Friday, October 23

Four Ohio Agencies Detail Increased Need for LGBTQ+ Foster and Adoptive Parents

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by Megan Hageman

Within the adoption system, the need for devoted foster and adoptive parents continues to grow, especially for LGBTQ+ youth. Yet despite the increased demand, LGBTQ+ parents still face barriers when attempting to start a family through adoption.

For these reasons, the Human Rights Campaign has created the All Children – All Families (ACAF) project to support LGBTQ+ inclusive policies and practices within the child welfare system, and to acknowledge agencies at the forefront of this progressive initiative. The project provides participating agencies with the tools and training needed to better cater to both LGBTQ+ youth and families.

ACAF recognizes agencies at three different tiers, reserving the highest level for agencies who have demonstrated LGBTQ+ inclusive practices in all seven fundamental areas, including: non-discrimination, staff training, rolling out the welcome mat, parent best practices, youth best practices, sustainability and capacity building, and leadership and innovation.

The Buckeye Flame spoke with four participating Ohio agencies to get their take on the current state of the adoption and foster care system and their own methods for LGBTQ+ inclusion.


Choice Network – Worthington, OH
Choice Network focuses on offering services and support to women facing an unexpected pregnancy, while also placing infants in healthy homes through open adoption. The agency understands the common challenges these mothers and adoptive parents face, and is committed to building and sustaining loving families no matter the circumstances.

From Molly Rampe Thomas, Founder & Adoption Assessor:

Is there currently a higher need for adoptive/foster parents?
There are 400,000 foster kids in the system, with 100,000 of them needing adoptive homes. As for infant adoption, nationwide, there are 36 waiting families for every one baby available for adoption. Opening hearts to fostering and older kids is where the real work lies.

What is your agency’s approach to LGBTQ+ inclusion?
We are the only infant placing agency in the state of Ohio with the Innovative Tiers of Recognition from HRC. We proudly welcome all pregnant people, all children, and all families.  


Northeast Ohio Adoption Services (NOAS) – Warren, OH
As a non-profit foster care and adoption agency, NOAS provides a broad range of services from training parents and placing children into lifelong adoptive homes to guiding foster care youth as they transition out of the system as adults. The agency serves all families and youth without discrimination and places a special focus on creating positive connections for children who have faced past challenges.

From Cheryl Tarantino, Executive Director:

Is there currently a higher need for adoptive/foster parents?
There is and will continue to be a great need. Besides the expected increases in children already coming into care due to parent’s neglect and/or addiction, the elevated stressors from COVID-19 further strain a family.

What is your agency’s approach to LGBTQ+ inclusion?
NOAS (Northeast Ohio Adoption Services) is proud to be the only agency in NE Ohio to be recognized in Change-Makers in Child Welfare 2020. To obtain this recognition, NOAS conducted an internal self-assessment, provided professional development to staff, and implemented ACAF’s “Benchmarks of LGBTQ Inclusion,” which track policy and practice changes within the agency.


Youth Advocate Services (YAS) – Columbus, OH
Youth Advocate Services believes every child–especially those who are at-risk–deserves the stability and support of a loving environment, whether that be in a foster home, adoptive home, or with their birth family. YAS provides behavioral health services, early childhood services, foster care and adoptive support services, and focuses heavily on strengthening families and children in their natural setting.

From Anita Godfrey, Director of Foster Care:

Is there currently a higher need for adoptive/foster parents?
It is a very real and growing need in our community for many reasons, including the ongoing opioid epidemic. Despite the critical need to provide loving homes to children awaiting foster homes/adoption, many prospective parents continue to face discrimination in the foster care and adoption process – or even just fear they may face discrimination and so, therefore, do not embark on that journey.

What is your agency’s approach to LGBTQ+ inclusion?
We’ve always been of the mindset “love is love,” no matter who you are. But we understand there is so much that we don’t understand. So, just this year we took the initiative to re-evaluate our policies and procedures in an effort to be intentionally inclusive. As we continue implementing the ACAF benchmarks, we are also broadening our focus on diversity, equity and inclusion to include all marginalized and oppressed groups.


Lighthouse Youth & Family Services – Cincinnati, OH
Lighthouse Youth and Family Services holds national recognition for their range of services providing support and resources for foster care, adoption, homeless and delinquent youth, families in crisis, young adults living independently, and new mothers and babies. The non-profit agency believes in providing inclusive, affirming care and all services contribute to the agency’s goal of empowering both youth and families to heal and grow.

From Mindy Arlotta, Service Area Director:

Is there currently a higher need for adoptive/foster parents?
I believe there is a higher need for families right now. Larger counties have seen an increase in the need for children to be placed in foster care and some larger counties struggle with an overall lack of homes compared to number of children needing homes.  As a result, many children are now being placed outside their home county, proving problematic for school attendance and family contact.

What is your agency’s approach to LGBTQ+ inclusion?
Lighthouse Youth & Family Services is an organization embracing professional values that support employees and clients of all backgrounds, race, color, religion, gender identity, gender expression, ethnicity, sexuality, and disability. Lighthouse also provides LGBTQ cultural competency training. Our training is offered free to foster parents, staff and youth-serving organizations in Ohio to help ensure wherever LGBTQ+ youth go for care, they feel welcomed and affirmed.

Ignite Action:

  • Learn more about the All Children – All Families initiative. 
  • Reach out to one of the agencies above to discuss whether fostering/adopting children might be right for you. 

Megan Hageman is a Columbus, Ohio-based freelance writer working within the field of social media and content marketing. Her writing ranges from articles on non-profits to advice for working women and California weddings. Learn more at https://www.meganhageman.com/.

 

 

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