawrence Hall in Illinois.
Since 2007, hundreds of child welfare agencies across the U.S. have used ACAF’s resources to enhance their efforts to achieve safety, permanency and well-being for LGBTQ+ youth and families. Read the full report here.
About NAFI CT
NAFI CT is a multi-service agency that provides programming, consultation, and individualized support services to youth, families, and adults in a variety of settings across Connecticut. Our core services include foster care, developmental services, residential treatment, and in-home services and consultations. We take a respectful and dignified approach to all care services, with the mission of empowering individuals and strengthening families. To learn more, call NAFI CT at 860.284.1177 or see the website at www.nafict.org.