It can be difficult for same-sex couples to foster or adopt children in Texas, where state-licensed child welfare agencies can refuse to place and provide services to LGBTQ children and families if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs.
Although there are many religious-based child placement agencies in the state, there is hope for LGBTQ people and couples. Vanguard Youth Society is helping the more than 30,000 children in Texas waiting for foster parents or permanent adoption by opening its doors to all qualified families.
“Our focus is on opening our doors and showing the community that we will treat LGBTQ+ people the same as everyone else,” says T. Nicole Eldridge, Vanguard’s founder and executive director.
Vanguard Youth Society, a licensed foster care agency in Houston, opened its doors last November. Vanguard recruits, trains, and supports families who aspire to open the gates to their homes and hearts for children who need a safe place to live. The foster care agency encourages the achievement of every child’s full potential by providing a stable and nurturing alternative family environment through child placements.
Since the organization is still so new, they are actively seeking foster parents and families who will open their homes to these children and cultivate a space for them to be loved, valued, and welcomed into a family unit.
“We believe we all have a part to play in supporting vulnerable children in our local communities that need foster families,” Eldridge says. “We serve children and youth ages 0-17 that have been placed in the care of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Typically, these are children who are experiencing a variety of social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties because of abuse or neglect. They are children who need professional support and can benefit in a home outside their family.”
Eldridge, who identifies as bisexual, has degrees in mental health and therapy although she’s built a career in real estate. She decided to get back to her true passion and open an agency that is all-inclusive.
“You hear stories about same-sex parents being denied the chance to foster,” she says. “And stories of queer children who are placed with families that don’t understand them or their needs.”
Those who are interested in fostering a child must be 21 years of age, financially stable, in good health, and pass a state required background check. After meeting those requirements, they can contact Vanguard, which provides training for prospective parents and a home study before they are matched with a child. Eldridge says those who are dedicated can complete the process and become licensed to foster within 30 to 45 days.
Although the process seems simple enough, fostering or adopting a child in need can be difficult, as many of the children in state care have suffered abuse and have special needs. This is why Vanguard provides special training and services, such as therapy and counseling, 24-hour crisis intervention, respite and alternative care, extracurricular activities, and education aid. They also have a team of volunteers to provide on-site babysitting and delivery needs.
The rewards of fostering children can be immense, Eldridge says. “If you are looking to help a child, we are the right agency to connect you with these children who need a safe space.”
Those who are looking to foster a child, or foster to adopt, volunteer, or donate to the nonprofit Vanguard Youth Society Foundation, please contact Vanguard today.