Affirm Me

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Affirm Me Program History

From October 2017-December 2021, Kinnect partnered with Cuyahoga County Division of Children Family Services, Case Western Reserve University and A Place for Me through a federal demonstration grant (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[1]) to develop and integrate best practices and programs that improve outcomes for children and youth in foster care with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions (SOGIE).

This partnership formed the Affirm.Me. initiative. The AFFIRM.ME. initiative involved three primary strategies: (1) safe identification of youth in foster care who identify as LGBTQ+; (2) creation of a PRIDE Network of foster and kinship caregivers that can meet the unique needs of our LGBTQ+ young people in care as well as advocate and educate professionals, caregivers and administrators on these needs; and (3) implementation of the Chosen Affirming Family program model to provide youth acceptance work with biological family members, to move toward reunification and/or relational permanency with a lifelong, affirming family, kin and chosen family.

Kinnect leads the development and implementation of interventions that provide youth acceptance work to support reunification and/or permanency with lifelong, affirming family, kin or chosen family; this includes the Chosen Affirming Family Finding (CAFF) intervention and Youth Acceptance Project (YAP) intervention.

What is Affirm Me?

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Chosen Affirming Family Finding (CAFF)

Building a robust network of affirming individuals who provide belonging, support, emotional and potentially legal permanency.

YAP

Youth Acceptance Project (YAP)

Supports parents/caregivers that are experiencing stressors related to the diverse SOGIE of the young person in their care by moving caregivers through varying degrees of grief, fear, guilt, and hope associated with their young person’s SOGIE and on a pathway toward affirmation.

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Why Affirm Me?

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
  • Physical and Mental Health Disparities
  • 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. The Cuyahoga Youth Count: A Report on LGBTQ+ Youth Experience in Foster Care, published in 2021, identified that 32% of young people in foster care identified as LGBTQ+. LGBTQ+ young people constitute 9.5% of the US population. In addition, LGBTQ+ youth reported more mistreatment while in foster care, more frequent placement changes, and were more likely to need medical care for emotional reasons compared with their non-LGBTQ+ peers.

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.

Affirm Me 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
  • Support youth and families remain together safely to build their relationship while addressing the underlying feelings of rejection and moving toward acceptance and affirmation.
  • Ensure that any youth in foster care can move toward permanency and decrease their risk of aging out of the foster/ adoptive system
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How We Help

Kinnect provides community referral information to all young people, families and professionals as well as provides training, consultation and implementation support on the Affirm Me model to child serving systems.

For more information, please contact us at info@kinnectohio.org or call (216) 692-1161.

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[1] The National Quality Improvement Center (QIC) on Tailored Services, Placement Stability, and Permanency for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2S) Children and Youth in Foster Care has been established in collaboration with the Children’s Bureau (CB), to develop, integrate, and sustain best practices and programs that improve outcomes for children and youth in foster care with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions (SOGIE). The QIC-LGBTQ2S is led by the Institute for Innovation & Implementation at the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore along with participating core partners: Human Service Collaborative; Judge Baker Children’s Center; and Youth M.O.V.E. National:https://qiclgbtq2s.org/about-the-qic/