What We Work For
We help transform child welfare policy and practice to promote the healthy development of LGTBQ+ and gender expansive children and youth.
Child welfare systems as currently designed harm and oppress LGBTQ+ youth. Although all youth in child welfare settings face challenges to their well-being, research shows that LGTBQ+ youth are overrepresented in foster care (with some estimates as high as 32% of the foster care population), and they are disproportionately youth of color. We also know that LGBTQ+ youth are neither consistently supported and affirmed in their identities, nor receiving the supports needed for connection, healing, and thriving. These young people are often in the child welfare system as a result of trauma and rejection by family, peers, and/or community institutions solely because of how they identify or how others perceive them. Often this stigma—and related physical and emotional abuse—leads to youth running away and experiencing homelessness and interaction with other systems.
How We Do It
The getREAL (Recognize. Engage. Affirm. Love.) project works with child welfare agencies to ensure that attention is paid to planning for the healthy sexual and identity development of all children and youth. Along with race, ethnicity, and disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE) is part of the identity formation that occurs in adolescence. getREAL works to ensure that all young people feel valued and affirmed to embrace their authentic selves in all aspects of their identity including SOGIE.
getREAL has three core components: supporting site work, building and supporting a national network, and knowledge development for the field. Our ultimate goal is to create lasting policy and practice changes within the nation’s child welfare system to benefit LGBTQ+ and gender expansive youth. This means ending the oppression they experience in a system that should be keeping them safe and promoting their health and achieving a permanent loving living situation.
We believe that all children deserve to have the best and strongest supports as they grow into adulthood. We hope that one day soon—the majority of child welfare systems will know, affirm, and support LGBTQ+ and gender expansive children, youth, and families.