For many people, including LGBTQ+ people, forming a family can be a stepping stone toward full personal fulfillment. For those interested in adopting a child and providing them with a loving home, doing so can be challenging. The extensive search for an adoption agency that has comprehensive and competent LGBTQ+ practices and policies can be overwhelming.
The Human Right Campaign Foundation’s All Children-All Families program strives to make this experience for LGBTQ+ people less stressful and more welcoming. Most recently, the Illinois Collaboration on Youth partnered with our ACAF program to advance their LGBTQ+ inclusive services to better serve LGBTQ+ individuals and families.
The Illinois Collaboration on Youth has been around, in one form or another, since 1964. The agency represents more than 90 community-based providers of service to children, youth and families in the child welfare system, and through other community services. ICOY CEO Andrea Durbin said that by reading a research brief focusing on the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth, she was devastated by the “shockingly high rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts by queer youth.”
“One hopeful note that came from the research brief was about how a positive, accepting adult could be a protective factor for young people, and significantly cut their risk of suicide. This led us to the All Children-All Families program at Human Rights Campaign Foundation, which is doing amazing work guiding community organizations working in foster care, adoptions, and community-based youth services to be affirming and inclusive," said Durbin.
With 1 in every 3 youth in foster and adoption care identifying as LGBTQ+, it has never been more dire for all foster care and adoption agencies to tend to the specific needs of LGBTQ+ youth.
Apart from working closely with ICOY, our ACAF program works with over 135 agencies across the country to help them better implement LGBTQ+ inclusive practices and policies. Collectively, these agencies serve more than 1 million clients annually in 36 states and employ more than 26,000 employees.
In 2022 alone, ACAF provided over 12,000 hours of professional development to more than 11,000 child welfare professionals in 49 states. In the same year, ICOY member organizations served over 280,000 children and individuals throughout Illinois.
Phii Regis, director of the ACAF program, said that by working closely with ICOY, the agency is now better equipped to ensure that the specific needs of the state’s LGTBQ+ youth in the foster care and adoption care system are being met, along with those of LGBTQ+ prospective parents.
For ICOY, the partnership with ACAF means they can help LGBTQ+ youth be connected to caring and loving homes throughout Illinois.
“We want young people and their families who are part of the queer community to know that they are loved and accepted for who they are, when they are being served at an ICOY member organization,” said Durbin. “Partnering with HRC is one obvious way we can help encourage community-based organizations to take a critical look at their policies, procedures and practices to ensure that youth and families feel safe and welcomed.”
Durbin said she knows that implementing inclusive practices and policies will not only be beneficial to the agency, but also be beneficial for the well-being and commonwealth of families and communities across the state.
“Research shows that supportive families, schools and community organizations can serve as a protective factor in reducing the risk of youth suicide and other harms,” said Durbin. “We are committed to helping community organizations be safe and welcoming spaces for queer youth and families.”
Learn more about the HRC Foundation’s All Children-All Families program at hrc.org/acaf.