For Immediate Release
Easterseals UCP’s Inclusive Foster Care Program Welcomes LGBTQ+ Parents
Raleigh, NC, June 30, 2021
You don’t have to be a hero to the whole world, but you can be a hero to one child!
The need is urgent. Half a million children and teens are in the foster care system nationwide. In North Carolina, more than 11,000 children live in foster care. Each year, Easterseals UCP (ESUCP) assists 270 foster care children in North Carolina. Our mission for foster care is to place children in loving out-of-home care until the transition into a permanent home takes place.
Easterseals UCP’s inclusive foster care program helps make meaningful and life-changing connections. We serve a diverse group of children who are predominantly school-age and oftentimes living with behavioral and emotional challenges. In addition, many have been in the foster care system for an extended period of time and have experienced a wide range of trauma.
When it comes to LGBTQ+ individuals, the need for a loving out-of-home placement is even more urgent. At least three studies estimate about 30% of youth in foster care currently identify as LGBTQ+*. Like all young people, LGBTQ+ (including Native American Two-Spirit**) children and youth in foster care need the support of a nurturing family to help navigate their teenage years and grow into healthy adults.
Nicole Smithers, an ESUCP foster care program manager says, “When I started as the manager of child placement in Wilmington, NC, we didn’t have LGBTQ foster parents. Being able to welcome individuals in our program who previously weren’t included has been one of the greatest achievements of my career! I want prospective foster parents – gay, trans, straight, black, white, brown, green or purple – to know that there is a child just waiting for them to say “yes!”
Meet Craig Webb and James Lane! They are examples of successful LBGTQ+ foster parenting. Craig and James first connected with Easterseals UCP at a Pride Festival and have been foster parents since 2017. Craig says, “Being foster parents to teenagers means there is never a dull moment in our home! It has truly completed our world to have these kids around us – welcoming them, providing for them and making sure they know they are a part of our family.”
“After thinking about becoming a parent for decades, it was a special day when my dream finally came true. It was as if God tapped me on the shoulder with an invitation and an opportunity!”
– Craig Webb, Easterseals UCP Foster Parent
Nicole Smithers adds, “It’s so important that prospective foster parents in the LBGTQ+ community know that they have the ability and the right to open their homes to children. And it’s equally important that children who identify as LGBTQ+ to have homes that are open and welcoming.”
Craig and James’ are fostering one youth who identifies as straight and another who identifies as trans. Today, they are happy and thriving in a loving, well-rounded, non-traditional home that works well for the entire family. Since joining Craig and James’ family, both kids are making great grades, have lots of friends and feel safe, accepted and loved for who they are. “We just give them the freedom to follow their own journey…whatever that may be,” says James.
“Being gay, it was assumed that we wouldn’t be able to have kids. Instead, people validate and even applaud what we’re doing,” says Craig. “Easterseals UCP has been a powerful, inclusive advocate for our family, other gay and lesbian foster parents and the entire LGBTQ+ community.”
To learn more about our foster care program, including how to become a foster parent, please visit our website at www.eastersealsucp.com/fostercare.
ABOUT EASTERSEALS UCP
Easterseals UCP is passionate about helping children, adults and families living with disabilities and behavioral health challenges live their best possible life. Our 2,300 team members serve 20,000 individuals and families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! We serve as nurses, therapists, social workers, job counselors, teachers, psychologists, caregivers and compassionate friends all rolled into one. Learn more at www.eastersealsucp.com.Sources*Baams et al., 2019; Matarese et al., 2021; Sandfort, 2020**Two-Spirit is a person of a culturally and spiritually distinct gender exclusively recognized by some Native American/Alaska Native nations.