Laine Clontz, the president of Carolina Family Connections in Charlotte, N.C., is seeking help with challenges her agency is facing with foster care and adoption placement.
“Carolina Family Connections is in need of foster parents to meet the demands of children in need of foster home care due to abuse and/or neglect in the areas of Mecklenburg and surrounding counties,” says Clontz. “We especially are in need of families who would open their hearts and homes to sibling groups and school-aged children of all races.”
She also says that often times, the children they are seeking placement for have recently been separated from their parents or guardians and are usually separated from any siblings they may have, due to potential foster parents being unwilling to foster more than one child at a time.
“Almost every day we receive requests for children in need of out-of-home care and there are simply not enough homes to meet the demands,” Clontz says. “Sadly, children who have just been removed from their parents or caregiver also suffer the loss of their brothers or sisters when they too have to be separated. Therefore, we need foster homes that would care for sibling groups of two, three and even four children.”
Clontz says that her agency “also occasionally has a need for foster parents who are comfortable fostering LGBTQ children, but that many potential foster parents say they’re not prepared to provide care for an LGBTQ child.”
She also gives credit to the LGBTQ community for stepping up to the challenge of fostering HIV positive children in the 1980s and 1990s, an era where there were many cases of babies who had been born HIV positive and that needed placement.
“It seems to me that when there was a need beginning in the late ‘80s and ‘90s for homes for babies born HIV positive, fear of the disease kept most people from coming forward to help,” she says. “But not the LGBTQ community. They stepped forward at a time when few in that community were considered to be licensed as foster parents. They were my heroes.”
Because of the LGBTQ community’s past willingness to foster children who’ve struggled with finding foster care placement, Clontz wants to reach out to the local LGBTQ community in Charlotte now and ask them for help.
“I’m hoping that many in the LGBTQ will consider being foster parents with Carolina Family Connections to meet another demand for the children in our community to have safe and loving homes,” she says
Youth are placed in foster care for a number of different reasons, and many LGBTQ youth go into the system for reasons that differ from non-LGBTQ youth. Quite often, LGBTQ youth enter foster care with an added layer of trauma due to being rejected and ridiculed by their families.
In addition to food and shelter, this unique group of young people has certain needs that require special attention and consideration, as their risk of developing mental health issues and substance abuse is substantially greater than non-LGBTQ youth.
According to new research from the University of Texas at Austin, “LGBTQ youth are more likely to end up in foster care or unstable housing and suffer negative outcomes, such as substance abuse or mental health issues while living in the child welfare system.”
Childrensrights.org says it is vital for LGBTQ youth to be placed into safe homes, and that caseworkers and other professionals play an important role in ensuring that the needs of this disproportionate group, who often run away from their foster families to avoid abuse and even sexual exploitation, are met.
“Without safe foster care placements, and without the vital support of caseworkers and other child welfare professionals, LGBTQ youth often flee abuse in foster care only to face homelessness and sexual exploitation,” childrensrights.org says.
Additionally, the website says one of the main issues surrounding proper placement for LGBTQ youth in the foster care system is the fact that this group is over-represented.
“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people are over-represented in foster care, where they are more likely to experience discrimination, abuse, neglect and the risk of harm,” says childrensrights.org. “A 2019 study found 30.4 percent of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ and 5 percent as transgender, compared to 11.2 percent and 1.17 percent of youth not in foster care.”
In many cases, children are subjected to terrible harassment and abuse, and in the saddest cases, conversion therapy.
“LGBTQ youth are more likely to suffer from consistent harassment and abuse in foster care, juvenile justice settings and homeless shelters,” added childrensrights.org. “At times, they’re subjected to dangerous efforts that falsely claim to change their orientation or gender identity, including so-called conversion therapy. These incidents are particularly pervasive with transgender youth, whose very identities are rejected in state care, and who, when bullied and abused, are often criminalized for acting in their own self-defense.”
Chronicleofsocialchange.org says certain measures must be taken in order to ensure that LGTBQ youth are placed into the care of a competent family and that it’s up to policymakers, advocates and advocacy groups to improve foster care placement processes.
“To improve the experience of LGBTQ youth in foster care, policymakers, advocates and advocate groups must improve foster care placement processes by screening youth entering care for sexual orientation and gender identity,” chronicleofsocialchange.org says. “If we allow youth to voluntarily disclose their gender identity and sexual orientation, I believe we are in a better position to provide them more meaningful and appropriate placements.”
Another issue surrounding foster care and the LGBTQ community is discrimination against potential foster parents, particularly from private organizations that receive federal funding.
“Currently, there are no federal policies or statutes in place to encourage all-inclusive placements or training related to issues impacting LGBTQ youth for foster parents and professionals working with youth,” chronicleofsocialchange.org says. “But the federal government has acknowledged the unique needs of LGBTQ youth in foster care by making plans to collect data on this population through its annual survey of the nation’s foster care systems. In December 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) required state child welfare agencies to begin collecting and reporting data on LGBTQ youth in foster care.”
“Unfortunately, in March 2018, the HHS officials announced that it would delay the implementation of the final rule due to concerns about the undue burden on states,” added chronicleofsocialchange.org. “This decision delays our chance to help LGBTQ youth feel comfortable if/when they have additional needs or questions that may arise while developing and emerging as adults within the community.”
Anyone interested in making a difference in the lives of children in need and to learn more about becoming a foster parent can contact Laine Clontz directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at carolinafamilyconnections.com.