Tag Archives: foster youth

A Way to Help Homeless LGBT Youth

By Maureen Rodgers

As homelessness continues to top the list of one of the nation’s biggest and most expensive  problems, many  seem  to  forget that for as many homeless adults that are on the streets, there are the faces of youth also looking for a place to call home. The thought of a homeless youth seems to confuse some people; “If they’re homeless, at least they are with their family,” or “There must be someplace they can go, some family member will take them in. Who would sit by and let a kid live on the streets? ”

The harsh reality is that many youth that are homeless are not choosing a life on the streets, but have been forced to leave their homes due to their families’ not being accepting of their lifestyle. One group that this rings true for is lgbt youth.

According to a study that appeared in Families in Society, one out of every five homeless youth (20 percent) is lgbt-identified. LGBT youth also suffer victimization on the streets at a rate much higher than non-lgbt-identified groups.

When youth up to age 21 can no longer remain in their homes due to their birth families’ being unable or unwilling to care for them, they are sometimes (depending on the circumstances) able to receive help from the state, by entering into the custody of the Department of Social Services (DSS) or Department of Juvenile Services (DJS), through placement in group homes, independent living programs and foster care. Youth who do not receive services from these agencies are often left to fend for themselves and vie for the few resources available to homeless youth.

One such program, the Transitional Living Program, a four bed semi-independent living apartment operated by Hearts & Homes for Youth and located in Prince George’s County, Maryland services homeless youth ages 16-21 from any jurisdiction in Maryland. The program is self-admitting, meaning that any homeless youth that do not have other resources in no way match the need; programs such as this one are in dire need of financial partners so services can be expanded.

“LGBT youth in care are searching for the trusting relationship with a caregiver that will allow them to fully express who  they are without the fear of rejection or ridicule.”

Homeless youth who do receive help from the state often face another difficult plight. Many of those adolescents identify as lgbt and just like any other youth in care, are looking for a safe and loving environment. But even more, lgbt youth in care are also searching for the trusting relationship with a caregiver that will allow them to fully express who they are without the fear of rejection or ridicule. This type of relationship is something that many youth in care did not receive from their birth families and the reason why some of the youth end up in care.

Determining an appropriate placement for a youth in care who identifies as lgbt is not always an easy task, nor one that is often done with the individual needs of the youth in the forefront. To be blunt, the amount of placements  that  are  available  to  youth  in care  are  sometimes  scarce,  so  attempting to secure a placement that meets all of the youth’s needs can be difficult.

Placement in a group home or independent living program can be difficult due to the fact that the youth will be placed in an environment with other youth from a variety of different backgrounds, and may not be accepting of the youth’s sexual orientation. If a youth is transgender, placement is even more difficult because a youth is placed according to their assigned gender and not the gender they identify with.

Another option for placement is foster care, which can sometimes work better for lgbt youth because there is a little bit more variety and flexibility in the types of homes and foster parents available. But the search for good foster parents is not always an easy one, especially in today’s economy.

My search for foster parents takes me many places: I advertise in local newspapers, visit neighborhood fairs and festivals, attend community meetings and post fliers. But my greatest source of referrals is people that are willing to take a greater interest in our nation’s greatest resource–our youth–and talk about the issue to everyone they know.

The kind older neighbors next door, the gay couple that you attend church with, or the single mother in your aerobics class are our foster parents; so is the quiet gentleman you ride the bus with, the retired nurse that you see from time to time when you visit your parents, and the mechanic to whom you bring your car. Our foster parents come from all walks of life and different experiences, but they all share one thing in common, they answered a call to service and changed the lives of one or more young people forever.

What I look for in foster parents are people who can handle the challenges of what can sometimes be a difficult situation, and grow from those challenges. To me, the difficult situation of a child in foster care and an lgbt adult are connected. Both groups are often stigmatized and misunderstood, and the opportunity to bring both groups together by a gay couple or single gay person becoming a foster parent to a child in need is an opportunity for both sides to provide the other party with something they may have been missing. For the foster parent, a child that they may have been wanting and have possibly been told time and time again was unattainable.

And for the foster child, there would be love and support in a safe environment where they can finally be themselves.

Maureen  Rodgers, MA is  the Assistant Program Manager  of the Damamli Young Mother and Family Ties Therapeutic Foster Care programs at Hearts and Homes for Youth.

This article was originally published in Baltimore OUTloud.

Words from a former foster youth

500_f_82751996_rcnh63sditfnt1pnp5cf5thxlhbrew5vThe following was shared with us by a young woman who was previously in our foster care program. She highlights the impact her foster mother and Hearts & Homes for Youth had on her healing and growth. 

I grew up living with my parents until age 9. At that time, my older sister stepped in and placed me in foster care due to the way my parents were living and their inability to take care of me. My sister wanted me to be in a better place. When I entered foster care, I was placed in a Baltimore City home where I was bullied, humiliated by the foster parents, and made to feel less than human. Luckily, I was removed from that foster home and was placed with Hearts and Homes for Youth at the age of 12.

I’m so grateful to have had Hearts & Homes come into my life because without them I wouldn’t have met some of the people I had. The biggest impact in my life was my foster mom, because she allowed me to be myself. She opened up not only her heart but her home as well. While I was there, I started healing from my past. She helped me cope with my parents’ death and allowed me to stay with her after I aged out of foster care when I turned 21. She is the reason I learned to become the woman I am and I couldn’t imagine life without her. I couldn’t have asked for a better mom.

Hearts & Homes worked with me through my ups and downs. They never treated me like part of the system; they always treated me as though I mattered and was not just a number. They helped me reach my goals and let me know that I can be anything and do anything I set my mind to.

I think foster parents should know that all we really need is attention and love, just like if we were your own child.

Every single person I’ve met at Hearts & Homes for Youth has taught me something, even through simple words of encouragement. They taught me that life is full of challenges and opportunities, and even as an adult you still need help.

I now work as a retail sales associate at a beauty supply store and I am also an author of my own books that will be published in the coming months. I got married and joined a church that my husband and I enjoy going too, and I have no regrets about my past. I learned forgiveness on my journey, perseverance, and more importantly, to never be afraid to ask questions. I’m not perfect but I enjoy the life God has given me. I know now how short life can be. I’m grateful for everything.

Foster parents can make an incredible difference in a young person’s life. Click here if you are you ready to accept the challenge and be the change.

A Holiday Party for Damamli/TFC!

20161204_154756Hearts & Homes for Youth recently hosted a holiday party for our young mothers, foster youth, and foster parents!

For the past few years we have hosted our annual holiday party in a private room at Dave & Busters. Our youth look forward to the party because the food is great, the atmosphere is lively, and they get power cards for the arcade section!

9970This year we had games for the adults while the youth played arcade games, but before we knew it the young people were in the room playing with us! They enjoyed the friendly competition for prizes. The event was a great opportunity to build bonds that will last a life time, adding to the holiday cheer.

The holiday season is often difficult for many of the youth in our care, but our staff, foster parents, and donors put all their effort toward making this event a special opportunity for our young people to have fun, be kids, and create new memories!

 

BB&T Hunt Valley hosts picnic for foster youth and families

IMG_0082BB&T Hunt Valley partnered with Hearts & Homes for Youth’s Damamli/Therapeutic Foster Care Program to host a picnic at Gwynn Oak Park for the foster youth and their families.

Volunteers from BB&T Hunt Valley branch reserved the park, decorated the pavilion, and cooked a fantastic BBQ lunch! They played games with youth on the field. The atmosphere was fun and lively! The kids, young mothers, foster parents, and staff had a great time.

“We are so grateful to BB&T Hunt Valley branch for choosing Hearts & Homes for Youth for their Lighthouse Project,” said Jessica McKinnie, Foster Care Program Administrator. “We can’t thank BB&T Hunt Valley enough for putting on this special opportunity for the youth to create great, new memories.”

History of Gwynn Oak Park

Gwynn Oak Park was once a popular amusement park in western Baltimore County until it closed in 1972 after extensive damaged caused by Hurricane Agnes. Gwynn Oak Park is a special landmark of the civil rights movement. On July 4, 1963, a number of people held a protest demanding desegregation of the park. The protest was successful and on August 28, 1963 the park officially desegregated.

Pictures from the picnic

Opportunities to get engaged with Hearts & Homes!

Are you interested in getting involved with Hearts & Homes for Youth and supporting our services? We have listed below a variety of ways you can engage with us! We look forward to hearing from you!

Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to make a positive difference in your community. Hearts & Homes for Youth is looking for volunteers to help us with landscaping, painting, house renovations, and other needs at our facilities. We are also grateful for individuals who donate their time, skills, and services to the children at activities for our youth such as the Princess Party! We welcome individuals to volunteer as mentors but require a commitment, a background check, and a security clearance.

Sponsor an Event

Hearts & Homes for Youth is looking for sponsors for our annual HONORS gala in October and golf tournament in May. The success of our events is a result of the contributions of our sponsors! At every event, the money we raise goes directly to the programs that serve the children in our care. As a sponsor, your organization will receive exposure from media campaigns and event promotions. You will also have exposure at the event.

Host an Event

Become a volunteer event organizer by hosting a fundraising or awareness raising event to benefit Hearts & Homes for Youth! Events are opportunities to raise awareness of our mission and bring the community together to support the children and teens of Maryland who we serve.

Examples of events include dinners, brunches, parties, foster parent information nights, and so much more!

Fundraise

Support Hearts & Homes for Youth by holding a fundraiser! Fundraisers are fun opportunities to support our mission by fundraising as a company, individual, or group on behalf of Hearts & Homes. As a company, you can donate a percentage of sales, start a workplace giving & matching campaign, or hold creative events to raise money such as office dress down days and softball tournaments! As an individual, group, or school, you can raise money on behalf of Hearts & Homes with a fundraiser or sale, by creating a fundraising page online, or auctioning an item.

Support Our Foster Parent Recruitment

Hearts & Homes for Youth is looking for individuals and families who are willing to offer the gifts of love and sacrifice to youth in need by opening their hearts and homes to a foster child. Foster Parents Receive intensive training, 24 hour support, and the opportunity to provide a teen mom or adolescent youth with love, nurturing, guidance and the chance to heal from past hurts. You can support our campaign by hosting an event, referring friends who are interested in fostering, and helping spread the word about our program.

  • If you are interested in being a foster parent or helping us recruit foster parents, please contact Maureen Rodgers and mrodgers@heartsandhomes.org

Host a Youth for a Day

Invite a young person to your place of work, to shadow you and learn more about your business. Show them how to conduct operations in your place of work and develop their vocational skills.

Donate

Hearts & Homes for Youth is grateful for your support and appreciates your donations! We greatly appreciate in In-kind donations such as office and school supplies, household items, recreational equipment, and clothes (socks, sweatpants, winter coats, underwear, t-shirts, etc.) You can also make a tax-deductible donation to support our programs, by mail or online.

We will be sharing our kids’ Christmas wish lists soon! This is a great way to give back at a very special time!  More details will be coming soon!