DCFS & Community Partners Selected for Initiative to Help LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care

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CLEVELAND – The Division of Children and Family Services  (DCFS) along with key community partners have been selected for a grant from The National Quality Improvement Center to develop programs and best practices that improve the lives of LGBTQ youth in foster care.

Children and youth with diverse sexual orientations, gender identifies and expressions have been found to be at greater risk for:
  • Physical and Emotional Abuse
  • Drug Use
  • Suicide Attempts
  • Mental Health Concerns
  • Homelessness
  • Interpersonal and/or Community Violence
  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Academic Challenges
  • Increased School Sanctions, and Discrimination

While 3-8% of youth in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ, approximately 19% of youth in child welfare identify as LGBTQ.  When in the child welfare system they are likely to have more foster care placements and less likely to be reunified with their families of origin.

DCFS will collaborate with The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Greater Cleveland, Waiting Child Fund, and Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences on the initiative to improve placement stability, well-being, and permanency.

“All children in Cuyahoga County need the safety and security of a family.  We work with our partners to meet the special needs of children in foster care and this grant allows us to focus on LGBTQ youth in our child welfare system” said County Executive Armond Budish.

“It is important that we create a safe, supportive environment for LGBTQ youth in the custody of DCFS,” said Cynthia Weiskittel, Director of the Division of Children and Family Services.  “This calls for us to be diligent in addressing the unique risks and needs of young people in our care.”

“This is a positive step to help LGBTQ children and youth achieve better outcomes and ultimately live a better life,” said Thomas Pristow, Director of Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services.

The initiative is a collaborative effort with our community partners.

“We are committed to striving toward excellence as subject matter experts and in service delivery and support for youth who are underserved,” said Phyllis Seven Harris, Executive Director, LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. “This partnership and project is a great step forward in enhancing the life experience of many greater Cleveland LGBTQ youth.”

"The need for improved permanency services for LGBTQ youth in the foster care has never been greater.  The grant funding from the Quality Improvement Center is an incredible opportunity to partner with local and national agencies to ensure that all children are able to live with a chosen and affirming family," said Mike Kenney, Executive Director, Waiting Child Fund.

Dana M. Prince, MPH, PhD, of Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences will serve as Research Consultant on the project. She has extensive experience working with older youth in the child welfare system, particularly those who are LGBTQ2S and those who leave care without attaining permanency.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to leverage resources across our community and make a significant impact on the wellbeing of LGBTQ youth,” said Dr. Prince.

Founded in 1975, The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Greater Cleveland is a leading non-profit organization that empowers Northeast Ohio’s LGBTQ community through advocacy, education, collaboration and celebration. Vision: The LGBTQ community is embraced and celebrated as an integral part of the thriving Northeast Ohio region.

The Waiting Child Fund works throughout the state of Ohio with public and private agencies to improve the permanency outcomes for the children and families they serve. Vision:We believe that childhood is a fundamental human right and that every day for a child in foster care is a day in crisis. We envision a world where families, agencies, resources – and children – work together so that every child is loved and nurtured in a permanent chosen family.

Dana M. Prince, MPH, PhD is Assistant Professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences (Mandel School). She provides expertise in advanced statistical methods, longitudinal research design, and program evaluation. Mandel School:socialwork.case.eduDr. Prince:msass.case.edu/dprince