Colorado Division of Child Welfare recognized for LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts
DENVER (July 8, 2019) — The Colorado Department of Human Services proudly announces that the Office of Children, Youth and Families Division of Child Welfare (DCW) has earned the Innovator Seal from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation for its ongoing work to develop policies and practices that affirm LGBTQ+ youth in foster care and encourage members of the LGBTQ+ community to become foster and adoptive parents. The distinction was recognized in Celebrating Everyday Change-Makers in Child Welfare — a first-of-its-kind report highlighting more than 70 child welfare agencies across the country working to improve the services they provide to the LGBTQ+ community, including children in foster care and prospective foster and adoptive parents.
"The Human Rights Campaign is a major national organization, and Colorado is so honored to be recognized for our work we are doing to ensure that all children and families, specifically those involved with child welfare, are respected and free to be their true selves,” Governor Jared Polis said. “We know that LGBTQ+ youth are over represented within the homeless population and foster care, and that potential LGBTQ+ foster and adoptive parents can face discrimination. We are unwavering in our commitment to ensuring that Colorado’s LGBTQ+ children, youth and families know they are welcome and valued and we appreciate this historic recognition from HRC.”
DCW is the first state government entity in the nation to receive the Innovator Seal, the highest tier of recognition. Organizations at this level have an established foundation of non-discriminatory policies and practices and are implementing additional, innovative approaches to LGBTQ+ inclusion. This level also requires agencies to demonstrate leadership in areas like policy advocacy or organizational partnerships.
“Thousands of committed professionals — from frontline workers to executives — know that LGBTQ+ youth are perfect just the way they are and that removing barriers for potentially qualified LGBTQ+ foster and adoptive parents is in the best interest of children,” Alison Delpercio, director of the HRC Foundation's All Children - All Families Project (ACAF), said. “While some of these agencies are taking their first steps toward inclusion and others have been leaders in innovating new approaches, more agencies should look to the policies and practices these organizations are implementing to protect against anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and meaningfully engage their communities.”
To earn the Innovator Seal, DCW 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.
On an average day in Colorado, 12 children or teens enter foster care because their parents need time to learn new skills and address safety concerns, and communities across the state need more foster parents. Additionally, LGBTQ+ youth are over represented in foster care and face an increased risk of both negative experiences and outcomes:
- Up to 30 percent of youth in foster care are LGBTQ+;
- LGBTQ+ youth are twice as likely to report being treated poorly as their non-LGBTQ+ peers while in care;
- LGBTQ+ youth have a greater average number of placements than their non-LGBTQ+ peers;
- LGBTQ+ youth are more likely than their non-LGBTQ+ peers to be placed in congregate care, including group homes.
- The Domestic Violence Program within the CDHS Office of Children, Youth and Families was also recognized as having met the Solid Foundation for Inclusion.
“It is so critically important for all young people, but especially for our LGBTQ+ youth to feel safe, healthy, valued and connected,” Minna Castillo Cohen, director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families, said “We are honored by this recognition but we know we can, and will, do more to empower and support communities to ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of LGBTQ+ children, youth and families.”
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. This new effort marks a major step toward improving the services provided to LGBTQ+ youth and prospective parents.
The Office of Children, Youth and Families shares the Colorado Department of Human Services vision, mission and values for the people of Colorado to be safe, healthy and prepared to achieve their greatest aspirations. Collaborating with our partners, the Office of Children, Youth and Families’ mission is to design and deliver high quality human and health services that improve the safety, independence and well-being of Colorado’s children, youth and families. The Office includes the Division of Child Welfare, the Domestic Violence Program, the Division of Youth Services, the Medical Oversight Unit, Juvenile Parole Board and the Colorado Sexual Health Initiative. To learn more about becoming a foster or adoptive parent in Colorado, visit CO4Kids.org/fosterpride.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.