Post submitted by former HRC Digital Media Manager Helen Parshall
In partnership with FosterClub, HRC’s All Children - All Families project has launched its #FosterEquality campaign to share stories throughout National Foster Care Month of young LGBTQ leaders who have experienced foster care. Their stories underscore the importance of learning from and advocating for LGBTQ youth in care who all too often struggle with understanding their identities without the support of an affirming adult.
This week, we are proud to highlight the stories of Marcus Bell, Dameon Caldwell, Timothy Dennis, Lucina Kayee and David Oyola, who are working to make a difference in the lives of other young people across the U.S.
Bell was raised in foster care for 16 1/2 years, eventually emancipating from the system when he was 17. Bell knew from a very young age that he wanted to find a career that would allow him to help other youth raised in foster care. He worked to help pass 2010 California law AB12, which granted youth the option to stay in care until age 21. Although Bell was too old to benefit from the law, he said, “it was a blessing to have been able to help with the passing of the bill.” Bell loves being able to talk with young people about their hardships and how they overcame them, and he hopes to be more involved with the community and provide support when he can.
Caldwell spent 12 years in more than 10 foster care placements across Ohio. Currently, the 23-year-old serves as an advocate for LGBTQ equality, foster youth and domestic violence victims. He is close to completing a criminal justice degree and hopes to become a juvenile probation officer. Caldwell also volunteers as often as he can, whether it’s showing up at Pride, working in his community or attending a rally. Caldwell’s life goal is to open a music studio for inner city youth as an option to the streets. “I will always want to change the system to make it easier for the kids coming back into the system,” he said.
Dennis spent all his teenage years in foster care. Dennis graduated high school in Knoxville, Tennessee, and then obtained his certified nursing assistant license. Dennis’ passion in life is to give back to current foster youth who are have similar experiences to his own. He dreams of eventually working with the Department of Children's Services in the Independent Living Department or Child Protective Services Division. Dennis wants to ensure that teenagers are aware of all the opportunities available to them that will help them successfully transition out of foster care and into adulthood and a prosperous future.
Having already experienced the trials of emigrating from Liberia to America, foster care was just one more obstacle for Kayee. Her first placement was at St. Joseph’s Home For Children where, unfortunately, she’d end up returning 16 times between placements in homes. From a young age, Kayee displayed a passionate ability to take initiative to help others, often teaching peers and even older youth in her facility. She eventually turned her skills into a job with her agency, becoming the youngest person ever employed there. She is a powerful advocate, honored for both her personal aptitude and courageous work on behalf of other youth. Kayee aspires to one day complete a degree in political science and become an international immigration attorney.
Oyola was in and out of Connecticut foster care from the age of three to 24. He entered care due to his father’s negligence and eventual arrest. Oyola had multiple stints in care because of his to his father’s abuse, entering the system for the final time at age 15 when his mother passed away. He stayed with DCF voluntarily at age 18 with the help of an independent living program, which allowed him to live in his own apartment as long as he attended school or worked full time. At age 24, Oyola aged out of care. His lifelong goal is to one day own his own home.
Having an affirming voice and a caring adult can be immensely powerful for young people in care. HRC advocates for foster youth year round through our All Children - All Families project, which helps agencies improve their services for LGBTQ youth in foster care.
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a foster parent and supporting LGBTQ youth in care, check out HRC’s resources about foster parenting.
Learn more about All Children–All Families’ work to promote LGBTQ cultural competency in adoption and foster care at hrc.org/acaf. Want to stay up-to-date on All Children - All Families resources and activities? Subscribe to “Field Forward,” the program’s monthly e-newsletter at hrc.im/field-forward.