Foster Care Month is an opportunity to not only celebrate the contributions of foster parents, volunteers, child welfare professionals, and the many others who help children in foster care, but also to raise awareness about the challenges that children, and particularly LGBTQ youth, face in the foster care system. We are proud to have partnered with California State Senator Ricardo Lara and Equality California to develop a state resolution that does just that. Senate Concurrent Resolution 137 is co-authored by California Senators Galgiani and Wiener and 56 Assembly Members. The Resolution passed overwhelmingly in the California Senate and Assembly.
As noted in the Resolution, almost 55,000 youth are in California’s child welfare system. While we don’t know exactly how many of those children are LGBTQ, we do know that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system. A recent study in Los Angeles Countyestimated that 19% of foster youth over the age of 12 in the LA child welfare system identified as LGBTQ, as compared to 7.2% of the general youth population. We also know that LGBTQ youth are more likely to be treated poorly in the foster care system, tend to have a higher number of placements, and have a higher likelihood of living in group homes (Williams Institute).
Further, LGBTQ children have a higher likelihood of aging out of the foster care system without finding a forever, loving family (See studies published by Chapin Hall; HHS). Children who “age out” are at an increased risk of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early parenthood. In 2015, there were 4,271 youth in California who aged out of the foster care system (Children’s Defense Fund). Why is this happening? There are simply not enough homes available for all of the youth in foster care in the state of California and nationwide. One large, mostly untapped resource for foster and adoptive homes is the LGBTQ community — LGBTQ individuals and families are six times more likely to foster children than their non-LGBTQ counterparts (Williams Institute). However, due to actual and feared discrimination, our community is not able to participate to our full potential. This discrimination hurts not only the people who want to open their homes to children, but it also hurts children who just want love, stability, and security during the most vulnerable time of their lives.
We applaud California for being one of the few states with existing legal protections for LGBTQ youth and foster parents and appreciate their acknowledgement that more can be done to support these youth and to help more LGBTQ individuals and couples foster and adopt children. We are privileged to co-lead the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign where we partner with lawmakers, federal and state advocacy groups, child welfare organizations, faith organizations, and others to reach the day where no child ages out of foster care without a family.