Non-Profit Social Services Agency Receives All Children – All Families Seal of Recognition
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organisation, announced yesterday that it has awarded the All Children – All Families seal of recognition to Los Angeles, CA-based Aviva Family and Children’s Services (Aviva) for its commitment to supporting and serving LGBTQ youth and families. Aviva’s Foster Family and Adoption Agency achieved the honour by meeting HRC’s criteria for fully-inclusive policies and practices in working with the LGBTQ community.
“Aviva is honored to be recognized as a leader in serving LGBTQ youth and families, especially given the disproportionate number of foster youth in Los Angeles County–approximately one in five–who identify as LGBTQ,” said Regina Bette, president & CEO, Aviva Family and Children’s Services. “This acknowledgment is a testament to the humanity and dedication of our staff and complements our mission and belief that every child and every family in our Los Angeles community deserve a chance for a brighter future.”
“We are thrilled to welcome Aviva into the community of child welfare organizations that are truly committed to providing the best care possible to LGBTQ youth, and to creating more loving families by removing barriers to qualified LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents,” said Ellen Kahn, director of the HRC Foundation’s Children, Youth & Families Program. “The professionals at Aviva are shining examples of how to put the best interests of the children first in the adoption and foster care process.”
The HRC Foundation’s All Children—All Families initiative promotes LGBTQ cultural competency by providing organizations with a comprehensive framework for inclusion, ranging from client non-discrimination policies to comprehensive staff training and the creation of an LGBTQ-inclusive agency environment. Participating agencies work to meet 10 key Benchmarks of LGBTQ Cultural Competency, including an agency self-assessment and a commitment to making necessary changes and improvements – writing new policies, updating materials with inclusive language, role-specific training and more. This process helps agencies establish policies and practices that welcome, support and affirm LGBTQ youth and LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents.
“Aviva prides itself on providing compassionate support and guidance to a diverse group of at-risk children and families with the goal of empowering them to live better lives. To that end, we have incorporated new tools and approaches to help us better navigate the needs of the LGBTQ community,” Bette explained.
As part of its work in this area, Aviva embraced a comprehensive staff training program that included all agency staff, from senior leadership and those who work directly with foster and adoptive parents and foster youth to administrative and support team members. Offered by the staff of the R.I.S.E. (Recognize, Intervene, Support, Empower) initiative of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, this competency training helps build skills related to sustaining an affirming environment for LGBTQ youth. It focuses on language about sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression about the LGBTQ experience, barriers to permanency experienced by LGBTQ youth, professional and legal responsibilities of social workers in the child welfare system, and other approaches that communicate that diversity in sexual orientation and gender expression, as well as equal rights, are highly valued.
With 400,000 children in the nation’s foster care system – including 28,000 in Los Angeles County alone – there is an urgent need to increase the pool of families ready and able to raise children, especially welcoming and affirming foster or adoptive families for these youth. A study by the Los Angeles LGBT Center, in conjunction with the UCLA Williams Institute and Holarchy Consulting, found that LGTBQ youth are overrepresented in foster care and more likely to live in group homes and to have more foster care placements. LGBTQ foster youth are twice as likely to report poor treatment (12.9 percent versus 5.8 percent). Of the nearly 20 percent of foster youth who identify as LGBTQ, 13.4 percent are LGB or questioning and 5.6 percent are transgender. More than 18 percent report experiencing discrimination related to their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
At the same time, there are an estimated two million LGBTQ adults in the U.S. interested in adoption. Aviva’s Foster Family and Adoption Agency’s training for foster and adoptive parents is designed to help address the needs of LGBTQ youth, as well as those of prospective LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents. This effort is key to recruiting and retaining qualified adults and removing any barriers that prevent LGBTQ parent applicants from coming forward as potential foster or adoptive parents.
Launched in 2007, HRC Foundation’s All Children—All Families initiative promotes policies and practices that welcome LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents. The program seeks to enhance LGBTQ cultural competence among child welfare professionals and educate LGBTQ people about opportunities to become foster or adoptive parents to waiting children. To date, the campaign has more than 90 participating agencies across the country and has awarded 54 seals of recognition. More information about this initiative can be found at hrc.org/acaf