We stand up in support of equity and social justice, and we stand against injustice and racism. We strive to build an equitable world for our clients and staff.
Take the time to put yourself in our shoes. And think about what you wanted as a child … When a child enters the foster care system, they just want to find a family that loves them unconditionally and supports them continuously.”
– Weston Charles-Gallo, former foster youth and LGBTQ* youth advocate, from his testimony to a Congressional subcommittee
LGBTQ youth enter the child welfare system for the same reasons that all children do: their birth families cannot provide safe, stable homes. In some cases, LGBTQ children go into foster care due to rejection or mistreatment by their biological families. In Weston’s case, he hid his secret for years from his father, a substance-abusing church deacon, who threatened to “beat the gay” out of any son of his who turned out to be gay and “throw him out of my house.” When Weston came out, his family neglected him and was openly hostile to the boy—to the point that he was placed in the child welfare system.
Many LGBTQ children feel like outsiders in their own families, and they fear rejection if their secret comes out. Too often, they are right. At a time when they need guidance, inclusion and care, they find themselves instead in a group home or institution. Rejection, marginalization and mistreatment of LGBTQ youth put them at higher risk for suicide.
LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the child welfare system: Roughly 30% of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ, compared to 11% not in the foster care system. Ensuring their well-being is an important issue in child welfare. Unfortunately, too many of them never find the loving homes they deserve. They age out of foster care without a family, feeling unloved and alone. Wayfinder is determined to prevent this from happening by finding loving homes for LGBTQ youth or connecting them with a support system of extended family.
In Weston’s case, he found a forever family with his two dads and six siblings. He felt like he belonged for the first time in his life. Today, he is a college graduate with a bright future ahead of him.
But so many other LGBTQ youth need our care. In our inclusive programs, Wayfinder makes a significant difference in these children’s lives. Watch for their stories in future editions of our Wayfinder Moments newsletter.
*Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning
Sources: Youth.gov; The Trevor Project; Human Rights Campaign; testimony of Weston Charles-Gallo to the House Ways and Means Committee, Worker and Family Support Subcommittee, May 12, 2021; Wilson, Cooper, Kastansis & Nezhad, 2014; Conron & Wilson, 2019; Sandfort, 2020.
DID YOU KNOW?
LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system are more likely to:
• experience discrimination and violence.
• have been hospitalized for emotional reasons.
• have been homeless.
• be placed in group homes rather than with foster families.
• have a higher average number of foster care placements.
• hear staff and others refer to them as “hard to place.”
• face barriers to finding a permanent home.
• stay longer in the child welfare system than non-LGBTQ peers.
• see their birth families less often.
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May 15, 2023