I wanted to expand on last week's $13.3 million dollar five-year grant announcement awarded to the LA Gay & Lesbian Center to work with LGBT Foster Youth. I have pasted the Associated Press' coverage below.
This stands in stark contrast to Senator DeMint's (R-SC) continued defense of his stance that LGBT Americans are not fit to teach our youth. The blatant juxtaposition between the actions of a Democratically controlled cabinet agency and a leading Republican speaks for itself.
Center gets $13.3M grant to help gay foster kids
LOS ANGELES --By the time LD Gipson was 16, he had been abandoned by his mother and bounced around four foster homes between stints on the street as a runaway. No one, he said, could accept him because he was openly gay.
The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center on Friday won a $13.3 million federal grant to help homeless gay teens who face similar problems.
The center said the grant was the largest federal award ever to an organization serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The center plans to use the money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to launch a five-year intervention program to aid gay kids in foster care, juvenile detention or in their family homes where they may be experiencing rejection.
Center staffers will intervene with counseling, mentoring, sensitivity training or other services to ensure the young people can remain in a healthy living environment, said Darrel Cummings, chief of staff for the Gay & Lesbian Center.
The program is designed to be a model that can be used in other cities, he added.
Nearly 20 entities, including schools and juvenile justice and social services agencies, have agreed to participate, as well as foster care providers who welcome gay youth.
"We have to create environments where people can be treated in a humane fashion for who they are," Cummings said.
The project also includes a research component about the youth population in foster care.
A 2002 study by the National Center for Lesbian Rights found 70 percent of gay foster youths reported physical violence and 100 percent reported harassment in their group home.
Many were forced to leave their foster placement because of hostility.
It's a double whammy for kids who have frequently run away from or been kicked out by parents unable to accept homosexuality.
In foster homes or detention centers, the youths are sometimes housed in isolation for their own safety or blamed for being harassed because they openly express their sexual orientation. Some are told to hide their identity, Cummings said.
Many turn to living on the streets or prostitution to survive, especially after they must leave the foster system at age 18 and have nowhere to go.
Some end up at the Gay & Lesbian Center's transitional living program for 18 to 24 year-olds. "Thirty to 40 percent of them are graduates of foster care programs," Cummings said.
The experience of Gipson, now 22, was typical for gay teens.
He said he ended up in foster care after he ran away from home at age 14 because of continual hassling from his mom, who didn't approve of his sexual orientation. He got arrested, but his mother never came to pick him up, he said.
Gipson said his first foster mother was afraid he would "corrupt" another boy living in the house. He ran away. Another home was too far from Los Angeles. Another foster parent harassed Gipson for being effeminate. After that, he finally landed in a group home where he felt accepted for who he was but had to leave on his 18th birthday.
"They were going to drop me off at a homeless shelter," he recalled.
After a stint with drugs, he now lives at the Gay & Lesbian Center's transitional living program and works at a retail store.
"We should have more programs for gay youth to prevent homelessness," Gipson said. "It shouldn't have to come to that."
Consequences can sometimes be dire for gay kids.
In February 2008, 15-year-old Larry King, who was living at a foster home, was shot dead because he was openly gay.
Gipson noted that kids need mentoring when they reveal their sexual orientation.
"It's part of who I am, but it caused me a lot of problems," he said. "There should be some type of support."
Director, LGBT Leadership Council
Democratic National Committee