Chosen Affirming Family Program

The Chosen Affirming Family program supports the diverse needs of LGBTQ+ youth who experience foster care. Kinnect partners with Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services (DCFS) to educate, support, and repair family relationships among biological families of youth involved with DCFS. When needed, Kinnect and DCFS also work to identify supportive and affirming forever families for LGBTQ+ youth.

Why Chosen Affirming Family?

Children and youth with diverse SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression) have been found to be at greater risk than their heterosexual peers for:

  • Physical and Emotional Abuse
  • Drug Use
  • Suicide Attempts
  • Mental Health Concerns
  • Homelessness
  • Interpersonal and/or Community Violence
  • Bullying and/or Harassment
  • Academic Challenges and/or Increased School Sanctions
  • Various Forms of Discrimination

Youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are over-represented in the foster care system. Almost 19% of youth who experience foster care identify as LGBTQ+, compared to 3-8% of youth in the U.S. population. (The 19% includes 13% who identify as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual, and 5.6% who identify as Transgender). In addition, 11.1% of youth who experience foster care identify as Gender Expansive/Gender Fluid.

Children often enter care when they begin to explore and express diverse SOGIE, due to rejection from their biological families. LGBTQ+ youth in foster care are more likely (than non-LGBTQ+ youth in care) to experience homelessness, rejection, physical and verbal abuse, and compounding trauma during their time in foster care.

LGBTQ+ youth who have experienced abuse, neglect, and/or rejection need committed, affirming relationships to achieve positive lifelong outcomes. Long-term foster care is not a solution for children who have been rejected and/or removed from their biological families. Emancipating youth from care without permanent connections leaves them with higher rates of depression, suicide, illegal drug use, and high rates of STI’s and HIV. This program keeps children safely in their families of origin, helping return them home when possible or develop alternative permanency arrangements with other affirming parents/caregivers.

Program Goals

  • Increase acceptance and decrease rejection of youth’s unique SOGIE
  • Support youth to increase their overall physical and emotional health and well being
  • Increase family & caregiver use of LGBTQ+ resources and supports
  • Develop a network of emotional supports for the youth that are accepting and affirming
  • Provide LGBTQ+ youth in foster care an opportunity for legal permanency through reunification or placement with kin or other adults who are accepting and affirming
  • Ensure that any youth in foster care can move toward permanency and decrease their risk of aging out of the foster/ adoptive system

How We Help

Kinnect provides community referral information to all youth and family who are referred to our program from any source. We provide more intensive services to LGBTQ+ youth and families receiving services through DCFS, including:

  • Measure existing relationships and level of well-being of the youth
  • Work on affirmation and acceptance for the youth and family to help build new, affirming relationships, as well as to heal lost relationships
  • Guide families and caregivers to increase knowledge of LGBTQ+ services/supports and how to access them
  • Conduct focused Family Finding, including identifying invested supporters for the youth
  • Facilitate youth-centered Family Team Meetings and develop youth-specific plans and tools
  • Engage biological family, adult supporters, professional team members, and chosen affirming family members (including fictive family)
  • Provide training and education on the unique needs and challenges faced by youth in foster care with diverse SOGIE to involved adults, child welfare workers, and other professionals.

For more information or make a referral, please contact Family Specialist Mary Mihevic by email at Mary@kinnectohio.org or by phone at (216) 314-0308.

 P.S. Please consider joining our PRIDE Youth Board! Are you a determined young person who has been touched by the foster care system? Are you between 16-26 years old? Do you identify as LGBTQ+ or as an ally? For more information, visit the information page or contact Project Coordinator, Sonia Emerson at sonia@kinnectohio.org.

Find us in the news!

Sonia Emerson, Project Coordinator, was recently featured in Cleveland Scene: Cleveland Scene LGBTQ Youth and Positive Outcomes

Sonia Emerson, Project Coordinator, spoke with WVIZ/PBS ideastream for a segment that aired June 20th, 2018.

Kinnect and the Chosen Affirming Family program staff participated in Safe Zone training with John from the LGBT Cleveland Community Center on May 18th, 2018. Pictured above with John are Kinnect staff members Sonia and Mary.

Announcing Kinnect as a partner in a grant to aid youth who identify as LGBTQ+ in foster care:

University of Maryland QIC

*The Chosen Affirming Family program is part of Affirm.Me., funded by the National Quality Improvement Center on Tailored Services, Placement Stability and Permanency for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Two-Spirit Children and Youth in Foster Care (QIC-LGBTQ2S) at the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Social Work. The QIC-LGBTQ2S is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau under grant #90CW1145. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the funders, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.