The National Quality Improvement Center (QIC) on Tailored Services, Placement Stability and Permanency for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2S) Children and Youth in Foster Care, in collaboration with the Children’s Bureau (CB) at the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, have selected four implementation sites for a $10 million grant to assist lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and Two-Spirit children and young adults in foster care. Two Spirit is a term used by some Native American communities to describe someone whose body inhabits both masculine and feminine spirits. The grant was awarded to the Institute for Innovation and Implementation at the University of Maryland School of Social Work (UM SSW) in 2016.
The four sites are: Prince George’s County in Maryland; Allegheny County in Pennsylvania; Cuyahoga County in Ohio; and the state of Michigan.
The QIC-LGBTQ2S will be working with each of these sites to develop, integrate, and sustain best practices and programs that improve outcomes for children and youth in foster care with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions (SOGIE). The QIC-LGBTQ2S is led by the Institute for Innovation and Implementation at the UM SSW in Baltimore along with participating core partners Human Service Collaborative, Judge Baker Children’s Center, and Youth M.O.V.E. National.
Prince George’s County is partnering with All Children - All Families of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Shelley Craig and Ashley Austin, the founders of Project Youth Affirm. Together they will be implementing and evaluating innovative approaches to staff training and care coordination services for children and youth with diverse SOGIE.
"Prince George's County led the State of Maryland's local Departments of Social Services in its efforts to increase understanding of, and response to, the needs of children in care who identify as LGBTQ,” said Gloria Brown Burnett, director of the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services. “We are proud of the progress made and look forward to ongoing relevant work across the agency to improve outcomes for all children and all families by further educating our workforce, foster parents, and other partners."
Allegheny County’s efforts are led by Shauna Lucadamo, the SOGIE project manager for Allegheny County's Children, Youth and Family Services. Allegheny is partnering with Jill Jacobs from Family Builders, Betty Hill from the Persad Center, Project Youth Affirm, and system partners. Together they will be implementing and evaluating The Youth Acceptance Collaborative, an intervention around youth, parent, and clinical support, and Affirming Families, a training for families and caregivers and workforce development.
Cuyahoga County’s team is co-led by Kathleen Sullivan, senior manager for the Division of Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Kori Sewell, supervisor of DCFS. Also providing oversight from DCFS will be Karen Anderson, special program administrator. Cuyahoga is partnering with the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland, the Waiting Child Fund, the Mandell School for Applied Social Sciences (MSASS) at Case Western Reserve University, Project Youth Affirm, and A Place 4 Me: a Jim Casey Youth Opportunity Initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Together they will be implementing and evaluating a family-finding intervention for youth with diverse SOGIE, developing a specialized group of highly trained foster homes to provide nurturing and affirming placements for this population, and developing and facilitating additional education opportunities for staff, youth, and caregivers.
“It is important that we create a safe, supportive environment for LGBTQ youth in the custody of DCFS,” said DCFS Director Cynthia Weiskittel. “This calls for us to be diligent in addressing the unique risks and needs of these young people in our care.” Mike Kenney, executive director of Waiting Child Fund added, “The need for improved permanency services for LGBTQ youth in foster care has never been greater. The grant funding from the Quality Improvement Center is an incredible opportunity to partner with local and national agencies to ensure that all children are able to live with a chosen and affirming family.”
Michigan Department of Health and Human Service’s QIC-LGBTQ2S local implementation site is led through the Children’s Services Agency in partnership with the Ruth Ellis Center and Caitlin Ryan, PhD, ACSW, director of the Family Acceptance Project. Together they will be implementing and evaluating data collection procedures at the state level, implementing a cognitive behavioral counseling intervention for youth, and supporting an intervention to move families and caregivers toward acceptance of their SOGIE-diverse children and youth.
“We are thrilled with the sites that we have selected to participate in this process,” said Marlene Matarese, PhD, principal investigator for the QIC-LGBTQ2S. “They each bring passion and commitment for supporting youth with diverse SOGIE as well as the infrastructure and capacity to successfully implement best practices.”
QIC-LGBTQ2S Project Director Angela Weeks added, “We have incredible teams at each of the sites. Together with the Institute for Innovation and Implementation, our partners and the local implementation sites, I am confident that our work over the next four years will have a pronounced impact on those serving children and youth who have diverse SOGIE in foster care.”
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