Leading the Way for LGBTQ+ Inclusion Efforts in Texas

Texas CASA is proud to be featured in 2021 Change-Makers, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s third annual report highlighting 119 child welfare agencies across the country who are working with the Foundation’s All Children – All Families (ACAF) program to improve the services they provide to the LGBTQ+ community.

We’re honored to be one of four ACAF participants specifically highlighted in the report, alongside Vista Del Mar in California, Extraordinary Families in California and 360 Youth Services in Illinois. The report also features interviews with individuals who have been impacted by LGBTQ+-inclusive services, including: Manuel Padilla, a foster parent in Colorado; and Victoria, a former youth in care and now a trainer at Lawrence Hall in Illinois.

Studies have shown that LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in foster care, report higher rates of mistreatment while in care, report more frequent placement disruptions and report a higher likelihood of being placed in congregate care settings. Texas CASA believes that all children deserve safety and acceptance, and partnering with ACAF to improve our LGBTQ+ competency is a core part of that commitment.

“Our vision statement at Texas CASA is a safe positive future for all Texas children and families and for us, all means all,” said Emma Ledford, Communications Specialist, who spearheads Texas CASA’s ACAF efforts.

Texas CASA and the other agencies featured in this report conducted an internal self-assessment, provided professional development to staff and implemented ACAF’s “Benchmarks of LGBTQ Inclusion,” which track policy and practice changes within agencies. Texas CASA is excited to see that two other CASA programs in Texas have joined ACAF—CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County and Dallas CASA—as well as one Community-Based Care contractor, ACH Child and Family Services.

The 2021 Change-Makers report features three “Tiers of Recognition,” which celebrate the progress agencies have made toward becoming fully welcoming to their LGBTQ+ clients.

  • Innovative Inclusion: 44 organizations met all 25 applicable criteria and are going beyond to innovate their services for LGBTQ+ youth and families
  • Solid Foundation for Inclusion: 40 organizations met all 25 applicable policy and practice criteria for LGBTQ+ inclusion
  • Building Foundation for Inclusion: 25 organizations met foundational criteria, including non-discrimination protections

Knowing the difference a dedicated and understanding advocate can make for children, we hope to see more and more Texas organizations get involved with ACAF.

“If you [a child in foster care] have a CASA volunteer who is specifically appointed to advocate for you, who has a similar experience to you, and who you can open up to, that can make all the difference,” Ledford said.