FOSTERING COMMUNITY BLOG
According to a 2019 study, 30% of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ+ and 5% as Transgender. (Compared to youth not in foster care, at 11% and 1% respectively.)
Young people in the LGBTQ+ community are overrepresented in foster care and are also more likely to experience discrimination, abuse, neglect, and the risk of harm. Many LGBTQ+ youth run away from home or are rejected from their families of origin upon learning that they identify as LGBTQ+, and some face this within their foster families as well. Houston Angels supports the push for awareness and advocacy for LGBTQ+ youth while striving to help foster families acknowledge, respect, and support their LGBTQ+ youth to protect their well-being. All children and youth deserve a nurturing home where they feel safe to be themselves.
Houston Angels is proud to support #PrideMonth as we have many children, youth, caregivers, volunteers, and staff members who are a part of this community. We are committed to continuing to provide a space where our LGBTQ+ community is not only accepted but celebrated for all that they bring to the world by being uniquely themselves!
❤️We believe... Everyone deserves and can benefit from deep, meaningful relationships.
🧡We believe... Every child, youth, and family experiencing foster care deserves to be fully seen, heard, and supported by healthy, affirming, and lasting relationships.
💛We believe... Every single one of us has a role to play in changing the way children, youth, and families experience foster care, and that it will take a diverse community with varying backgrounds, experiences, and identities to do this.
💚We believe... In elevating the voices of those who are experiencing foster care and using their lived experiences to guide what it means to provide intentional support.
Helpful tips for foster families, mentors, volunteers, or any other community members who are supporting an LGBTQ+ youth in foster care:
Searching for more information on the LGBTQ+ community and how you can help? See below for more information:
Hana is excited to intern with the Houston Angels because she is passionate about helping families and children in the foster care system and wants to learn more about the work of non-profit organizations.
She wanted to intern with Houston Angels because she believes they are doing a phenomenal job bringing awareness to those that are a part of the foster care system. She wants to be able to give back and help others just as she was able to be helped.
Juneteenth is the national celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, the Union soldiers landed here in Houston's own Galveston, TX with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was already two and a half years AFTER President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and slavery had ended.
This day of shock and realization of freedom, turned into an annual day of rejoicing, reflection and prayer. In the early years, June 19th - referred to as "Juneteenth" - was mostly celebrated by the black community. There was often resistance to these celebrations, so they had to take place in rural areas or on church grounds. But as more black people started to become land owners, land was donated and dedicated for the festivities.
Over the years, Juneteenth celebrations and acknowledgment started to decline. But today, more and more organizations, businesses and communities are finally starting to recognize and celebrate Juneteenth. It is an important time for our country to acknowledge American history, educate ourselves and others, promote black culture and achievement, and strive for continued improvement.
Although this historic achievement happened so long ago, we know there is still so much work to be done in the continuous battle against racism and inequality, even to this day. Fortunately, Juneteenth National Independence Day became a national holiday and will be the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
Houston Angels honors Juneteenth and its history. Houston is the most diverse city in the nation, and foster care itself is an incredibly diverse system of children, caregivers, and biological families of all different races and cultures. Unfortunately, not all people are represented or treated equally.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures states: "Families of color are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system and are more likely to experience negative outcomes compared to white families. For instance, children of color are more likely to experience multiple placements, less likely to be reunited with their birth families, more likely to experience group care, less likely to establish a permanent placement and more likely to experience poor social, behavioral and educational outcomes." The American Bar Association named the following as contributing factors:
Houston Angels will always strive to educate ourselves and celebrate diversity and inclusion in our city, as well as within our own services. We will continue to advocate for and provide quality, tailored support to the families, children, and youth that we feel lucky to serve. And we will always fight to empower this community to succeed.
We love having interns join our team every semester. Last but not least, meet Kendall!⠀
Kendall is a Dallas native that graduated from @tamu Texas with a Bachelor’s Degree in kinesiology and a minor in psychology.
Through college, she was involved in many service organizations, and served as a community outreach chair for an organization that serves children who are terminally ill. She was then chosen to serve the people and children of Lima, Peru, where her group was able to serve 3,500 citizens and their children with health care. After this opportunity, she knew she wanted her career to be serving people.
She graduated and began working in the healthcare field, but after a couple of years, she decided to pursue a nonprofit career. She is currently getting her Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management.
Kendall is excited to be interning with Houston Angels this semester. She has had it in her heart for a long time that she knew she wanted to adopt or foster a child one day, so when she heard about Houston Angels, she knew she wanted to be a part of it. She wants to learn more about how to serve the community and children of Houston better while being able to learn all the aspects of what it takes to make a nonprofit work.
When she's not working or going to school, she likes to read, be outdoors, or do something active with her sweet 1 year old lab, Josey.
Loves: she is the biggest Texas A&M football fan
Dislikes: bugs, sunburns, when the Aggies lose!
We're so excited to have several interns join our team this semester, to help move this mission forward while also learning all the things about nonprofit work and foster care. ⠀
AIexis is a native Houstonian. She is married with no children, but a dog mom to a very spoiled pup! Alexis is currently getting her Masters of Social Work at Our Lady of the Lake University, and is in her last term before graduation. She has a Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in English as a Second Language from the University of Texas at San Antonio.⠀
Alexis also works for Harris County with Adult Services as a Legal Guardian for people who are deemed incapacitated either through mental illness, physical disability, or both. She LOVES what she does! If and when she gets any free time between work and school, she enjoys church, reading, spending time with family and friends, exercising, taking her dog on walks, and binging Netflix.⠀
Alexis wanted to intern for Houston Angels because of the work we do to assist foster families and youth. With being blessed with her gift to serve others, she has always wanted to be a foster parent. She feels as though she has a lot to offer a child in need and when this internship opportunity presented itself, she leaped towards it. She is very excited to be apart of this organization and to gain the hands-on experience working in the foster care system and with children and families.⠀
Loves: spending time reading devotionals, watching documentaries, learning new things, and trying new experiences.⠀
Dislikes: any and all bugs, cats, and people who are dishonest.
Emilly grew up in Houston, and both of her parents are from Mexico. She is currently in high school and also attends Houston Community College as an early college student. She plans to graduate with an Associates of Arts next year, and then move on to major in neuroscience. During her free time, she tutors children virtually, write articles as part of Redefy’s journalism team, and exercises outdoors.
Although she is going into the STEM field, Emilly has always been passionate about the humanities and has connected it with her studies as much as possible. She wanted to intern for Houston Angels because she has always considered herself an advocate for children. She has witnessed the injustice and situations out of their control, and it’s been something that has infuriated her since she was young. Over time, she turned her anger into drive and passion to provide as many resources as she can to others.
Interning with Houston Angels will allow her to contribute to the long-term goal of helping those in the foster care system receive more support from society, while also supporting them herself.
Loves: reading, family time, listening to rock, cinnamon rolls
Dislikes: mosquitoes, math
January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month. It is a harsh reality that foster care is connected with so many other social issues of today - one of which is human trafficking. Reports show that as many as 2/3 of trafficking victims here in the US have a history in the child welfare system.
This is a hard topic and the details are difficult to read about. But it's impossible to talk about the prevention of human trafficking without acknowledging our society's most vulnerable children - and it's impossible to talk about making a difference for foster care, without acknowledging one of the gravest threats to these kids' safety and well being.
Human trafficking is a market-driven, global industry that generates hundreds of billions of dollars in profits. It is a form of modern-day slavery when someone is exploited through force, fraud or coercion for the economic gain of another, in the form of:
Not all those who are trafficked are physically forced - in fact, most human trafficking occurs through psychological coercion, tricking, manipulation, or threats. This criminal industry affects every type of community across the country and is present amongst various ages, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds; however, according to the Polaris Project, roughly two-thirds of reported survivors in 2018 were women and girls.
According to the nonprofit organization Children at Risk, Texas is a leading hub for human trafficking, which spans across all of our major cities and even exists in some of the wealthiest neighborhoods.
If we want to support the end of human trafficking, we MUST support children in foster care. Two of the top five reasons for human trafficking are due to 1) unstable housing and 2) runaway or homeless youth - both of which are common circumstances for youth in foster care. Traffickers will seek out and groom those who are most vulnerable. And because children in foster care often lack consistent support and a watchful eye, they can fall prey to tricks and manipulations by predators.
Voices for Children explains, "The trafficker will play on the vulnerability exposed by their victim to gain power and ensure loyalty. According to the Department of Justice, most often, victims fall prey to traffickers who lure them in with an offer of attention, food, clothes, a safe place to sleep, friendship, and love. During the process known as grooming, the trafficker’s goal will be to gain the victim’s trust, provide for the victim’s needs, and isolate them. The grooming process can be lengthy, as it involves earning the victim’s trust. Many foster children have experienced a lack of trusted caring adults in their life; however, pimps are willing to put in the work, as the child will serve as a financial payout for them in the future. Once the trafficker feels they have successfully made the victim dependent on them, they will manipulate or directly force the victim into prostitution. They will often use violence to retain control. With the rapid growth of digital technology, traffickers now heavily rely on social media to recruit and start the grooming process."
At Houston Angels, we know that young people who have grown up in the foster care system have received less financial, emotional, and social support than their peers, are less prepared for life after foster care, and are more likely to fall victim to life-threatening situations such as human trafficking, homelessness, incarceration or suicide. This is why our Dare to Dream Program was created to help local youth in foster care navigate life's challenges and provide them with one more healthy adult to call. Our volunteer mentors provide wisdom, advice, encouragement, and community that help empower and guide our youth towards a healthy, happy and thriving adulthood. We tell mentors that the simple act of telling their youth “I believe in you,” or answering the phone when times get hard, can change their path completely - and hopefully avoid these statistics that plague our system.
Our children deserve better than this.
Click on any of the links below to learn more about the human trafficking crisis:
For many, the holidays are a special time filled with decorating, celebrating, giving and receiving - and maybe eating WAY too many treats along the way. We associate this season with warm memories, family traditions, and extra quality time.⠀
But for many children who have been separated from their families and are in foster care, this time of year can feel particularly lonely and call attention to their current lack of normalcy. The holiday season may remind them of their biological family's traditions, outings, home, and special gifts. It could make them long for quality time spent with their biological family.⠀
And for other kids in care, their memories of the holidays have never been particularly fond. Maybe they didn't typically receive gifts or attention. Maybe the holiday season reminds them of something traumatic that happened, which stirs up feelings of anxiety and makes them feel unsafe.
Laura, foster mom in Houston (*names have been changed for privacy) told us, “I could see Sarah's face as we decorated the tree with lots of memories from the time I’ve had Amanda (foster sibling), but nothing of hers. So I’ve tried to make it special for her since it’s her first Christmas home… I got the kids stockings, and Sarah a few of her own ornaments to give their special place. I think not having any real traditions, and all of the mixed emotions, is just a lot for these kids to process.”
This time of year can become more difficult for caregivers as well. Parents are navigating the busy holidays, changes in family schedules, events for school, work and family. Adding in the additional responsibilities that come with fostering, such as case worker visits, meetups with the biological family, court dates, and other mandatory appointments - this time can become increasingly overwhelming.
In addition to physical demands, caregivers may have to navigate increases in their child’s challenging behaviors and emotional stress brought about by this time of year, while also sorting through their own emotions. Foster mom, Savannah, says she would struggle with thoughts of, “What if this is my only Christmas with them?” and “What must their [biological] families be feeling right now?"
Raising a child takes a village, especially when the child comes from a hard place. Not everyone is called to foster or adopt a child, but there are so many ways to support the people who do - and that's what we're here for.
November is National Adoption Month - a time to spread awareness about the adoption process, share the stories of those who have been adopted or have adopted, and advocate for more than 100,000 children and youth in foster care across the country who are still waiting to be. Read on for some important points about foster care and adoption:
Read on to learn about one Houston family's story of adoption through foster care:
"My husband and I have been foster parents for four years and we will adopt our fourth child on national adoption day this month. We met and married at a young age and were introduced to the need for foster homes through a camp that we volunteered at for kids who had been through trauma, a lot of whom were in foster care. We heard the stories of the kinds of impact foster families had in their lives and we just couldn’t unhear what we had heard. On a deep level we know that God calls His church to care for the orphaned and to defend the fatherless. On a practical level, we wanted to be parents and there were kids who needed parents. We had empty bedrooms and there were kids who needed a place to stay. So we were licensed on my 21st birthday and immediately placed with three siblings. We had the privilege of knowing and loving them for five months and then they returned to live with family. Over that following summer we added four other children into our home. Two infants and two toddlers. All of their cases were different and the goals changed between reunification and adoption many times over the next couple of years for each of them. Fast forward to today and we have adopted three of those children and will be adopting the fourth later this month.
"Describing the intense joy and heartbreak of adoption is hard. If I am honest, I went into foster care with the intent of rescuing poor children from terrible places and adopting them into my wonderful family to live happily ever after.
I can think specifically of our youngest who we got from the hospital at a week old. When they put that baby boy into my arms all I wanted to do was fight with everything I had to be able to keep him. The Lord truly has done a work in my heart over these years to see more clearly. The goal in foster care is first reunification, if safe and if possible. See, that once tiny baby I had begged the Lord to let stay is now my forever son. While my heart bursts with joy that he shares my last name, part of me weeps for what had to be broken to make this happen. His first mama didn't leave the hospital with the baby she had carried for 9 months, she didn't get to cheer as he learned to crawl, she didn't hear his first words, nor see his first steps. She hasn't been able to know the incredible little human he is. My heart breaks for her and all the while is filled with immeasurable joy for the future I get with him. Reconciling these things is absolutely the hardest, most painful, broken, and yet beautiful thing I will ever go through.
"For two of our kids, we have been able to keep an open adoption with their birth family. The relationship we have with them is truly a gift I will always be thankful for. We keep in contact with the other two families in different ways that we feel is the safest for our family. Some children adopted from foster care won’t maintain any contact with their birth family. Each child and situation is different. Adopting through foster care is messy. Foster care will take you on a roller coaster of emotions. There will be seasons where you are cheering on bio families and walking along side them to help get their babies back into their arms. Then other seasons where you are going before a judge stating that you believe permanency in your home and family is in that child's best interest. There will be adoptions that happen less then a year after being placed with the child, while other times the future might still look very unknown even after years of being their foster parent.
"There are currently over 400,000 children in foster care in the US right now. More than 100,000 who are legally free and are just waiting to be adopted. It is easy to look at that number and merely see a statistic, but the four kids that I just tucked into bed were once a part of that number. It is when we hear their stories and see their faces and know them by name, that it becomes more than numbers and statistics. They are His image bearers and it is a privilege to raise them as sons and daughters. To see beauty rise from ashes and mourning turned into great joy."
- Savannah, foster and adoptive mom in Houston, TX
(Photography by www.emmaleedeville.com/photography)
Last month, Houston Angels was invited to speak at a virtual continuing education workshop hosted by the Children's Assessment Center. The Children's Assessment Center works to prevent, assess, investigate, and treat child sexual abuse in Houston. During the workshop, our Director of Programs, Hannah, explained how their multidisciplinary team members can access the services that Houston Angels provides to vulnerable children and families in Houston.
"We all want to believe that our children are safe and that we can protect them from harm, but child sexual abuse is real, and recovery begins with the truth." - Children's assessment center
When it comes to child sexual abuse:
Sexual abuse is one of several reasons that a child could be removed from his or her home and placed into foster care. And the risk doesn't end there - unfortunately, children in foster care are still vulnerable to further abuse. According to the CAC, children living without either parent (in foster care) are 10x more likely to be sexually abused than children that live with two biological parents.
But it doesn't have to be this way - and we're grateful to work alongside so many incredible local organizations, like the CAC, that care for our community's most vulnerable.
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PO Box 420966
Houston, TX 77242