Walden Family Services, a Southern California-based nonprofit foster care, adoption and transition-age housing agency, has been recognized in Celebrating Everyday Change-Makers in Child Welfare. The first-of-its-kind report highlights more than 70 child welfare agencies across the country that partnered with the HRC Foundation’s All Children – All Families (ACAF) project to improve the services they provide to the LGBTQ community, including children in foster care and prospective foster and adoptive parents. This recognition is the highest designation given by the HRC Foundation.
Walden Family Services celebrated its recognition at San Diego’s annual Pride Festival with more than 30 staff members and organization supporters marching in the parade. San Diego’s Pride Festival is the sixth largest Pride event in the nation and broke attendance records this year with an estimated attendance total of more than 300,000.
“We are honored to be recognized for the expansion of our policies and practices of LGBTQ inclusion,” said Teresa Stivers, CEO of Walden Family Services. “We will continue to encourage and educate our staff, resource families and community partners to understand and serve the needs of LGBTQ foster youth because all children deserve a family that respects their needs, rights and identity.”
LGBTQ foster youth are often harassed, victimized, stigmatized or displaced from their homes because of their gender and sexual identity. As a result, they are more likely to experience depression or attempt suicide, as well as less likely to find a permanent, loving family than other youth in the child welfare system. Walden Family Services works tirelessly to educate the Southern California community about the needs of LGBTQ foster children and youth through its cultural competency training, which every resource family is required to attend, as well as through awareness and outreach programs for county social service agencies and private foster care providers. The organization also educates the LGBTQ community about the need for certified foster and adoptive parents to ensure a family is available for every youth who needs one.
“Thousands of committed professionals — from frontline workers to executives — know that LGBTQ youth are perfect just the way they are and that removing barriers for potentially qualified LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents is in the best interest of children,” said Alison Delpercio, Director of the HRC Foundation’s All Children – All Families Project. “Agencies such as Walden Family Services are leaders in innovating new approaches and more agencies should look to the policies and practices these organizations are implementing to protect against anti-LGBTQ discrimination and meaningfully engage their communities.”
Walden Family Services and 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. Celebrating Everyday Change-Makers features three “Tiers of Recognition,” which celebrate the strides agencies have made toward becoming fully LGBTQ welcoming and affirming:
- Building a Foundation for Inclusion: 14 organizations
- Solid Foundation for Inclusion: 25 organizations
- Innovative Inclusion: 32 organizations of which Walden Family Services is one
This work could not be more important. LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in foster care and face increased risk of both negative experiences and outcomes:
- Up to 30% of youth in foster care are LGBTQ
- LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to report being treated poorly as their non-LGBTQ peers while in care
- LGBTQ youth have a greater average number of placements than their non-LGBTQ peers
- LGBTQ youth are more likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to be placed in congregate care, including group homes
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. This new effort marks a major step toward improving the services provided to LGBTQ youth and prospective parents.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.