Since 2022, CASA of the River Region has participated in All Children-All Families, an initative of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation to better serve youth who identify as LGBTQ+. The program was the second program in Kentucky and the first CASA program in the state, joined by CASA of Lexington, to receive accreditation from All Children-All Families. CASA of the River Region received the Innovative Tier, the highest recognition possible.
CASA of the River Region continued its accreditation for 2023-2024, and was spotlighted in the 2023 Change-Makers Report with five other agencies for its innovative practices and focus on inclusion. President & CEO William Myers stated: "we fundamentally believe that every child should receive love and attention. There are no qualifiers or barriers to this care. We are proud to participate in All Children-All Families to let all children we serve know that we want what is best for them."
These sentiments were echoed by Phii Regis, Director of HRC's All Children-All Families Program. Regis stated: "Providing children and families with the most inclusive environment in which to grow should always be the number one priority. We are grateful for CASA of the River Region's work as part of this partnership — together, we can win the fight for equality and build safe and loving communities at the same time.”
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 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 on the basis of 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.”
To view the report, visit https://hrc-prod-requests.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/ACAF-2023-Report-Final-V5-JS.pdf. To learn more about CASA of the River Region, visit www.casariverregion.org. To learn more about the All Children-All Families program, please visit https://www.thehrcfoundation.org/about/all-children-all-families.