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Snohomish County CASA Program is Recognized by Human Rights Campaign Foundation for LGBTQ+ Inclusion Efforts
In August 2021, the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program was recognized in 2021 Change-Makers, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s third annual report highlighting 119 child welfare agencies across the country that have worked with the HRC Foundation’s All Children - All Families (ACAF) program to improve the services they provide to the LGBTQ+ community. This includes children in foster care, 1 in 3 of whom are LGBTQ+, and prospective foster and adoptive parents. These organizations serve more than 1 million clients annually in 35 states and employ more than 24,000 employees.
“It’s an honor for our program to receive recognition as a leader for inclusivity in the LGBTQ+ community,” stated Joelle Kelly, CASA Program Division Manager. “As a program, we understand that in order to advocate for LGBTQ+ youth, who face unique challenges in the child welfare system, we must be well trained with education and resources and provide a welcoming environment for all. We are working to shatter stereotypes with open hearts to all the children and families we serve.”
LGBTQ+ inclusion work in foster care systems is very 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 2021 Change-Makers report features three “Tiers of Recognition,” which celebrate the progress agencies have made toward becoming fully welcoming to their LGBTQ+ clients. The Snohomish County CASA Program earned the Building Foundation for Inclusion benchmark and is currently working towards completion of the next two tiers.
Some of the changes made by Snohomish County CASA include the following:
- Engage in training and resource opportunities to educate staff and volunteers on how to effectively advocate for LGBTQ+ youth
- Display signage in office spaces and online to affirm LGBTQ+ youth and the LGBTQ+ community
- Change the CASA volunteer application to allow individuals to share their gender identity and pronouns
- Update case management software to include gender identity and pronouns
- Require CASA volunteers to sign a statement of commitment acknowledging their dedication to upholding CASA’s policies and procedures, which includes an expansive and inclusive nondiscrimination policy
Alongside the Human Rights Campaign and local experts in the field, Snohomish County CASA has made available trainings and resources to educate and prepare staff and CASA volunteers to effectively support and advocate for LGBTQ+ youth who face unique challenges in the child welfare system.
In addition to ensuring effective advocacy to the LGBTQ+ youth in foster care, Snohomish County CASA is committed to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion throughout all aspects of the program, including staff and volunteers. Volunteers with diverse perspectives, backgrounds, identities, and life-experiences, including members of the LGBTQ+ community, are encouraged to apply to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate today.
Learn more about LGBTQ Terms and why pronouns are important. Alternatively, choose a video from this archive of related webinars from All Children-All Families. Everyone has a role to play as we continue to foster an inclusive environment where all voices are heard and everyone feels safe and valued.