Illinois has announced that it’s beefing up services and existing mandatory training for staff members, partner organizations and foster care providers to improve how LGBTQ people are treated within the child welfare system.
The announcement came from Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc D. Smith as part of Pride Month. Smith said the agency is expanding its network of gender-affirming therapists, service providers, health care professionals, agencies and organizations across the state.
A press release issued by the department stated that LGBTQ youth face unique challenges including homophobia, transphobia and a need to assess whether their communities, schools, social networks and foster families are safe places to disclose their identities.
“Studies have shown that approximately 30% of youth in care nationwide identify as LGBTQI+, and many youth come into care when they are rejected by their families after making their sexual orientation or gender identity known,” said DCFS Chief of LGBTQI+ Services Marla Courts. “LGBTQI+ youth are more at risk of becoming homeless than their peers and they need welcoming, affirming and supportive families to care and advocate for them.”
So far, about 4,500 people, including supervisors, have been through an initial web-based seminar presented by the Human Rights Campaign. The enhanced training will build upon that seminar.
To combat the state’s chronic shortage of foster families — a problem shared with virtually every state — the initiative also calls on Illinoisans to become loving foster parents who can provide welcoming, affirming homes for LGBTQ youth.
“Our mission is clear: to build a child welfare system in Illinois that protects children and supports families in crisis,” Smith said in the press release. “I am deeply committed to ensuring all the youth in our care, including those who are LGBTQI+, feel safe and loved; and our staff and foster families have the tools they need to provide affirming and informed care.”