Adoptions Together Recognized by Human Rights Campaign Foundation for LGBTQ+ Inclusion Efforts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Maryland, Virginia, DC) – Adoptions Together, a nonprofit organization founded in 1990 that supports children and families in the DMV formed through adoption, guardianship, foster care, and kinship care, proudly announced that it is being recognized in 2021 Change-Makers at the highest level of inclusion – Innovative Inclusion. 2021 Change-Makers is the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s third annual report highlighting 119 child welfare agencies across the country who 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.

Janice Goldwater, Founder & CEO of Adoptions Together, stated, “For over 31 years, our team has worked to build, strengthen, and support all children and families, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, each and every day. We are honored to work in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and be recognized in 2021 Change-Makers at the Innovative Inclusion level. Our organization firmly believes that all people – regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and race – deserve the love of a stable family to learn, grow, and heal throughout their entire life.”

“The third edition of our Change-Makers report shows that, despite the many hardships of the last year, more organizations than ever before are working alongside the Human Rights Campaign Foundation to make impactful change for the LGBTQ+ youth and families they serve,” said Alison Delpercio, Human Rights Campaign Foundation Director, All Children – All Families. “This year’s participants also demonstrated a growing commitment to intersectionality and ensuring organizational policies and practices do not reinforce the same systems of oppression that put youth and families at risk in the first place. By taking on these challenges, the change-makers featured in our 2021 report are models for youth-serving professionals everywhere.”

The release 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

The agencies featured in this report 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. Adoptions Together was recognized at the highest level, Innovative Inclusion. At this level, agencies are pushing themselves beyond the solid foundation they have built and implementing innovative approaches to LGBTQ+ inclusion in each of the seven key policy and practice areas. Benchmarks at this level also require agencies to demonstrate leadership in areas like policy advocacy or organizational partnerships.

Since 2007, hundreds of child welfare agencies across the U.S. 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.

About Adoptions Together: Adoptions Together, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, supports children and families formed through adoption, guardianship, foster care, and kinship care with specialized services offered at locations in Maryland, Virginia and DC. Through its expertise in family services, adoption, education, therapy, and public-private and community partnerships, the agency has touched the lives of more than 15,000 families and children since it was founded 30 years ago. Adoptions Together’s mission is to build healthy lifelong family connections for every child and to advocate for continuous improvement of systems that promote the well-being of children. One of the agency’s guiding principles is inclusivity: all families and children are welcome regardless of gender, age, race, religion, wealth, health, marital status, or sexual orientation. With a holistic network of more than three dozen innovative services that build and strengthen families, Adoptions Together is one of the most diverse independent social service agencies serving Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

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More Than a Black Square: Actions Matter

Transracial Adoptee Holding Hands with Mother

 
Since our inception, a core goal of Adoptions Together is to address systemic racism through the services we deliver. We fundamentally believe that systemic racism is a human rights issue, and we are dedicated to addressing diversity, inclusion, and equity both internally and externally with the clients we serve.

In June 2020, Adoptions Together issued a statement in response to systemic and institutionalized racism that was brought into the spotlight by a long-overdue national reckoning. As an organization committed to always looking for blind spots and determining what we can do even better, we knew that we had to take the moment as an opportunity to reexamine the role of racism in the child welfare system and deliberately adjust to work against implicit or explicit racism.

In the statement, we shared, “Adoptions Together was built on the value of welcoming every child and family in need of our services. We cherish the diversity in the community we serve. We know that many people in our community are in terrible pain. Trauma that occurs in the context of relationship heals in the context of relationship. Now is the time to show up, to listen, to learn and to reach out and support those who are hurting most.”

After releasing this statement, we immediately began to examine our own practice—sharing our personal and collective experiences, searching for shortcomings, and stretching to see what we could do differently. This is just the beginning of a process of exploring changes that need to be made to better ourselves and the systems in which we operate.

As we celebrate Black History Month, we’re sharing the steps we have already taken and reaffirming our commitment to showing up, listening, learning, and supporting those who are hurting most.

Internal Initiatives and Community Building:

  • Diversity Committee: Adoptions Together’s Diversity Committee was formed in the fall of 2019 and officially started meeting in 2020. Beginning in June 2020, in addition to planning training opportunities and making policy recommendations, our Diversity Committee instituted monthly Brown Bag Zoom Lunches, creating a safe space for our staff members and contractors to come together to listen, learn, and have respectful, yet unapologetically frank conversations.
  • Stronger Together | Processing and Leading Social Change: An initiative that began in January 2021 and includes weekly full staff dialogs to process personal feelings, create mutual understanding and support, and identify practice changes and new services that will enhance the impact of the agency. The well-being of our team is critical to our ability to provide optimal services and staying flexible and responsive to the needs of the community ensures that we are delivering the highest impact services possible.

Trainings | Adoptions Together staff members are engaging in the community to broaden our knowledge base and impact:

  • Janice Goldwater, Founder & CEO, participated in the six month Anti-Racist Leadership Series through Leadership Greater Washington; and serves as a working member of Achieving Race Equity in Child Welfare (Maryland state-wide workgroup).
  • Audra Hurd, Operations Director, attended the Sorkin Center at Compass’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Event that focused on what to consider and where to begin when developing culture, policies, and programs that support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within a nonprofit. Audra is also registered to attend a three-part Policy & Practice Training with the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children-All Families Project.
  • Adoptions Together has regular staff training and participated in the first of a series of all-staff Diversity & Inclusion Training, led by Kia Silver-Hodge, SPHR, CPEC, Coach and Inclusion Strategist.
  • Four members of our team are enrolled in the Helen J. Serini Foundation’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Training. This multi-part series focuses on helping organizations create and sustain more inclusive environments by changing their cultures and identifying how their policies, practices, and procedures unwittingly create barriers to inclusion and belonging.
  • Staff members are participating in the Adoption Exchange Association’s educational programming focused on race and equity in the child welfare system. Some sessions include Reducing Racial Disproportionality Among Waiting Youth in Need of Permanency and We Must Do Better For Children: Race and Equity in Foster Care and Adoption.

Recognized 2019 and 2020 Innovator of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s All Children – All Families Project:

  • HRC’s All Children – All Families, a project of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, promotes LGBTQ inclusive policies and affirming practices among child welfare agencies and formally recognizes those agencies that are leading the field with innovative approaches to inclusion. All staff are currently involved in additional trainings as we work towards this achievement in 2021.

Community Services:

  • After hearing feedback from our existing Transracial Adoption Family Group, we added the Transracial Adoption Children’s Group to provide a safe space of emotional support for children and youth adopted transracially to engage in open discussion and guided activities focused on civic and cultural topics that impact their lives. This group aims to increase their consciousness of their resilience, self-worth, and the value they add to their family, community, and the world.
  • We revamped the private Transracial Adoption Facebook group to provide increased opportunities for learning and interaction on a day-to-day basis.
  • For the month of February, we have waived the registration fee for the Transcultural-Transcultural Adoption and Parenting webinar. Families who adopt transracially or transculturally will face a unique set of concerns that require careful thought, preparation, and ongoing education. This webinar is designed to educate prospective and current foster and adoptive parents about the important issues involved in transracial and transcultural adoption including selecting a school and community that embraces differences, educating extended family members, responding to intrusive questions, and preparing your child to confront racism.

We are committed to the work and growth that lies ahead and will continue to provide updates of our progress and actions. As always, we welcome your feedback.


Empowering Transracial Adoptees To Own Their Voice on the Path From Childhood to Adulthood: Part 1

Transracial Adoptee Holding Hands with Mother

 

Empowering children to hear, value, and own their voices starting at a young age is core to raising strong and confident human beings. At Adoptions Together we recognize the critical importance of a parent’s role in nurturing the development of their child’s voice. As a place of lifelong growth and healing, we offer support groups and counseling to strengthen resiliency, provide children and their families guidance they need in the moment, and recommend tools to create lasting stability.

This series, born from our Transracial Adoption Family Support Group (TAG), will provide a platform to hear from transracial adoptees and their families as they navigate and grow on the path of life. We’ll also discuss common questions and concerns of this community.

For the first part of the series, Mindy*, a long-time member of the group, shares her views and experiences encountering race early in her children’s lives.

As the white mother of two Black children, a  6 year-old girl and a  3 year-old boy, Mindy knew she needed to find a place for her children to see similar families and freely ask questions to find their voices early in life. TAG brings together children and their families, creating a safe space to offer advice, ask questions, and grow as a family unit and community. The support group is facilitated by Adoptions Together counseling professionals who are trained in these highly-nuanced topics.

With conversations about race, a critical question that naturally arises is when to introduce a child to the concept—especially a child who is adopted transracially. The next question is how to do so.

From conversations and anecdotes discussed in TAG, Mindy says it’s clear that there is no definitive answer. Children who do not look like their parents often encounter uncomfortable questions from their peers, and these questions put parents in a challenging spot. As the parents in TAG meet with one another, they continually acknowledge how important it is to have the right resources for difficult conversations with their children in order to lead them to better find their voices and develop empathetic worldviews in which they are powerful advocates for themselves and others.

Questions may arise at any time and children should never be shut down. Instead, Mindy and the other TAG parents focus on identifying resources (through TAG and elsewhere) that are accessible for their children based on age and maturity level. By answering questions and exploring topics openly, children are validated and have the tools to discover their own self-expression and perspective.

One of Mindy’s primary goals is the development of her children’s voices as their own, empowering them to advocate for themselves and others in all matters, regardless of the scope. Her daughter is building this skillset through TAG by learning how to voice her opinions, share appropriate, thoughtful responses when faced with negativity, and better understand how kids sometimes perceive their skin and hair, especially in comparison with their parents. TAG has provided structured learning opportunities within the group for children to practice owning their voice and feeling comfortable in the moment with another child.

When children are given the chance to learn to use their voices, doors are opened in their development as individuals. For children like Mindy’s, resources like TAG allow them to have spaces that foster positive growth, cementing who they are and will become in the future.

*Name has been changed for confidentiality.


Adoptions Together: Home for the Holidays

two moms and their newly adopted child right after finalization

However holiday celebrations look this year, one thing is certain: all children deserve to enjoy the season with a loving family.

Across the United States, there are over 120,000 children available for adoption. These children live in a state of uncertainty—moved between foster homes, group homes and other unstable settings. As we count down the days until Christmas, we are all surrounded by images of children spending days of celebration with the warmth and security of a family. For these children that is far from reality. While these children wake up every day with uncertainty of what the future will bring, these children will not spend Christmas wrapped in the loving care of family.

Adoptions Together is driven by the belief that family is a human right. We believe there is no such thing as an unwanted child, just unfound parents. Every day spent without a family is a day that offers no chance to heal from trauma. We know healing happens in the context of healthy relationships and we do everything possible to support children and families.

Children should be home with their family, especially during the holiday season. Adoptions Together has been working hard throughout this complicated year to ensure that kids are connected to their forever families, and we are thrilled to be placing 6 children with secure families this month—just in time to make dreams of spending Christmas with family come true.

Adoption across state lines is complicated and geography should never be a barrier for a child to have a family. While each state system has a complicated bureaucracy to navigate, social workers must work diligently to push through the process. Unfortunately, it can take months of additional instability before a child arrives home with their forever family. At times, it can take advocacy on all levels to bring a child home.

Eleven year old Anthony matched with his mom and dad back in July and has been visiting through daily Facetime calls since then. It’s been hard for Anthony to understand. Why is it taking so long for him to come home? Our team has moved mountains to get this young boy home for Christmas. We are thrilled that Anthony will wake up Christmas morning in his own room, and be surrounded by his forever family.

While we celebrate the joys of these six children and their families, there is still much to be done. As you experience your own holiday traditions this year, as different as they may be, we hope you will dream about how you can help make a difference in the life of a child.

Remember, there’s no such thing as somebody else’s child.


Faith-Based Adoption Laws in 2020: What’s Going on in Fulton v. Philadephia?

In 2018, we outlined the rise of faith based adoption laws across the United States. Today, we’re updating our coverage of faith-based adoption laws, their increased passage, and why every American- regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity- should be concerned.  Contact us to learn more about this issue.

Faith-Based Adoption Laws in 2020: What’s Going on in Fulton v. Philadephia?

In early 2018, two foster care providers in the city of Philadelphia stopped issuing foster care licenses to same-sex foster parents, citing their religious beliefs as a basis for the decision. The City stopped sending foster care referrals to these providers, who responded by filing a lawsuit against the City for infringing upon their free exercise rights. The providers, including Catholic Social Services, sought relief through multiple appeals phases and have taken their case to the supreme court. The case before the Supreme Court this year is Fulton v. The City of Philadelphia.

In Fulton, the Supreme Court will decide if the City has the right to exclude a Catholic agency from participating in a public foster care system because that Catholic agency does not work with same-sex couples. A ruling in favor of Catholic Social Services in Fulton has potentially devastating consequences: ruling in favor of CSS gives faith-based adoption agencies untethered license to discriminate.

Faith-Based Adoption Laws: An LGBTQ Issue, or a Broader Concern?

US States with Faith Based Adoption Laws

Eleven states — Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee and Virginia — have faith-based adoption laws, which surged in popularity after same-sex marriage became legal at the federal level. Faith-based adoption laws permit religiously-affiliated adoption agencies to turn away LGBTQ parents- in some cases, even allowing agencies to refuse to serve children who identify as LGBTQ. Since our last update on faith-based adoption laws in 2018, four more states have added this type of legislation to their books.

Although proponents of faith-based adoption legislation defend the practice on the grounds of religious freedom, there is little evidence to suggest faith-based adoption laws contribute to improved outcomes for children. Supporters of faith-based adoption legislation argue that resistance to faith-based discrimination in child welfare creates undue burdens on systems, forcing religious agencies working to close their doors in response to anti-discrimination laws designed to protect LGBTQ individuals. Despite this argument, the question remains: who do these laws really protect? A cursory glance at KidsCount datasets provides insight into how the growing number of states with faith-based adoption laws are serving children in (and out of) foster care:

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Why Faith-Based Adoption Laws Harm Everyone

Whenever laws are enacted that threaten the rights of more vulnerable groups, the distribution of justice becomes dependent on beneficiaries of this uneven power dynamic. At present, faith-based adoption laws negatively impact LGBTQ adoptive and foster families; however, the future impact these laws may have on other families is unpredictable, broad and impossible to define.

Were a favorable ruling for Fulton to become precedent in this case, faith-based adoption agencies may use religious doctrine as grounds for discrimination on the basis of faith, marital status, family structure, political affiliation, and more.  People from all backgrounds could experience this shift: transracial couples, interfaith couples, and children who receive services from faith-based child welfare agencies.

Further, in Fulton v. Philadelphia The Court may determine how faith-based adoption agencies can use federal funding to provide services to families- or, how they use federal funding to discriminate against families. A ruling in favor of Catholic Social Services  could set a precedent that allows faith-based adoption agencies and child welfare organizations to accept federal funds for programs as they continue to implement discriminatory practices that prevent children from being cared for by loving families.

While there’s no question that faith-based adoption laws cause dignitary harm, they also place stress on systems their advocates claim they’re designed to help. According to the 2018 AFCARS report, more than 437,000 children were living in public foster care systems across the United States- 125,422 of those children were waiting to be adopted.

Excluding LGBTQ parents to serve as resources for waiting children is a failure of child welfare systems. More than two million LGBTQ couples, individuals and families across the United States are interested in serving as family resources for children through adoption and foster care. LGBTQ families are currently raising more than 3% of children living in foster care across the country. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports full access to adoption and foster care rights for same-sex couples as part of promoting growth of stable and healthy families for all children. Currently, no data supports the exclusion of LGBTQ individuals or couples as part of the framework of a healthy foster care system.

What’s Next for Faith-Based Adoption Laws?

As we await the Supreme Court’s decision in Fulton v. The City of Philadelphia, adoption agencies across the United States continue to work with a growing number of LGBTQ parents.  This year, Adoptions Together is honored to celebrate our 30th anniversary forming families from every background- including those families from the LGBTQ community who make up a vital part of our foundation. In 2019, we received the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children, All Families Project’s Innovator Seal in recognition of our work serving LGBTQ youth and families, and we continue to advocate for systematic change to make child welfare work for everyone.

US States with full legal protection for LGBT peopleToday, you can make a difference. Encourage your representative to support legislation that welcomes all families, regardless of religious belief, sexual orientation or gender identity.  Progress is being made on local and state levels to pass anti-discrimination laws that protect people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But currently, 28 states lack explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.  Support public officials who support welcoming platforms. And support adoption agencies that support our communities- all of our communities.  Because we must support every child, every family, every step of the way.


We Can, Because of You: Finding Family for Children in Baltimore City Foster Care

Since 2012, the Family Find Step Down Project has worked in partnership with the Baltimore City Department of Social Services to connect children living in foster care with permanent families before they age out of the system. The Family Finding team collaborates with Baltimore City caseworkers to create tailored plans for children in need of permanent, loving family connections. The types of family connections that result from the Family Finding Project take many forms such as adoption, legal guardianship, kinship adoption and the formation of lifelong, committed connections.

The Family Finding team consists of highly-skilled professionals known as Permanency Specialists as well as an Investigator who helps caseworkers identify important information, documentation and individual people during the Family Finding process.

This year, our Family Finding team helped to connect dozens of children living in Baltimore City Foster Care to permanent families. The unique mission of Family Finding has inspired us to share some of those stories with you this National Adoption Month.

Kinship Care: Using the Resources that Work

In early 2019, the FFSD team received a referral about a three-year-old who had been removed from her mother’s care along with her 4 siblings due to her mom’s substance abuse challenges. Although her siblings were able to return home after her mom sought treatment, the three-year-old’s developmental needs required specialized care that her mother was unable to provide. In order to create the best possible environment for the child, she was placed in the care of her biological grandmother. When FFSD received the referral, concerns about long-term permanency for the child were voiced because the grandmother’s home was undergoing long-term renovations. Despite the child thriving developmentally and her grandmother expressing a desire to legally adopt her, the condition of her home was a barrier to establishing permanency.

Our team assisted the grandmother with finding appropriate resources and with establishing a reasonable timeline for finishing her home renovations. We also helped her to become an advocate for herself while working with her DSS caseworker, ensuring she is capable of remaining the most stable resource for her granddaughter as her adoption becomes final. Although this child experienced the trauma of being removed from her biological mother, she is now able to remain in the permanent care of her biological grandmother, who continues to learn to advocate for herself and her growing family member.

Family Finding: Investigation Pays Off

Over the summer, our Family Finding team received a referral about a 16-year-old who’d been living in Baltimore City’s foster care system for several weeks. He provided his name and birthdate to his caseworker, but DSS was unable to confirm his identity. Despite providing other details about his childhood, family and upbringing, his caseworker was unable to locate any of his identifying documents or information using traditional avenues and asked our team to help.

Our Specialist met with the boy and turned up little more- he reported never having attended school, remembering very little about the surroundings where he lived and knowing almost nothing about the people he grew up with. We needed more help. That’s where our Investigator came in.

The job of the Family Find Investigator is extremely unique- she helps to find important documents and records, information about cases, and people related to investigations whenever a team member feels like we’ve hit a dead end. When this case seemed like there was no stone left unturned, using a single deleted email, our Investigator managed to reveal an entire story that no one expected.

To protect the identities of many people involved in this case, we’re jumping ahead to the end. Through the discovery of a single deleted email, our Investigator discovered the true identity of the boy. For many reasons, he’d concealed his identity in order to find stability and support through the services provided to him by DSS. Our investigator was also able to locate his biological father, who is now working toward reunifying with his son using the services of our team.

At this time, the boy is attending school and forming a supportive relationship with his foster family. We are proud to have been a part of this complex story which resulted in building a unique foundation of support for a child who expressed his needs in a very different way.

Family Finding: A Replicable Model Across the United States

Each year, more than 440,000 children enter public foster care systems across the United States. While most of these children will return to their families of origin, when that is not possible, finding safe and creative solutions to permanency is critical for ensuring children who’ve experienced life in care have the opportunity to reach stability and thrive.

Family Finding is a replicable model that can be deployed in systems across the country to the benefit of children and Departments of Social Services. By working together to locate permanency resources for some of the most vulnerable children living in foster care, Family Finding teams use an array of resources unavailable to traditional casework models in order to establish stable permanency that works.

For more information about the long-term success of our Family Finding team or implementing Family Finding in your jurisdiction, contact us today.


Celebrating Adoptions Together’s Inclusion in the ACAF Project

Announcing Adoption’s Together’s 2019 Innovative Inclusion in the All Children All Families Project

Adoptions Together has been honored to collaborate with the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children All Families Project to make adoption accessible, welcoming and progressive for LGBTQ families since the inception of the initiative 12 years ago. As a founding member of the ACAF advisory board, our executive director, Janice Goldwater is honored to have played a key role in supporting the development of this initiative.  By partnering with public and private child welfare agencies, the ACAF project assists agencies like Adoptions Together to identify barriers that LGBTQ youth and families face when accessing services and help us to ensure we have the skills and compassionate understanding we need to better serve our community.

This year, our collaboration with the All Children All Families Project earned us the Innovator Seal of Inclusion, recognizing our foundation of work with LGBTQ youth and families as well as advocacy for policy reform and organizational partnership. Achieving the Innovator Seal has been a rewarding journey for our team’s commitment to this need. Over the past few months, our staff participated in training and evaluations designed to meet the seven benchmarks of the ACAF’s practice areas:

  1. Non-Discrimination: Together, we expanded our existing non-discrimination policy to also include our commitment to an equitable workplace for employees, volunteers and partners who collaborate with us to make meaningful change a reality for everyone.
  2. Staff Training: Our staff participated in ACAF online trainings and attended a comprehensive in-person training led by the Human Rights Campaign’s ACAF team.
  3. Rolling Out the Welcome Mat: Part of serving LGBTQ youth and families is demonstrating that everyone belongs at Adoptions Together. We pride ourselves in ensuring representations of LGBTQ families and individuals are part of our everyday message- not just when it’s “part of the story”, but because LGBTQ families are part of our story. Whether you’re browsing our website, viewing our annual report, or wandering the halls of our offices, LGBTQ families are part of the picture you’ll see that signal “you belong here”.
  4.  Parent Best Practices: When we work with adoptive parents, foster parents and parents involved in the child welfare system, it’s important for us to understand best practices to ensure LGBTQ adults feel included and welcomed at Adoptions Together. Our team participated in comprehensive training on LGTBQ parent recruitment efforts, LGBTQ parent training and best practices for affirming home studies with LGBTQ clients.
  5. Youth Best Practices: Expanding our ability to best serve LGBTQ youth is one of the most important goals our staff achieved through receiving our Innovator Seal this year. Because the number of youth in foster care is growing each year, and the number of LGBTQ youth living in foster care continues to over-represent non-LGBTQ youth, it is critical for child welfare professionals to understand their unique perspectives, needs, and how to serve them with every available resource. Learning about LGBTQ youth trends from the HRC, as well as ways to ensure all youth we serve feel safe, supported and understood has been a meaningful benchmark for our team as we continue our work.
  6. Sustainability and Capacity Building: Our team is committed to ensuring LGBTQ inclusion doesn’t stand in the way of our mission’s sustainability or our ability to expand our efforts to serve youth and families who need us. Creating a better understanding of our organizational culture, how sexual orientation and gender expression impact that culture, and implementing policy practices that are affirming to everyone are part of change that help us ensure we will be here for the community into the future.
  7. Leadership and Innovation: Part of our mission is advocating for continuous improvement of systems that promote the well-being of children and families. As a recipient of the Innovator Seal, we understand that this aspect of our mission is critically important to advocacy and change for the LGBTQ community. Our team is dedicated to being present, outspoken and innovative as part of this mission.

Serving LGBTQ youth and families is a cornerstone of our work. Our partnership with the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children All Families Project helps us to more effectively serve LGBTQ individuals in our community each day. The Innovator Seal Recognition is an honor to receive in 2019 and drives us to continue our pursuit to welcome all families in the future.


LGBTQ Adoption from Foster Care

LGBTQ Adoption from Foster Care

More LGBTQ families are choosing to grow through adoption than ever before. Did you know that LGBTQ parents are 6x more likely to become foster parents and 4x more likely to adopt than non-LGBTQ families?  Today, among LGBTQ individuals and couples under 50, 48% of women and 17% of men are currently parenting a child under the age of 18- many of these families are formed through adoption from foster care (source).

The access LGBTQ adoptive families have to adoption agencies serving them proudly, directly impacts the children who are settled with loving, permanent parents providing them with the support they need to thrive. LGBTQ individuals and couples make some of the best parents, and we know you deserve the right kind of support as you begin your foster care adoption journey.

LGBTQ Adoption from Foster Care

LGBTQ couples and individuals are encouraged to pursue adoption from foster care, regardless of their race, religion, or socioeconomic background. Our team is proud to serve all families as part of our mission to connect children living in foster care with the support they need to thrive as they grow. Primarily, we want to ensure families you can provide a safe, loving environment for a child, regardless of the parents’ background. For children who have experienced life in foster care, this is most crucial.

Finding an LGBTQ Friendly Adoption Agency

As a same-sex couple, or LGBTQ individual, it is important to find an adoption agency that is welcoming to all families. As the number of LGBTQ families choosing adoption grows, the number of agencies serving LGBTQ families as part of their mission has expanded. The Human Rights Campaign’s All Children All Families Project has a convenient listing of LGBTQ-friendly adoption agencies that are ready to work with you.  Asking friends for referrals to LGBTQ-friendly agencies can help to identify providers who assisted the people you trust to grow their own families.

What Questions Should I Ask My Adoption Agency?

Same-sex couples and LGBTQ individuals should approach adoption with several factors in mind.  In addition to the complex factors involved in becoming a new parent, it is important to find an agency that will welcome you.  Agencies whose practices affirm your identity will ensure your family is supported throughout the home study, foster care adoption training, matching, placement and finalization process. You may consider asking your agency to disclose the number of LGBTQ families with whom they have worked, what percentage of their adoptive families identify as LGBTQ, and whether they have undergone LGBTQ competency trainings to help them support you fully as you expand your family.  When visiting the agency’s website or building, be mindful of small cues, such as pictures- do these images portray a wide variety of family types?

What are the next steps?

If you’re considering adoption from foster care, you can contact us at any time to discuss your options. We are proud to serve LGBTQ families and individuals living in Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia.  We look forward to helping your family grow!


Who Can Adopt from Foster Care?

Who Can Adopt from Foster Care?

We like to tell prospective adoptive families “there’s no such thing as a perfect parent!” This is a great way to help us recognize kids don’t need perfection, they need love, strength and support to thrive.  If you’re interested in adopting from foster care, you don’t have to be perfect!  In fact, all kinds of people can adopt from foster care.

Do I Have to Be Married to Adopt from Foster Care?

No! Families and parents from all backgrounds can adopt a child from foster care. We work with single parents adopting from foster care, partnered couples adopting from foster care, married couples adopting from foster care and LGBTQ couples adopting from foster care. The most important thing to us is that you’re prepared to parent a child who experienced life in foster care and you have the resources to support your growing family.

What Do You Look for In Families Adopting from Foster Care?

Prospective parents interested in adopting from foster care should be prepared for the reality of raising a child who experienced separation from their biological family. We prepare families by providing the required 27-hour foster care adoption training that focuses on effective parenting strategies, bonding skills and emotional awareness of the child’s needs and their own.

Each adoptive family undergoes a home study which ensures they can support a child. The home study process involves interviews with a social worker, foster care adoption training, a collection of documents and a review of your home environment. It is important to remember that the home study process is not designed to turn you away- rather, to help you move forward in your foster care adoption journey so that you can become a loving, stable parent for a child who needs you.

What Are the Next Steps?

If you’re interested in adopting from foster care, you can contact us anytime to learn more about the foster care adoption process. We are eager to help you through your journey and excited to be part of your family.


How Does Foster Care Adoption Work?

How Does Foster Care Adoption Work?

When we work with families who are adopting from foster care, our job is to ensure they understand the complexities of adoption and how adoption from foster care works. We are often asked if children adopted from foster care can be “returned” to their biological families after an adoption takes place. The short answer is: No. Adoption is a legally binding process, and adoptive parents are the legal parents of their children once an adoption is finalized.

How Do Children in Foster Care Become Available for Adoption?

Children enter foster care for a variety of reasons, the most common of which are abuse and/or neglect.  It is important to remember that the purpose of the foster care system is to serve as a temporary safe haven for children who cannot live with their biological families while their parents become stable, safe caregivers.  Most children who experience life in foster care return to their biological families.

When it is not possible for a child to return to their biological family, a process called “termination of parental rights (TPR)” is undergone within the court system.  This process allows the child to be adopted through the foster care system without custody being granted back to their biological family. Once a parent’s rights have been legally terminated, the child may become available for adoption depending on several factors.  Children seen on websites like The Heart Gallery and AdoptUsKids have undergone the TPR process and are “legally free” for adoption.

How Does Foster Care Adoption Work at Adoptions Together?

Adoptions Together helps families to adopt from foster care by preparing them for the realities of parenting a child who has experienced life in the foster care system, completing their home study, and completing their required 27-hour foster care adoption training.  We also support families through the matching, placement and finalization process with children who are “legally free” for adoption (those whose TPR process has been completed).  Most of the children we work with are school-aged and we help families from every background to explore the option of foster care adoption.

 

If you are interested in learning more about adopting from foster care, you can contact us at any time to discuss the process in detail.