“If there are 14 and 15 and 16-year-olds, 13-year-olds, 12-year-olds out there watching this video,” says author, gay-rights activist, and love-advice mogul Dan Savage, “what I’d really like you to take away from it is that it gets better . . . and it can get great—it can get awesome.” These were among the first encouraging words of the It Gets Better project founded by Savage in response to the suicide of Billy Lucas, a teen who was harassed to the point of life-ending depression for being gay. Since the anti-bullying project’s inception, it has receivedenormoussupportfromcelebrities, professionalorganizations, andeverydaypeople. But for one already at-risk group, youths in foster care, chances are it’s not getting better.
Following the trials of Kenneth Jones—a gay foster child from Washington, DC—Mother Jones reports on the outright hostility toward homosexuals within the system and the lack of support for them when their situations become dire. The magazine dug up some dark statistics about foster care for youths:
According to the American Bar Association's 2008 guidebook for child-welfare lawyers and judges, virtually all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning kids in group homes had reported verbal harassment; 70 percent had been subjected to violence; and 78 percent had either run away or been removed from a foster placement for reasons related to their sexuality.
What’s more upsetting is that many foster homes are unwilling to even accept gay teens. Jerry Walters, vice president for foster-care services with the Jacksonville-based Boys' Home Association, told Mother Jones that “his organization recently surveyed its 246 families and found only 21 who were willing to accept a gay teenager.” There are some tactics that may alleviate the problem, including reaching out to gay and lesbian adults and recruiting them as foster parents and housing foster kids in independent-living facilities, but they are largely unused. It’s one unfortunate situation that needs to get better.
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