October is Foster Youth Voice Month, a national campaign led by Selfless Love Foundation to elevate the voices of youth with lived experience in the child welfare care system. This submission is a part of our collaborative series to raise awareness about issues that impact youth with lived experience and highlight their voices.
As a transgender youth, I’ve had my fair share of problems, but I’d like to address the fact that not all foster parents are properly trained to foster LGBTQ+ youth. I live in an open-minded home, but it was still very difficult when I first transitioned. I had been in this foster home for three months before I came out as a transgender male (FTM or female to male). You would think that only knowing a child for such a short amount of time would have made the transition to a different name and pronouns a little smoother. It didn’t. Foster parents need to be better trained to handle this kind of news appropriately and do their very best to support the youth. In my case, although the home was accepting, my coming out was swept under the rug and ignored. It took more than six months for my preferred name and pronouns to be used, despite constant reminders and pleas from not only myself but my agency workers.
This experience really took a toll on my mental health. I went into a downward spiral. There are so many things I wish I could undo and so many scars that shouldn’t be there; I was at some of the lowest points in my life. However, I was lucky enough to be able to get the help I needed, and I had the right support in place to keep me afloat. Of course, other factors played a role because I am in the child welfare system and have been for approximately 10 years. During this time, I gained the confidence to advocate for myself and others because I am committed to making the child welfare system a better place for children. I’ve used my voice as a foster youth to develop a project regarding LGBTQ+ foster parent training in my state of Connecticut. I look forward to making this learning project a reality so others can have a better and happier experience while in care. There would be many more happier kids if they knew they would be accepted and validated. I feel like if my foster parent had been trained and taught to understand LGBTQ+ foster youth and how to respect their individual needs, it would have been a very different experience for me. So, I plan to use my voice and advocacy to make sure this experience does not happen to other youths in care.