On Friday, February 10th, FosterClub co-hosted a roundtable discussion with the Administration for Children and Families on the experiences of LGBTQIA2S+ youth in foster care as well as the importance of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) data collection. The roundtable brought together a group of Lived Experienced Leaders (LEx) to engage with Assistant Secretary January Contreras (Administration for Children and Families), Commissioner Rebecca Jones Gaston (Administration of Children, Youth, and Families), Associate Commissioner Aysha Schomburg (Children’s Bureau) and members of ACF’s LGBTQ+ steering committee.
The discussion began with LEx leaders sharing how or even if they were asked about their SOGI while in care. LEx then discussed whether or not they felt safe sharing their SOGI and how coming out impacted their time in foster care. While some LEx leaders shared stories of supportive adults affirming them and their identity, others shared their fears of coming out and how their SOGI information was utilized against them.
Listening to the experiences of LGBTQIA2S+ LEx offers a distinct chance to grasp how the sexual orientation and gender identity of young individuals are received in various environments, and how this affects their well-being while in care. Furthermore, an exchange that involves multiple LEx leaders enables the identification of both areas of progress and required enhancements concerning the care of LGBTQIA2S+ youth in foster care. FosterClub considers it crucial to incorporate LEx perspectives in conversations about the child welfare system.
FosterClub understands that bringing LEx together for a roundtable discussion requires proactive planning and support. In preparation for this roundtable, FosterClub canvassed and invited LGBTQIA2S+ LEx leaders to apply and participate in the broader conversation. After LEx were selected, they were informed of the opportunity in detail and trained in preparation. Training included Strategic Sharing, which provides tools to identify which parts of their stories can point to needed systemic change, and an overview of system and data structure for the child welfare system. FosterClub worked closely with LEx leaders to ensure they felt comfortable with the aspects of their experience in care they wished to share, felt supported by the agency, and confident to answer any questions that may be asked during the roundtable.
FosterClub and our LEx Leaders are thankful Assistant Secretary Contreras, Commissioner Jones Gaston, and Associate Commissioner Schomburg recognize the vital role LEx play in informing leaders and policymakers in the creation and implementation of policy and practice in the child welfare system. Hearing the unique experiences of LGBTQIA2S+ LEx and the impact that SOGI data collection can have on young people in care is important to ensuring best practices are implemented. We look forward to opportunities where we can continue and grow the conversation around the experiences of LGBTQIA2S+ youth in foster care through centering the voices of those who know best: LEx leaders.
FosterClub believes that all youth in care deserve safety and equal care, regardless of their individual identities, which is why we are always excited to work with LEx to share their stories and experiences to create a better tomorrow for ALL youth in care.
For some ways that FosterClub is working to amplify the voices and experiences of LGBTQIA2S+ youth in foster care, check out these resources from our #FosterEquality campaign: