All Children - All Families: Adoption and Foster Resources

All Children - All Families: Adoption and Foster Resources

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There are many factors that must be considered by adoption and foster care agencies while working with and providing support for LGBTQ+ youth and prospective parents.
In this resource you will find resources to assist your agency in the creation of safety plans, support through the placement and finalization process, and creating a list of referral services that are vetted and found to be LGBTQ+ competent

LGBTQ+ Considerations for Safety Plans

We know that LGBTQ+ youth too often face abuse and neglect around their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE), and that this rejection increases their risk for HIV infection, suicide, and homelessness.

As such, your agency’s safety plan should include considerations of the unique risk factors for LGBTQ+ youth at all points in the placement process (e.g. finding affirming families, supporting and training resource parents, etc.); especially for LGBTQ+ young people who come out to a family that is not affirming.

Tips for Laying the Foundation for Safety:

Identify points in the placement process where you can implement proactive measures to ensure all resource parents can provide an affirming home.

  • Client non-discrimination policy prohibits discrimination based on SOGIE.
    • All resource parents are informed of non-discrimination policy (website, orientation, training, etc.).

    • All youth in care are informed of SOGIE protections.

  • All resource parents are assessed on their readiness to provide an affirming home to LGBTQ+ or gender expansive youth during certification/licensure process with your agency.
    • Families have opportunities for support/education to improve their readiness to affirm LGBTQ+ youth.

    • Build the capacity of resource parents to provide affirming and loving homes to LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming youth.

    • Parent orientations and training provide LGBTQ+ competency education and resources.
      • See here to learn more about LGBTQ+-inclusive parent preparation trainings.

Tips for Developing a Comprehensive Safety Plan:

The RISE program out of the Los Angeles LGBT Center has identified the following goals for safety planning: (see page 122 of this resource)

  • Assess the particular circumstances and risk factors of the child or youth and their family (mental health, substance use, support for LGBTQ+ identity, safety at school, group home, community)

  • Anticipate potential crisis situations based on the challenges of the youth and family.

  • Develop strategies to address stressful situations and prevent a crisis from happening.

  • Create a plan of action detailing how to proceed should an emergency arise.

When Developing the Safety Plan, Include the Following:

  • Make sure youth know about available resources and support. See staff advocate and LGBTQ+ competent referrals page for more information.

  • Create an emergency exit plan in place that allows for immediate removal from home if required.

  • Plan for continued support or education for family if needed in order to ensure affirming behaviors.

Placement & Finalization

Agencies must support LGBTQ+ families waiting for child placements, just as they support all families, through their advocacy, communication and support systems. This includes preparing families for the likely waiting period and potential obstacles to placements, offering support and advocacy whenever appropriate.

Due to societal discrimination, LGBTQ+ waiting parents may need additional assurance and support during this period. Ensure that all efforts to match children and youth with waiting parents, including exchange postings and family albums, present the strengths of LGBTQ+ waiting families.

Best Practices in Supporting Waiting LGBTQ+ Families:

  • Communicate clearly with LGBTQ+ waiting parents so they know exactly how the process works, including any reasons for potential delays.

  • Encourage or host groups and other communication among LGBTQ+ waiting families, so they families can discuss concerns and provide support during the waiting period.

Read more in Promising Practices Guide: Placement [PDF]


Adoptions by LGBTQ+ families require preparation for a smooth finalization because of legal obstacles to the formation of these families. Agencies need to consider issues of birth certificates, the federal Adoption Assistance Program, the court process, supportive judges, health insurance and attorneys who are familiar with legal arrangements to provide the maximum security for LGBTQ+ families (through guardianship, second-parent adoption or other documents).

The home study process should include discussions and decisions on all these items. As finalization approaches, agencies should prepare their LGBTQ+ clients for any unique issues they may face. Some states do allow couples to go through the home study and legal finalization process together as a couple. When they complete that process, they are both the legal parents of the child. Many states do not allow a same-sex couple to finalize in that way.

Read more in Promising Practices Guide: Adoption Finalization [PDF]

LGBTQ+ Competent Referrals

A critical component of LGBTQ+ inclusive practice is building a list of LGBTQ+ competent referrals in light of unique challenges LGBTQ+ individuals face when seeking competent and affirming services. The work your agency has done to ensure a competent, inclusive environment for the youth and families you serve could be undone by a referral to an outside agency/provider that is ill-equipped to serve, or worse, discriminatory, toward LGBTQ+ individuals. Referrals should be made to agencies that are knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ competent practices and have LGBTQ+ inclusive non-discrimination policies.

Tips for Creating a Helpful, Comprehensive Referral List:

  • Your agency could maintain a separate document for LGBTQ+ competent referrals in various service areas in order to supplement an existing referral list. Or your agency could indicate within its general referral lists which providers are proven to be LGBTQ+ inclusive. Either of these options will signify to your LGBTQ+ clients that your agency is mindful of the need to identify LGBTQ+ competent referrals.

  • Ensure that all clients have access to the LGBTQ+ competent referral list since you may not always know for which clients LGBTQ+ competency is a priority.

  • Providing a description or specific information about an agency such as “experienced in gender dysphoria related counseling” could assist clients in choosing providers.

  • Continually update the referral list when information about new providers is gathered or relevant feedback is received about current providers listed.

Tips for Identifying LGBTQ+ Competent Referrals Near You:

  • Foster a relationship with a local LGBTQ+ community center. Center staff can assist in identifying providers that have proven LGBTQ+ competent and welcoming. See CenterLink for information on LGBTQ+ centers in your area.

  • Check out any LGBTQ+ specific media in your area (e.g., newspapers, magazines, websites) to see who is advertising in these spaces and/or what information is available via “word of mouth” within the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Take advantage of national resources such as the HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index to gauge the environment of local healthcare facilities for your LGBTQ+ clients.

  • Use online search tools such as the LGBTQ+ Healthcare Directory to find LGBTQ+ competent service providers.

  • Engage your current LGBTQ+ clients in a dialogue about LGBTQ+ competent providers and agencies.

Click here to download a template referral list to adapt to your agency’s needs.