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SoCal Adoption Agency Takes Steps for LGBT Kids, NY’s Experimental Juvie Court Alternatives…and More

August 7th, 2012 by Taylor Walker


Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency, SCFFAA, is recruiting, training, and certifying prospective foster parents of LBGT youth. The agency is searching out those families and environments that can foster love and acceptance for LGBT kids who so often face grim hardships in foster care and in life on the streets.

Digital Journal has the press release. Here’s a clip:

The Child Welfare League of America reports that LGBT youth are “disproportionately represented” in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Studies show that approximately 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT and that well over half of these youth stay on the street because they feel “safer there than living in group or foster homes.” Social workers across the country have long struggled to find foster and adoptive families that can provide LGBT adolescents with the support they need during the transition to young adulthood.

Sylvia Fogelman, Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency’s (SCFFAA) President & CEO, shares her concern for these youth. “Children who self-identify as LGBT in the foster care system are faced with extra challenges. Too often, they are displaced from their homes, then face extreme challenges in finding safe shelter.”

Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency (SCFFAA) is taking a bold step in its efforts to develop a targeted recruitment of resource families for LGBT foster youth. It has partnered with RaiseAChild.US, a non-profit organization that encourages LGBT people to build their families through fostering and adoption.

Rich Valenza, Founder & President of RaiseAChild.US explains the four phase plan designed to find viable solutions for LGBT youth. “We have created a survey, located at our website, http://www.RaiseAChild.US and invite the general public across the nation to participate, to help us to measure attitudes and concerns about fostering and adoption. After analyzing the data, we will build an infrastructure of support to address those concerns. Then, we go back to the public with a campaign to educate, advocate and recruit safe and loving homes for these children.”

Over the past 18 months, RaiseAChild.US has run three campaigns in Los Angeles, engaging over 500 prospective parents, with 400 attending recruitment events. SCFFAA is now training and certifying many of these recruits.

Robyn Harrod, SCFFAA Adoption Program Director, explains the goals of the collaboration. “Foster youth who self-identify as LGBT need many of the same things all youth need—but above all, acceptance. There are many prospective foster parents who can provide this—our task is to educate and cultivate these homes for this chronically neglected segment of our foster population.”


An experimental juvenile justice program is being piloted in nine NY courtrooms, called “adolescent diversion parts.” The program gives 16 and 17-year-old kids a chance to bypass the court system—where they would be considered adults—in favor of alternatives such as counseling, classes, and community-based programs. And it seems to be working—the Brooklyn courtroom sees an 80% compliance rate on ordered treatments from defendants.

Reuter’s Joseph Ax has the story. Here’s how it opens:

Nelson Reyes, 17, stood in a Long Island courtroom on a recent weekday, awaiting his fate on what was originally a felony drug possession charge.

But this was no ordinary hearing.

Reyes’ father accompanied his son in the attorneys’ well – a rare sight in a criminal courtroom — and Nassau County District Court Judge Sharon Gianelli’s benevolent tone was more that of a guidance counselor than a criminal judge.

“I have been monitoring your treatment,” Gianelli said, after thanking Reyes’ father for his support. “It is my hope that you’ll continue with the treatment and the counseling.”

And with that, Reyes’ criminal case was dismissed, his record cleansed and, he said after the hearing, his life put back on track.

Reyes is part of a tiny minority of 16- and 17-year-old defendants in New York being given a chance to bypass the regular criminal court system, where he would have been treated as an adult and likely received probation, a mark that could imperil future employment and educational opportunities.

New York is one of two states (North Carolina is the other) in which defendants 16 and older are considered adults, no matter how minor the offense. But that might be changing.

The courtroom in which Reyes appeared is one of nine “adolescent diversion parts,” a pilot program set up this year to provide non-traditional outcomes for 16- and 17-year-old nonviolent offenders.

A bill to establish these courtrooms statewide as part of a new “youth division” – a hybrid of criminal and family courts — stalled in the state legislature this summer, leaving it in limbo until 2013.


Current Miss America, Laura Kaeppeler—an unlikely keynote speaker at the most recent American Correctional Association conference—shared her thoughts and personal experience regarding the considerable adversities kids with incarcerated parents face on a daily basis. (There are currently more than 1.7M kids with a parent behind bars. Be sure to scroll down for more statistics from the Prison Fellowship.)

Youth Today’s Robert Rosenbloom has the story. Here’s a clip:

…Miss America had an unexpected personal story that the crowd was very much interested in.

You see this Miss America is the child of an incarcerated parent. She spoke of the trauma faced by children like her with a passion born of experience; a family that struggled with the shame of an incarcerated father, the loss of economic stability and the anger that could have taken a self-destructive path.

She told us how it was difficult to go to school and face the other children who made fun of her and that she felt somehow guilty in an indescribable way. The father’s incarceration led to her parent’s divorce. Difficult as it was, she and her two sisters visited her father in prison.

“If visiting parents in prison is supposed to help heal wounds and keep family bonds connected, nothing about the experience helped foster that,” she explained in her address to the convention.

It was just one more regular reminder of the devastation her father visited upon her family. But she did help us all understand that creating the best possible experience for children visiting incarcerated parents is just as important as offender counseling.

Creating a good visitation experience also translates to juvenile secure facilities. We know that many children in juvenile facilities are parents of children and helping incarcerated young parents nurture bonds with their children helps them both. The statistics are alarming for both adult and juveniles that are incarcerated. The children of incarcerated individuals have a higher rate of crime and delinquency.

Approximately 1.7 million children in the nation have a parent in prison or jail, according to a 2009 report by the Sentencing Project. More than 10 million children have had a parent spend time behind bars, according to theAnnie E. Casey Foundation.

These children face the difficulties of growing up with this additional burden. Child neglect, drug use and dropping out of school are all by-products of failing to cope with the situation.

Our Miss America, Laura Kaeppeler, overcame the odds. She found support and encouragement. A smart girl with talent was pointed in the right direction, but she admits it could have easily gone down another less productive path.

The Prison Fellowship has compiled a wealth of facts about children with incarcerated parents. Here are a few:

—Since 1997, the frequency of contact between children and their parents in federal prison has dropped substantially; monthly contact has decreased by 28 percent, while those who report never having contact has increased by 17 percent (Sentencing Project/Research and Advocacy for Reform, Feb. 2009).

—Fifty-two percent of all incarcerated men and women are parents (Sentencing Project, 2009), and 75 percent of incarcerated women are mothers (Incarcerated Parents and Their Children, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, 2000).

—Sixty-three percent of federal prisoners and 55 percent of state prisoners are parents of children under age 18 (Incarcerated Parents and Their Children, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, 2000).

—More than 60 percent of parents in state prison and more than 80 percent of parents in federal prison are incarcerated more than 100 miles from their last place of residence; only 15 percent of parents in a state facility and about 5 percent of parents in a federal facility are incarcerated less than 50 miles from their last place of residence (Sentencing Project, 2009).

Posted in children and adolescents, Courts, crime and punishment, Foster Care, Homelessness, juvenile justice, LGBT | 3 Comments »

3 Responses

  1. prophet mo teff Says:

    Thanks for the report about the impact of the prison visitation experience on the emotional and psychcological development of the child whose parent is incarcerated.

    I have commented on this topic in the past in another publication in specific reference to our Los Angeles County jails.

    And this situation gets me hopping angry whenever its brought up and i apologize that my statements are worded harshly but:

    The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Lee Baca are child abusers. They are child abusers because they own and operate custody facilities which impose flagrant abuse upon young children.

    They are child abusers because they could significantly rectify this abusive system without any added cost of personell or equipment.

    I am referring to the custody visitation set-up at county jail. the visiting room has a long row of visiting booths. each booth has one steel pedestal seat. The visitor faces the custody who is seated on the other side of a clear soundproof plexiglass wall.

    Each side has one corded phone handset. The custody and the visitor each pick-up their handset and place it to the ear and wait for the sheriff to activate the connection. They have up to 15 minutes.

    This works alright for one visitor, but many visiting parties consist of one, two or three adults and 1-5 children – often including babies in strollers, infants, tots, young and very young children plopped in the lap of the one adult seated on the pedestal and bunched around him/her.

    What do you think happens when a young child is looking right at their parent on the other side of the plexi and sees their lips moving but cant hera anything?

    Distress, frustration and trauma. Child abuse. Chronic, flagrant and unnecessary.

    What is needed to upgrade this 1950′s – 1960′s based technology.

    We can get a group of volunteers and few hundred dollars of equipment and upgrade 15 – 20 visiting booths each weekend with a quality speaker or multiple plug-ins for wired disposable headsets for each of the kids.

    The kids wouldn’t have to spend half a day just to cram into a booth and watch a voiceless parent until its their turn to use the old corded headset for one or two minutes. Or maybe not at all because the sheriff gives no warning before he shuts off the power and ends the visit.

    We could even modify some visting booths to offer seating for more than one person when a group of family is visiting.

    But nothing will be done because Baca, Yaroslavsky, Antonovich, Molina, Ridley-Thomas and Knabe are Child Abusers and just fine with it.

  2. Celeste Fremon Says:


    While I’m not in agreement with your child abuse terminology, you make a very, very important point about the visiting set up. Thank you for bringing it to all of our attention.

    Every study on the topic shows that prisoners are more likely to reintegrate well into the community when they get out, and less likely to recidivate, if they have frequent contact with family and extended family.

    The affect of incarceration on families is enormous, and yet this collateral damage is only starting to be adequately studied.

    Thanks again for bringing up this small fix that could make a big difference.


  3. Cheap Advice Says:

    I have an even more cost effective suggestion. How about the low life parents not commit crimes that land their sorry asses in jail? For one to be held within the LA County jail system, it must be a ‘no bail” or high grade felony offense along with parole violations. So lets stops blaming everyone but the parents for their poor choices.

    How is it a child visiting their parent(s) in jail/prison does NOT leave them traumatized? Are they going to go back and share with all of their school friends, “Guess what I did over the weekend? I spent six hours in line with my Granny at County so I could see my Mom (or Dad) who is in jail for robbery.” I am NOT suggesting children be prevented from visiting their loved ones in jail, I get it.

    But please, all this drama needs to be focused on the fools who make repeated poor choices, the folks in jail. I have NO sympathy for them, they are where they belong. Unfortunately, the children become psychological victims of their parent poor choices, one or often both, are never around anyway, only to be raised by the Grandparents, if they are lucky.

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