DCFS and Community Partners Launch Program to Help LGBTQ2S Youth in Foster Care

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Deonna Kirkpatrick: (216) 432-3342; deonna.kirkpatrick@jfs.ohio.gov 

Cuyahoga County, OH – The Division of Children and Family Services is ready to launch the AFFIRM.ME program, a new set of services developed specifically to improve the lives of LGBTQ2S youth in foster care.

DCFS collaborated with Kinnect and Case Western Reserve University to design services that will improve placement stability, well-being, and permanency for children and youth with diverse Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression (SOGIE). Services include:
  • Safe and Confidential Identification – DCFS staff and partners will work to create a safe and welcoming environment for children and youth to self-identify as LGBTQ2S so they can receive the support and affirming placement services they need, while keeping their SOGIE confidential if they choose to.
  • Pride Caregiver Network – DCFS is seeking foster parents and kinship caregivers who are open and eager to care for a young person who identifies as LGBTQ2S to provide a safe and supported experience while in foster care. These caregivers will receive additional training, attend support groups, and act as mentors to other foster parents.
  • Chosen Affirming Families – DCFS and Kinnect will work to identify permanent families for LGBTQ2S youth so they can have a forever family that loves and supports them for who they are.

Children and youth with diverse SOGIE are often at greater risk for abuse, mental health concerns, drug use, suicide, harassment, and discrimination. When they enter the child welfare system they are likely to have more foster care placements and less likely to be reunified with their families of origin.

“We want to change the experience and outcomes for LGBTQ2S youth in foster care,” said Cynthia Weiskittel, Director of the Division of Children and Family Services. “It is important that we create a safe environment for these young people, address their unique risks and needs, and put people in their lives who will love and support them for the long haul.”

Current and former youth in foster care who identify as LGBTQ2S are working with DCFS and program partners to provide insight and perspective on the services needed.

Kinnect, formerly Waiting Child Fund, will partner with birth, foster, and adoptive families by offering education, support, and resources to promote affirming and life-long relationships for youth involved with the child welfare system. These services are designed to ensure that any youth in foster care can move toward a permanent family and decrease the risk that they age out of the foster care.

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. Dr. Prince 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.