There are more than 440,000 children in our foster care system nationwide, with over 120,000 of them waiting for a permanent family. More than 20,000 youth “age out” of care each year without any family and with limited support and resources. To address this problem, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (ECDF) was recently introduced in Congress - by Rep. John Lewis in the House and Sen. Gillibrand in the Senate.
ECDF is a federal bill that promotes the best interests of children by increasing the number of foster and adoptive homes available to all foster children and improving services to LGBTQ and religious minority foster children. ECDF does so by prohibiting federally funded child welfare service providers from discriminating against children, families, and individuals based on religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status.
ECDF bans conversion therapy for children receiving or participating in federally funded child welfare programs or services. It promotes the well-being, safety and permanency of, and culturally competent care for, the 1 in 5 foster children who identify as LGBTQ and suffer greater rates of mistreatment and worse outcomes than non-LGBTQ foster youth. It does so by increasing access to best practices, resources, and technical assistance to states, tribes, and service providers, and by requiring data collection on LGBTQ foster youth and parents.
PFP Director Stephanie Haynes recently had an opinion piece printed in the Philly Inquirer on the topic and the Philly Gay News covered the introduction of the bill on June 20th.
PFP is a proud member of the coalition supporting ECDF led by Family Equality. Director Stephanie Haynes and board member Tariem Burroughs recently got to speak to Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Bob Casey about the bill (pictured) and look forward to meeting with other local members of Congress to ask for their support.
Contact your member of Congress to ask for their support by clicking here.
Working with the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, PFP has held eight information sessions over the past couple of years to help recruit LGBTQ adults and other affirming communities to become foster parents, especially for LGBTQ youth.
Our next two recruitment events are set for Monday, March 11th at the Lovett Library in Mt. Airy and on Thursday, April 18th at the William Way Center in Center City. Both will be held from 6-8pm. Representatives from DHS and foster care agencies will be present with information on requirements, training and licensing process. In addition, we’ll have a panel of current LGBTQ foster parents and former foster youth speak about their experiences and answer questions from the audience.
PFP board member Leigh Braden is putting together a support group for LGBTQ foster parents that will start meeting later this year. If you are a licensed foster parent, please fill out this questionnaire to give us your input on how you’d like the group to run, when it will meet, etc.
In an effort to improve the foster care system as a whole, PFP is proud to sponsor a Speaker Series this spring on Best Practices for LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care. At the first session, an audience of about 100 people heard from a panel of LGBTQ foster youth. (Pictured)
The next speaker in the series will be Shauna Lucadamo, the LGBTQ Affairs Project Manager from Allegheny County DHS. That talk is scheduled for Thursday, March 14th from 2:00-3:30pm at the University of the Sciences. CLE and CEU credits are available. Register at this link.
PFP Executive Director Stephanie Haynes serves on the Philadelphia Youth Residential Placement Task Force and has attended several meetings this spring to help the group come up with recommendations on ways to improve the safety and education of youth in placement as well as alternatives. Stephanie’s role is to ensure the needs and voices of LGBTQ youth are included in the discussion and the solutions offered.
There’s no new update yet, but in case you missed it in 2018, PFP is represented by the ACLU as an intervenor in the Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia lawsuit involving Catholic Social Services. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals heard the plaintiff’s appeal in November of 2018. We are awaiting their ruling.
Finally, PFP is working with the national LGBTQ family group Family Equality Council to respond to the Trump Administration’s directive from HHS to a foster care agency in South Carolina, allowing them to discriminate based on religion when serving foster parents.
In response to that directive, PFP has assisted FEC in getting Pennsylvania members of Congress to sign on to letters to HHS Secretary Azar opposing this move. Sen. Casey signed the letter from Senators and Reps. Dean and Scanlon signed the House letter.
Now the House Ways and Means Committee is going to be holding hearings about the actions of HHS. Philadelphia Congressmen Dwight Evans and Brendan Boyle are on the committee, so want to make sure they get written testimony from Philadelphians on the importance of an inclusive, non-discriminatory foster care system. PFP will be submitting testimony, but if you have a positive or negative story to share about your experience, please share it with FEC here.
A Foster Family Story
by PFP parent Leigh Braden
On September 21, 2017 I attended a foster parent recruitment meeting at the William Way Center co-hosted by the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs and Philly Family Pride.
This meeting was held to recruit potential foster parents from the LGBTQ community who would provide loving homes to LGBTQ youth. I attended as a representative of A Second Chance Inc., an organization I work with that specializes in kinship care.
The organizers of the meeting had asked a panel of folks to speak about their experiences and share resources with the group – a foster care agency, LGBTQ foster parents and an 18-year old LGBT-identified youth named Frank.
The room fell silent to hear this soft-spoken, sweet, sad kid talk about how hard it had been for him in foster care, how he came to America from Indonesia fleeing persecution for being gay and how he had no family and wanted to be in a family.
He talked about his love for music and how he had to sell his keyboard when he went into care and how he missed feeling comfortable and affirmed. I could feel tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I approached Frank after the meeting and asked if we could have lunch together suggesting that maybe I could help him with this situation and find hiim a better home.
Frank agreed and that same week we met. He told me more of his story and how he was in an accelerated high school program in Indonesia and graduated from school early, about the circumstances he lived in while in Indonesia and the kind of fear and discrimination he felt as a sexual minority.
His father died when he was 4 years old and his mother plummeted into poverty and could not take care of her children any more. We talk for a long time. By the end of the lunch, I knew that we were the foster family that Frank needed. I knew that we could give him an affirming home.
My wife Sophie and I talked to our 8 year-old son who loved the idea of having a big brother. We had Frank over for dinner and the decision was made to offer to be his foster family. He said yes and I sprang into action.
We were certified in a month to be foster parents for Frank. This is very fast, but as a person who works in the field I knew exactly what we needed to do and how to get it done quickly.
Frank moved into our home October 27, 2017.
He has integrated into our family and we care about him. He is neither soft-spoken nor sad anymore. He is a teenager, which is fun and frustrating all at the same time.
Frank is applying to colleges for the fall of 2018. I am teaching him how to drive, and Sophie and I are learning how to parent a teenager. Every day Frank sits at the piano in our home and makes beautiful music. We have high hopes for him and his future.
If you live in Pennsylvania and are interested in becoming a foster parent for LGBTQ youth, contact Leigh at email@example.com.