DCF calls on LGBTQ+ families to foster amid shortage

Families in the LGBTQ+ community are being called upon to help during a shortage of foster homes in Vermont.
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 11:24 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 2, 2022 at 5:22 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont Department for Children and Families says they are facing a shortage of foster homes. Now, they’re partnering with the Pride Center of Vermont and RaiseAChild, hoping to bring in more members of the LGBTQ+ community and others.

“We need all types of foster homes, both short term -- which might look like respite and emergency placements to our 100 waiting children for permanent homes,” said Carrie Deem, DCF’s foster kin care manager.

She says they also need all types of people, including the LGBTQ+ community, involved in the foster system so children can get the connection and support they need in times of uncertainty.

“The LGBTQ+ community, they come with rich experiences and have often overcome struggles and have learned to advocate for themselves,” Deem continued. “All individuals that have lived experiences are often able to put themselves into other people’s shoes.”

Rich Valenza, director of RaiseAChild, says their role in this partnership with Vermont DCF will not just recruit, but retain foster families. “We’re there as a friend, as a mentor, all the way through the process,” Valenza said.

Valenza says that process is more complicated for members of the LGBTQ+ community, although they are six times more likely to adopt.

In Vermont, there are no barriers to fostering or adoption, but he says in states like Texas and Missouri, laws allow individual child welfare agencies to discriminate. RaiseAChild will not work with any private or government agency that discriminates for any reason.

“It’s a whole resource out there, who is really not sure if they are able to foster or adopt,” Valenza said.

Deem says in Vermont, everyone is welcome to create a safe home for children, despite religion, sexual or gender identity, and race. She says people spend an average of three years considering whether to become foster families.

“We encourage everyone to pick up the phone or send us an email and let’s have some of those conversations,” Deem said.

Nobody from the Pride Center of Vermont was available to speak with us Wednesday. In a statement, executive director Mike Bensel said: “This is an incredible opportunity to engage the LGBTQ community and others in becoming interested in foster parenting. There is also a great need to find supportive and affirming foster homes for youth who identify as LGBTQ+, who are overrepresented in foster care and often suffer compounded trauma when they age out of the foster system, increasing propensity for negative life outcomes.”

To learn more about becoming a foster parent, contact Vermont DCF.

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