Saturday, April 6, 2013

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Friday, August 10, 2012

We are Queer Youth Space

Press Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Quinn Anex-Ries Queer Youth Space QUEER YOUTH SPACE OPEN HOUSE Seattle, WA, July 30th, 2012 — The federally recognized non-profit THREEWINGS has signed a lease for a 1750 square-foot physical space on the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. The space, located at 911 E Pike Street #208, will soon become a community center for queer young people. The operations for the THREEWINGS’ three-pronged vision is: cultural arts and activism, health and wellness, and research, education and employment for queer youth. The youth-led center will be home to numerous events for young queer people and serve as a catalyst for change in Seattle and beyond. Through their We Need Queer Youth Space campaign, THREEWINGS has striven for the past two years to create and sustain temporary spaces, workshops and other diverse programming for the queer young people of Seattle, with the ultimate aim of establishing a permanent physical space in order to serve the community more extensively. On August 3rd from 7 to 9 PM, THREEWINGS will host an open house that will showcase for the first time the space that will become the cultural arts center. Young people, adult allies and members of the press are strongly encouraged to attend. The acquisition of this space is a major milestone in THREEWINGS’ history, and is the product of over two years of work that the organization has sustained in pursuit of a permanent home for queer young people. The group was committed to having a space that was fully accessible, despite the availability of spaces and costs that were more lenient. Commenting on the difficulty that the organization has faced in acquiring the space, THREEWINGS board member Emma Petersky explained that “many of the potential spaces were limited by the Americans with Disabilities Act; the accessibility standards often did not comply with the older buildings in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.” Pleased with the accessibility of the new space, Emma explained that “the Pike and Broadway space has a large elevator and plenty of room for people of all abilities to build a community together.” The We Need Queer Youth Space campaign began in February of 2010 following the Queer Youth Mutiny, a public forum where young queer people from the greater Seattle area identified two central needs: (1) community organizing that is youth-positive and youth-led, and (2) a cultural gathering space created by – and for – queer youth. Since the spring of 2011, the THREEWINGS board of directors has been entirely led by young people from the greater Seattle area. Now, in the summer of 2012, THREEWINGS will open a cultural gathering space in Seattle that will forever change the city’s expectations of what young people can accomplish.


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Monday, August 1, 2011

Creating a safe place: Supporting LGBT youth in foster care

by Bryan Samuels - Special to the SGN

Darryn entered the foster care system as an abused and frightened child. By the time he was 16, he was struggling with new fears and painful misconceptions about his sexual orientation. Fortunately, his foster mother treated him with unconditional love, creating an environment in which he could heal and feel free to explore his identity. The sense of self that his foster mother nurtured in him through her warmth and respect helped him emerge a strong, confident adult.

Darryn's experience shows how a foster family can change a life. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning youth must deal with a myriad of issues common to all adolescents, but their journey is often more difficult. We know that LGBTQ youth encounter a disproportionate amount of cruelty simply because of who they are. For youth in foster care, too often the system has been unable to respond to their needs for community, kindness, sanctuary, and services that are specifically designed for them.

That's why the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families is urging child welfare programs in every state to train their caseworkers and tailor their practices so that they are maximally responsive to the unique challenges of every child - including LGBTQ youth. Our intent is to ensure that every single young person has the opportunity to lead a healthy, productive life with the support of loving, respectful caregivers.

This past spring, the Administration for Children and Families wrote to state social service providers to remind them of the challenges these young people face. We outlined a series of supports that the federal government can provide to systems that serve foster children across the country, such as help with training caseworkers to better serve LGBTQ youth, recruiting and orienting foster and adoptive parents, addressing unique safety issues, and encouraging LGBT parents to adopt. And of course, we are also urging states to diligently pursue all forms of permanent placements, including reunification with biological parents and families, as long as these are in the best interest of the child.

A recent study that followed a group of young people as they moved from foster care into adulthood found that as many as one in 10 males and almost one in four females identified their sexual orientation as other than 100% heterosexual. More often than not, these young people have experienced discrimination, bullying, scorn, and ostracism and have remained in foster care longer than their straight peers. They are also at higher risk of suicide, homelessness, and sexual exploitation on the streets.

LGBT youth need our protection and they deserve our help. The practices we are encouraging states to adopt are designed to provide that.

Overall, we are at a point of progress in the child welfare system. During the last several years, states have consistently been able to reduce the number of children in foster care, finding permanent homes for many of them faster than ever before. This allows us to push the system forward to address the needs of children and youth for whom we struggle to find permanent families and homes.

Our focus on LGBTQ youth is part of a larger mission to craft strategies that respond to the needs of children in foster care. With a grant of almost $10 million, several child welfare systems are taking the lead, pioneering approaches that we hope will be suitable for replication across the country. Kansas is testing an innovative program with severely emotionally disturbed children; California and Arizona are both striving to speed up the placement of African American and Native American children into permanent homes; Nevada's Washoe County is targeting children with immediate safety risk; Illinois is targeting children exposed to serious trauma. The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center is working with L.A. County to develop a model program to protect the health and well-being of LGBTQ foster youth and to eliminate the barriers that keep them from settling into permanent homes.

The child welfare system is moving forward in recognizing the specific needs of LGBTQ youth. As social service providers and as leaders who care about America's future, we cannot afford to waste precious young lives. Instead, we look forward to a time when the success stories will outnumber the sad ones, when more youth have stories like Darryn's to tell.

That's the outcome we want for all of our young people.

Bryan Samuels is the commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ACYF administers funding for a broad range of programs that serve vulnerable children and youth, including foster care, adoption, and shelters and outreach for runaway and homeless youth.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound serves all members of our community. We have developed several programs and special initiatives to ensure that we are reaching out to everybody in our diverse service area.

LGBTQ Initiative
We proudly welcome members of LGBTQ communities to become volunteer mentors, sharing their time and experiences with children and youth in our community. We also reach out to LGBTQ families and LGBTQ children and youth to let them know that caring adult mentors are available for any child who needs or wants one.