Prince George’s County Department of Social Services, HRC Join Record Number of Partners Working on LGBTQ+ Inclusivity
Landover, MD – Prince George’s County Department of Social Services is proud to be one of 172 child welfare organizations joining the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s All Children - All Families (ACAF) program in 2023, as highlighted in a new report. Together, these organizations work to improve the services provided to the LGBTQ+ community, including children in foster care and prospective foster and adoptive parents who are LGBTQ+. This year alone, this multi-organization partnership assessed 9,500+ policies and practices within child welfare organizations to ensure they meet ACAF best practices criteria — approximately 6,000 more than were assessed when this report was first released in 2019. This allowed for over 1.4 million children, youth, and families across 43 states to benefit from these LGBTQ+ inclusive policies and affirming practices.
“Providing children and families with the most inclusive environment in which to grow should always be the number one priority,” said Phii Regis, Director of HRC’s All Children - All Families Program. “We are grateful for Prince George’s County Department of Social Services’ work as part of this partnership — together, we can win the fight for equality and build safe and loving communities at the same time.”
“The Prince George’s County Department of Social Services has been a steadfast advocate for the diverse needs of our youth for years. We are proud of our efforts to ensure all children receive the programs and services that promote their stability, safety, and wellbeing,” said Director Gloria Brown Burnett.
“Our Child, Adult, & Family Services Divison is recognized at the highest tier of recognition for our Innovative Inclusion in 7 key policy and practice areas. (There are only SIX (6) public child welfare agencies at this tier, nationwide!) Additionally, we are recognized as a Top LGBTQ+ Inclusive Adoption and Foster Care Agency for our matching and placement services and inclusive policies and practices when it comes to engagement, recruitment, and best practice with LGBTQ+ families and community”, adds Lauren Wethers-Coggins the agency’s AFFIRM Program Coordinator.
This report comes at a time when LGBTQ+ people, particularly LGBTQ+ youth, are under threat. Laws and policies protecting LGBTQ youth in foster care from discrimination are a patchwork from state to state. Only 13 states and the District of Columbia have explicit laws or policies in place to protect foster youth from discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. Seven additional states explicitly protect foster youth from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but not gender identity. Approximately 1 in 3 youth in foster care are LGBTQ+, and laws that attack them on the basis of sexuality and gender put an already vulnerable community at risk. When they aren’t allowed in homes that support them, LGBTQ+ youth face higher rates of abuse and mistreatment than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. Data shows that 44% of LGBTQ+ youth in state custody were removed, ran away, or thrown out of their home for reasons directly related to their identity.
At the same time, there are an overwhelming number of LGBTQ+ families who have at least considered adopting or fostering a child in the future, but 55% of them feared being turned away because of their identity, and only 14% knew of an LGBTQ+-inclusive agency near them. One couple was quoted in the report as having been rejected from two child welfare agencies based on their identity before finally being accepted to foster with an ACAF partner agency: “[I] got rejected twice from two different agencies and I didn’t see how going to another agency was going to make any difference. One day I was just browsing online and I found a foster care licensing agency and they [had] the LGBT flag so I called them and I found that, yeah, they’re inclusive to everybody. It’s kind of like it was meant to be.”
With the work of ACAF, A record-breaking 10,650+ professionals were trained in how to make their agencies as inclusive of LGBTQ+ families and youth as possible. Additionally, all partner organizations that earned a Tier of Recognition with the program, such as Prince George’s County Department of Social Services, now include “sexual orientation,” “gender identity” and “gender expression” in their client non-discrimination policy, and communicate this policy to staff and clients. They also documented client forms featuring gender-neutral language, such as “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” rather than “Mother” and “Father,” and they display visual cues throughout common areas to communicate support and inclusion of LGBTQ+ clients and their families.
The Prince George’s County Department of Social Services is in the business of providing opportunities for ALL residents of the County to become independent, responsible and stable members of the community. We do this by providing intervention services that strengthen families, protect children and vulnerable adults, encourage self-sufficiency and promote personal responsibility. Its AFFIRM unit gives LGBTQIA+ youth and their caregivers the opportunity to learn skills in support and celebration of their identities.