Post submitted by Robyn Harrod, senior director of programs at Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency, an HRC-recognized Leader in Supporting and Serving LGBT Families based in Los Angeles.
May is National Foster Care Month and it’s a time to reflect on the work that we do – on the positive changes that we as social workers, therapists, mentors and foster parents make in the lives of the children and youth we work with – and on the areas where we can make more of an impact.
At Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency (SCFFAA) we have been placing children in LGBT foster and adoptive families for close to 15 years. Over 50% of the families we work with are LGBT and we have placed close to 200 children with these families. Most people looking to start a family want young children, who they can experience the joys of parenting with for as long as possible. Changing diapers, middle of the night feedings and the terrible twos are what they long for.
However, it’s important for everyone to know that there are adolescents and young adults in the foster care system who are in great need of permanency, whether it be legal permanency, such as adoption, or emotional permanency – someone they can have an ongoing connection with for the rest of their life. Many youth emancipating from the foster care system have no ongoing support and the prognosis for a successful transition into adulthood is not good. Within this population of youth, there are a large number of LGBT youth who have a very difficult time in the foster care system, and therefore with their shift into the world.
In order to do more for these young adults SCFFAA has developed a variety of programs to assist them with their transition out of the foster care system. The goal is that our programs will give them the lifelong connections they need and the skills to become independent successful adults.
SCFFAA has been lucky enough to receive two grants from the David Bohnett Foundation, a key supporter in the LGBT community. The focus of these grants is to recruit and train foster and adoptive parents for LGBT youth in the foster care system.
Under the “Youth in Transition” program our co-mentoring groups offer a great support to the older youth and young adults. The co-mentoring group consists of ten adults and five young adults to develop a family-like community. The co-mentors are there to give the young adults emotional support, help them with reaching their goals and to become their lifelong connections. They also participate in group activities such as hiking, going to museums and cultural events, cookouts and more.
We are happy to report that currently we have two groups in process that are supporting the needs of our LGBT youth and young adults. We have partnered with the Trevor Project and the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) and both organizations are participating in a co-mentoring group.
SCFFAA will continue to do all that we can for the children, youth and young adults who have been part of the foster care system and we want to thank everyone who plays a part in helping us help them. Without the collaboration of everyone involved it wouldn’t be possible.