Finding Loving, Supportive, Permanent Homes for All Children

Last month, I had the privilege of participating in a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) event celebrating the close of National Adoption Month.  HRC was celebrating the child welfare agencies that have taken steps to increase their pool of available resource and adoptive families by reaching out to prospective lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents.

More than 100,000 children are in foster care waiting for loving, affirming, and supportive families. Trainings like HRC’s All Children-All Families initiative provide child welfare systems with the support and guidance they need to add LGBT-headed families to their pool of prospective permanent homes.  And this work is the right thing to do at the right time.

I’m proud to be a part of an Administration that believes no child in foster care should be denied a permanent family simply because of the LGBT identity of the adults willing to provide it, or of the child seeking a new home.

Before I came to Washington, I worked extensively on child welfare issues, and saw first-hand that LGBT youth are frequently underserved.  It was heartbreaking to see the struggles that they went through, to recognize that they were running from their placements much more often than their peers, living on the streets and becoming more vulnerable than they were when they came in the system.  

And I can honestly say that for the amount of energy we put into getting better at meeting their needs, we probably didn’t make as much progress as we would have wanted.  There were a lot of things that we tried that didn’t work.  But we kept trying.

One thing that did work was reaching out to more LGBT parents to provide possible homes for these young people, so they could get the kind of support and affirmation that they desperately needed.  And here at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, we’re encouraging state child welfare agencies to look for ways to get better at doing this work.

In fact, in April of this year, I wrote to state child welfare agencies to encourage them to reach out to LGBT parents as possible placements for children in foster care, and described the ways we can provide help to those who want to get better at reaching those families. In that document, I also talked about another set of supports we have for child welfare agencies who want to get better at providing services to the LGBT youth in their care.

LGBT young people in foster care face many of the same struggles as their peers, but they also carry around a set of struggles that are unique.

So last year, as part of a larger initiative to figure out how to get better at services for those children and youth who tend to stay in foster care longer than their peers, we funded a $13 million, five-year grant to the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center to put in the work of figuring out what good services look like for LGBT youth in foster care. And hopefully, when that grant is over, they’ll have built a model that other agencies can use to get their LGBT youth into safe and loving homes.

Even though National Adoption Month has come to an end, child welfare agencies continue their everyday work of finding loving, supportive, and permanent homes for the children in their care.

Bryan Samuels is the Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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