UCAN proudly announces that it is being recognized in 2021 Change-Makers, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s third annual report highlighting 119 child welfare agencies across the country that have worked with the HRC Foundation’s All Children – All Families (ACAF) program to improve the services they provide to the LGBTQ+ community, including children in foster care, 1 in 3 of whom are LGBTQ+, and prospective foster and adoptive parents. These organizations serve more than one million clients annually in 35 states and employ more than 24,000 employees.
UCAN 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 agencies. The 2021 Change-Makers report features three “Tiers of Recognition,” which celebrate the progress agencies have made toward becoming fully welcoming to their LGBTQ+ clients.
The accomplishment comes at a time when many have been sounding the alarm about the particular risks foster youth face due to COVID-19. LGBTQ+ inclusion work in foster care systems could not be more important. Studies have shown us that LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in foster care, and that child welfare systems must do more to ensure that the trauma of foster care, where LGBTQ youth already face an increased risk of both negative experiences and outcomes, is never compounded by that caused by unsafe and non-affirming foster homes:
● Approximately 1 out of every 3 youth in foster care is LGBTQ+
● LGBTQ+ youth report higher rates of mistreatment while in care
● LGBTQ+ youth report more frequent placement disruptions
● LGBTQ+ youth report a higher likelihood of being placed in congregate care settings
UCAN President and CEO Christa Hamilton said: “We are proud and honored to be recognized for our commitment to serving youth in the LGBTQ+ community. We are committed to ensuring that our Continuum of Care, which is the foundation of how we serve and support youth, is key to providing LGBTQ+ adolescents and young adults with therapeutic support through education, counseling, and art therapy, among other resources and counsel. Our staff is focused on assisting youth in their process of self-development through identity exploration, coping and communication skills, development of healthy support systems, and goal setting and achievement. We consider this accreditation to be an endorsement of our approach.
UCAN is one of 32 new participants this year and met the Building Foundation for Inclusion Tier of Recognition; meaning the agency based in Chicago’s North Lawndale community met foundational criteria, including non-discrimination protections, visual cues in our physical spaces reflecting inclusivity and staff training completed by nearly 200 UCAN direct service and operations staff. UCAN students led by one of the agency’s interns developed and painted a LGBTQ+ mural at one of the campuses that is home to one of the agency’s therapeutic day schools. Since 2007, hundreds of child welfare agencies across the United States have used ACAF’s resources to enhance their efforts to achieve safety, permanency and well-being for LGBTQ+ youth and families. Read the full report here.