CHICAGO, IL — Today, Lawrence Hall, a community-based service agency supporting youth and families facing difficult circumstances, proudly announced that it is being recognized in 2021 Change-Makers, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s third annual report highlighting 119 child welfare agencies across the country who have worked with the HRC Foundation’s All Children – All Families (ACAF) program to improve the services they provide to the LGBTQ+ community, including children in foster care—1 in 3 of whom are LGBTQ+—and prospective foster and adoptive parents. These organizations serve more than 1 million clients annually in 35 states and employ more than 24,000 employees.
“Research has proven that LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in child welfare, as these youth are often rejected from their families of origin,” explains Renee Lehocky, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Lawrence Hall. “Over the past several years, Lawrence Hall has been working towards our goal of achieving the Innovator Tier from the Human Rights Campaign. This has been an annual practice in completing a self-assessment and focusing on areas that needed enhancements. Lawrence Hall is proud to receive the Human Rights Campaign’s highest Tier, ensuring that across our organization, we are promoting inclusive policies and affirming practices for our youth, families, and communities.”
“The third edition of our Change-Makers report shows that, despite the many hardships of the last year, more organizations than ever before are working alongside the Human Rights Campaign Foundation to make impactful change for the LGBTQ+ youth and families they serve,” said Alison Delpercio, Human Rights Campaign Foundation Director, All Children – All Families. “This year’s participants also demonstrated a growing commitment to intersectionality and ensuring organizational policies and practices do not reinforce the same systems of oppression that put youth and families at risk in the first place. By taking on these challenges, the change-makers featured in our 2021 report are models for youth-serving professionals everywhere.”
The release comes at a time when many have been sounding the alarm about the particular risks foster youth face due to COVID-19. LGBTQ+ inclusion work in foster care systems could not be more important. Studies have shown us that LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in foster care, and that child welfare systems must do more to ensure that the trauma of foster care, where LGBTQ youth already face an increased risk of both negative experiences and outcomes, is never compounded by that caused by unsafe and non-affirming foster homes:
The agencies featured in this report conducted an internal self-assessment, provided professional development to staff and implemented ACAF’s “Benchmarks of LGBTQ Inclusion,” which track policy and practice changes within agencies. The 2021 Change-Makers report features three “Tiers of Recognition,” which celebrate the progress agencies have made toward becoming fully welcoming to their LGBTQ+ clients. With 32 new participants this year, ACAF also expands the program’s reach into six new states — Alabama, Connecticut, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico and North Carolina — and the District of Columbia for the first time. 92% of participants met a tier of recognition, and 14 of the returning organizations advanced to a higher tier of recognition.
The report features profiles of four child welfare organizations that are setting the bar for LGBTQ+ inclusion while adapting to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to calls for an end to systemic racism — including in child welfare: Vista Del Mar in California; Extraordinary Families in California; Texas Casa in Texas; and 360 Youth Services in Illinois. The report also features interviews with individuals who have been impacted by LGBTQ+-inclusive services, including: Manuel Padilla, a foster parent in Colorado; and Victoria, a former youth in care and now trainer at Lawrence Hall in Illinois.
Since 2007, hundreds of child welfare agencies across the U.S. have used ACAF’s resources to enhance their efforts to achieve safety, permanency and well-being for LGBTQ+ youth and families. Read the full report here.
Annually serving over 1,400 youth and families, Lawrence Hall is a nonprofit social service agency that fosters resilience, healing, and hope in youth and families facing difficult circumstances. For more than 150 years, Lawrence Hall has been delivering high-quality, trauma-informed care throughout the Chicago metropolitan area through their five core programs—the Child and Family Treatment Center, Therapeutic Day School, Foster Care, Project Work, and Transitional/Independent Living Program. Lawrence Hall has met the changing and complex needs of youth and families by not only becoming more community centric, but also by developing more preventative programs that help curb violence in Chicago’s communities.
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