You Gotta Believe! is an older child adoption agency and homeless prevention program, licensed in New York and operating since 1995. Its only goal and mission is to ensure that every youth leaving foster care has a permanent family. Our vision is that no child will ever age-out of foster care at all because all will be firmly connected to a lifetime parent well before their 21st birthday. You Gotta Believe! was awarded the HRC All Children -All Families Seal of Recognition in 2013 and has a long history of partnership with the LGBT community of youth and parents.
This year, You Gotta Believe is partnering with Heart Gallery NYC to highlight the disproportionate number of LGBTQ youth in foster care throughout the country. The PRIDE Exhibit will launch on June 9, hosted by the Times Square Alliance in the Times Square Visitors Center. Heart Gallery was created to raise awareness of the great number of children in foster care waiting for families. Famous photographers donate their time to take incredible pictures which are then blown up into huge poster size photos and displayed at various venues to draw attention to these beautiful youth and the urgent need for permanent families for all youth in foster care who cannot return to their families of origin.
Every year, in the New York metropolitan area, approximately 1,000 young people age out of foster care without families and support systems in place to help them meet the challenges of becoming independent. And there are thousands ages 16-20 who are also at risk of aging out. Studies have found that as many as 50% of people who age out of foster care alone experience homelessness for one or more nights at some point in their lives. Additionally, as many as 40% of youth who are homeless identify as LGBTQ.
The PRIDE Exhibit will bring these alarming statistics to life by displaying in large, stark, colorful photos the faces and stories behind these statistics. Behind these numbers are real stories, affecting real young people in need of families now. The announcement features a picture of Doniqua - who turns 19 next week and has been in care most of her life although you would never know it to look at that smiling face. She wants nothing more than a family to love her and be there for her—no matter what.
Our goal is to inform and educate prospective families and the general public about the problem of the disproportionately high number of LGBTQ youth in foster care. We want to mobilize support and increase awareness of LGBTQ youth at risk of aging out, and also reach out to the LGBT community about the need for parents for all youth in care at risk of aging out alone. The exhibit will feature diverse youth, LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ —all in need of lifetime families.
One of the perhaps not so surprising outcomes in developing this exhibit was our difficulty in finding LGBTQ youth to participate as openly LGBTQ. It really reinforces for us the dire need to find families for our youth so that they can leave the foster care system with a supportive family and be able to really be themselves for probably the first time in their life. We are tremendously grateful to the brave young people who have asked to be part of this exhibit—to serve as ambassadors for the hundreds of other youth who have been rejected by both birth families and foster families and are afraid to be out. The fact that LGBTQ youth are so much more reluctant to participate than non-LGBTQ youth is just further proof of the size of the closet in foster care. We must change this.
The Exhibit will stay in Times Square for most of the month of June, and we are working to get it out to other locations as well. We expect to have displays in churches and synagogues and other buildings that have large traffic and open public places. We are hoping to attract more LGBT community members who may not have been aware of this issue, but really want everyone to know about this issue and to consider how they can help.
This May, HRC Is proud to celebrate National Foster Care Month by honoring the leaders at child welfare agencies that are committed to improving outcomes for LGBTQ youth, the LGBTQ foster youth themselves, and the foster families supporting them. Stay tuned to HRC blog throughout the month for more foster care stories.