HRC's Nakiya Lynch Honors National Foster Care Month By Sharing Their Own Personal Experiences

by Valentine Lynch

May marks National Foster Care Month, the time of year meant to acknowledge the many families and professionals who help find permanent homes for youth in the foster care system, which is not only rewarding work, but an inherent display of LGBTQ+ allyship. Many queer youth find themselves in foster care due to unforseen cirmustances in their lives. Sometimes they run away due to lack of support and end up in the system, or perhaps their parents refuse to understand their identities and place them in foster care.

The latter scenario is where I found myself in 2016.

Before I became who I am today via finding my own permanent home, the only home I knew was within the white walls of my group home; a standing metaphor for the boundaries I was constricted to as a ward of the state. As a child, I found these boundaries oppressive and unfair - and, worst of all, a branding of how different I was from my peers. But as an adult I can see how the people I found along the way while feeling trapped are the ones who helped me discover what true freedom is and led me to being the person I am today.

Thanks to LGBTQ+ inclusive programs where I could meet peers who faced struggles similar to mine, supportive social workers and staff who accepted me and policy changes that took the issues impacting LGBTQ+ youth seriously, I was able to truly thrive despite my circumstances.

According to, adoption systems have been in place since the 1800s. Most sources cite that over 420,000 kids and teens are in the foster care system, with over 30% of those youth identifying as LGBTQ+. That’s over 126,000 people, making foster care and foster parenting an LGBTQ+ issue. However, that fact wasn’t always accepted. In fact, as of 2020, only 24 states had policies that prohibited discrimination within the child welfare system based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The battle for safe care for LGBTQ+ youth within the foster care system is an ongoing one, but it’s one that can change or even save lives.

In my own experience, LGBTQ+ youth suffer from lack of hope. It’s hard to have faith in the future if you don’t see how you can have one. LGBTQ+ youth are three times more likely to have attempted suicide, according to a 2021 study conducted by the Trevor Project. The compounding oppressions of your marginalization, the weight of being an adolescent with societal pressure and lack of support from your community can be almost unbearable. But changes systemically and programmatically can turn all of this around.

In 2018, my local department of social services began implementing some changes. My social worker asked me if I identified as LGBTQ+, the first time anyone had asked and the first time I felt like someone even cared. She referred me to a support group for LGBTQ+ foster youth held weekly at my department, and from there, my life changed completely. I made friends, felt seen and was able to meet and see LGBTQ+ adults living their lives proud and happily. The department then partnered with HRC Foundation’s All Children-All Families program to teach LGBTQ+ 101 competency to social workers and community stakeholders. It was like I woke up and suddenly my dreams had come true. I had a supportive community and could see the bright rays of hope shining in the distance.

My current hope for the foster care system is that it continues to evolve to meet the needs of the community it serves. Programs that are inclusive of the children actually represented within systems of care can change lives in ways that feel practically unimaginable to the children who need them. I also hope that real systemic change will come within my lifetime and, ultimately, even the entire abolishment of systems like foster care replaced by loving and affirming homes for all children. I hope families of color and LGBTQ+ foster youth won’t have to rely on programs that can lose funding to change their lives but instead can use their community resources to do so.

To learn more about HRC’s work with the foster care system, visit