This year, HRC is proud to mark National Foster Care Month with the launch of HRC Foundation and FosterClub’s #FosterEquality campaign. Throughout the month, HRC will share stories and interviews conducted by FosterClub about LGBTQ youth in foster care and agencies that are working to improve their practices with LGBTQ youth. Today, HRC is highlighting the story of Mark Casas and the five years he spent in California’s foster care system.

Mark Casas, who identifies as gay, entered the foster care system for the same reasons as many non-LGBTQ youth—namely abuse and neglect. However, like many LGBTQ youth, Mark had to navigate both his developing sexual orientation and the rejection that followed.

 “Guys used to make fun of me and tease me," he said. "I even remember someone spitting on me when he found out about my sexuality. ”

According to the Williams Institute, LGBTQ youth are more likely than non-LGBTQ youth to report being treated poorly in the foster care system. Mark’s experiences after he received a placement in a foster home were no exception:

“My foster parents did not know how to be supportive, caring, and understanding," he continued. "When they found out I was gay, they were angry. My foster dad said that I couldn’t be gay in his house. They did not speak to me. They grounded me for weeks…One of the family members would throw the restroom trash all over my bed and constantly call me ‘faggot.’ No one was there to defend me.”

Mark’s story exemplifies the unacceptable reality that many LGBTQ youth face. They often face rejection from their families, society and then the foster care system. Through all of the traumatic experiences and feelings of isolation he faced in foster care, Mark was resilient. He is currently a senior at Cal State Fullerton and plans on pursuing a master’s degree in social work after graduating.

“By succeeding and moving on with my life, I was able to have an impact on my former foster parents and prove that we are all equal," he concluded. "It took a while for them to learn, but now they are accepting and loving, and admitted to their faults in the past. “

HRC’s All Children – All Families project works with foster care agencies nation-wide to help improve policies and practice to ensure young people like Mark are safe, welcomed and affirmed.

Read Mark’s full story here and check back with HRC’s blog throughout National Foster Care Month for more stories that raise awareness about the experiences of LGBTQ foster youth.

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